Senior Living – 2017
Another year has passed, and we now look towards another filled with possibilities, and likely change too. For seniors, there are a wide range of changes that could be happening. Those just entering their golden years are perhaps downsizing or preparing for their retirement, while other elders may experience loss or issues with their own health, be looking into making the move to an apartment or senior living facility, hoping to get more involved in community activities or any other number of life occurrences that come with aging.
Young or young at heart, there’s a truth that unites us all in adulthood – it’s never too early to plan for the future. Although as we age there’s great variation in the lifestyle we are able to maintain, so the term ‘senior’ is certainly not a one-size-fits-all designation, there are common concerns and information that we can all benefit from understanding for the benefit of our loved ones, neighbors, friends, and of course, ourselves.
Even in looking towards the more simple pleasures in life, such as planning for things to get out and do once milder weather arrives, it always helps to know what’s out there. When it comes to the big decisions, there’s little doubt that you’ll want to be in the know and in modern times with a growing aging population, well prepared. Staying healthy and happy, and fulfilled, is the key to all of the good things that life has in store for us in our later years. It only makes sense to plan for our future so that we can enjoy it.
Responding to the question of what seniors and their families should expect in the future, Beth Friesen of Oasis Senior Advisors offers an explanation based on here experience working with these folks on a daily basis:
“Quite simply, our baby boomers are starting to age! Some have called it the oncoming ‘silver tsunami.’ Resources of all kinds that impact elders are going to be affected. Specifically as it relates to senior living communities, and assisted living in particular, there simply is not going to be enough spots available for everyone who needs them.
Many people who could do quite well living independently don’t wish to move because they believe they can stay at home. And frankly, often they can. However, when one needs assisted living, it can be difficult to find openings because many communities fill their assisted living apartments with those already residing in independent living at their community. This leaves few vacancies that can be filled from outside. The best way that you can be prepared for this is to consider moving into the independent side of the community you’d prefer to reside in for assisted living before you actually need assisted living. For many this is counterintuitive, but it’s critical to think about even for those in their 80’s now. However, for our baby boomers, it’s going to be even more critical to consider.
Most of the families that I work with share that they wish they had known about Oasis Senior Advisors and the services I provide earlier. It’s either because they’ve gone through it before, or because they’ve been trying to navigate the senior housing market on their own, and found the process very overwhelming. In that first conversation or assessment, I work with the family to gain a firm understanding of their loved one as an individual and their specific senior housing needs. I look at a broad picture that encompasses many aspects of overall wellbeing, both medically and financially, and then together we map a plan that best fits their family. Along the way I also recommend other community resources that could be of value to them and help meet their needs.”
She adds, “Spring signals everyone to come out of hibernation and get active and out-and-about once again. If you found the winter to be long, cold and rather lonely with too many responsibilities in the home for yourself or someone you love, it may be time to consider senior living options before old man winter shows up again. Take advantage of the springtime to start your journey to a fulfilling life in one of our amazing communities here in Lincoln and the surrounding areas.
Even if it is not time to move, I can connect people with any resources they might need from state and county agencies, insurance, nutrition, physicians and in-home care to name a few. My background as a registered nurse and a case manager make me uniquely qualified in this arena.
Kayla Schaf of Legacy Retirement Communities joins in offering cautionary advice on the importance of preparedness too. “There may not be anything in the immediate future that’s cause for concern, but be sure to not let the future sneak up on you. For seniors, it is very valuable to discuss your plans and desires for the future with a designated family member or desired representative. There are several key documents needed, and in truth, these can be very critical in emergency situations. For instance, if a family member cannot locate important documents like tax returns or bank account information, it could delay or even cause the senior to be denied benefits like Medicaid or VA benefits. Make sure you have important legal documents in place like durable health power-of-attorney or advanced healthcare directive so that if you do find yourself with declining health conditions, you have someone you trust making decisions that would be in your best interests.”
Specifically geared towards those who are considering a move in the coming year, she also notes, “Without fail, those who move into any of our communities find themselves saying that they wish they had made the decision sooner. Many studies have shown that frequent social interaction greatly benefits your overall health and wellbeing. Many residents express how their lives have been enhanced by the many social opportunities provided by our Enrichment team, daily activities to choose from, and even a simple ‘Good morning!’ from staff passing by in the hall. The fine dining experience we deliver has had a great impact as well, and not just for the social atmosphere. Many have seen an improvement in their overall health by simply having their nutritional needs met through well-balanced meals provided by our dining services.
I highly encourage starting the conversation, and if you don’t know how or don’t feel comfortable, reach out. The Retirement Living Advisors at Legacy Retirement Communities take a gentle approach to helping seniors and their loved ones navigate this season of life. They are caring professionals who can facilitate conversations and educate you and your loved ones about options. This can help clarify needs and wants and can make the decision process move along to get the best care for you or your loved one. Having conversations about retirement living can be sensitive coming from close family members, so having a professional to help guide the conversation can be very beneficial.
Also, coming up at Legacy Retirement Communities, we kick off our summer events in June and go until September. This is an easy and friendly way to experience our communities. You can enjoy the sights and sounds (and food!) of Legacy Retirement Communities. Our signature events include our Capital City Culinary Classics, offering a variety of popular classics from Lincoln’s favorite restaurants, our Chef Showcase which includes cooking live cooking demonstrations from our culinary team, and our Terrace Town Carnival which is fun for all ages, offering fair-style eats along with carnival games, pony rides and more. Sprinkled in throughout the summer as well are our Patio Parties, where visitors can enjoy delicious drinks and appetizers while enjoying live music in our beautiful garden patios. Watch for dates as we get closer to those warmer months!”
In agreement, Jodi Freeman of Roper & Sons Funeral Home adds, “No matter your age or health, it is always important to have your financial and healthcare affairs in order. We always seem to think that we are somehow invincible, no matter our age, so we tend to put off things we don’t want to deal with, often saying ‘I’ll get to that tomorrow, or next week, or next year.’ The hard truth is, we have no way of knowing whether tomorrow or next week or next year might be too late. Conversations about healthcare, long-term care, and death are awkward and can be difficult to have, yet they are among the very most important things we can discuss.
Some of those hard things to discuss including naming a Power of Attorney (POA) for finances and healthcare, having an asset management plan in place for finances and personal items, ensuring that your loved ones know your wishes for healthcare and end of life, and pre-arrange your funeral services, including payment. There are great tools available for planning, but I always advise reviewing those plans with an attorney to ensure that they will hold up in a court should they ever be challenged. Ensure that your POAs are someone you trust implicitly to make the best decisions on your behalf, and that your loved ones know who that person is, especially if he or she is not a family member. Finally, maintain all of your documents in a secure place, but make sure loved ones know where to find them in an emergency.
I can’t stress enough the importance of having your estate, insurance, healthcare, and end-of-life plans in place, regardless of your age or health. Communication with loved ones, while you are still able, is very important. All too often, major illness or death occurs unexpectedly, and loved ones are left at a complete loss emotionally and financially. Even in the closest of families, emotional turmoil can cause stress and anxiety. When plans are in place, turmoil is lessened to a great extent. There are many wonderful professionals in Lincoln who can help with all aspects of planning and communication, all you need to do is ask!”
As previously mentioned by another one of our local experts, Michaela Williams of Care Consultants for the Aging also speaks to the significant impact that the aging baby boomer population will have in the near future.
“Senior care options are continuously changing and the look of senior care will evolve at a faster rate with the baby boomers needing long-term care. Assisted living specializing in Alzheimer’s/dementia care is the most common level in senior living options being built today. They offer a more detailed approach to care for those who have memory problems, and they tend to have a two year private pay minimum to move in. Knowing the options and pricing of in-home care and senior living options will help families make wiser decisions as they find themselves in a caregiving role.
Many families are surprised with our complicated long-term care system and feel overwhelmed when they need to make decisions. Care Consultants produces the ElderCare Resource Handbook, which offers a complete listing of senior services in the Lincoln and Omaha Metro areas. Having an awareness of senior care options and the prices that are associated with them helps greatly when you need to make decisions fast. Families often find that starting home care or adult day care on a small scale early on can help their loved one adjust when the need becomes mandatory, and gives everyone a little respite too.
Furthermore, when you have concerns for a loved one’s health and/or wellbeing, looking into what the government offers, what insurances and finances that your loved one has, and getting legal paperwork in order are good first steps. Determining these issues before a health crisis can help in the stress that can occur with being one’s caregiver. It is also important to research home care options or adult day care centers that can give them that little extra assistance they may need to stay in their home.”
On another timely subject involving maintaining quality of life for seniors, Williams notes, “Life is short and, as many will agree right about now, winter can seem long. As spring starts to show itself, it’s fun to get out and explore. Sometimes this can be difficult as mobility and the ability to live independently changes. Care Consultants can find caregivers who help seniors remain as active and independent as possible. They can take them to senior centers and outdoor parks within the community or help them play games, clean out a closet or plant flowers in their own home. Caregivers can work as little or as often as you need them. Sometimes a little bit of help goes a long way!”
As far as finances go, for seniors, the cost of living can be significant and income may not always be able to match that number. As such, it’s likely no surprise that planning ahead—saving, insurance, allocating funds to future needs now, etc.–remains the prevailing theme here too.
Theron Ahlman of CarePatrol advises, “I would recommend that families look into long-term care insurance to help pay for care as they get older. There are many different policies available, so it’s worth taking your time to research the plans and make sure you are getting the best one for the money spent. I have helped some families whose policies don’t help pay for assisted living, and the family had expected it do so.
Also, finding the right fit within a person’s budget can be more complicated than it sounds. As others have mentioned, many families that I help say they wished they had known about us sooner. They have gone to a couple communities on their own only to find out they don’t offer what they need, don’t ever accept Medicaid, or are too expensive. They have wasted a lot of time getting nowhere and once they find us, the process goes smoothly and they are happy with the communities we tour as they are a fit to the seniors needs, wants and finances.”
He continues, “If you recently visited someone who isn’t safe in their home and they need to take the next step towards a community, I would recommend calling a senior placement company such as CarePatrol to help save time and make the process as easy as possible. We will come out and meet with the senior to do a care discovery, at which time we go over needs, wants, likes and finances to see what communities are the best fit. We then look up the communities care history to make sure it is a safe community, line up the tours, and personally take everyone on the tours of the communities that are safe options. We can help navigate long-term insurance policies, converting life insurance to money for assisted living, and if a bridge is needed to pay for care while a house is being sold, we can help thanks to our partnerships the many different companies. CarePatrol also has Certified Senior Advisors across the country, so no matter where the person you’re trying to help lives, or wants to live for that matter, we can help. Contacting your local advisor first is the best route as they can start the process and then work with the advisor in the state where residence will be to find the safest community.
Typically in the spring there are a few health fairs in the area that are beneficial for seniors and their family members to attend. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to talk to many different businesses about the services offered in one place, as well as getting to visit with others from the community who can share their experiences and tips. Going to these events will help you to be prepared when different needs arise, and will make finding help easier as these are professionals that have access to a network of valuable contacts they’ve already established within the community.”
While no one knows what the future holds, it’s important to know that a person is no longer relegated to the “cross that bridge when we come to it” approach, nor is it advised in most cases.
“Over the years I have seen that people are more inclined to organize or prioritize in times of uncertainty,” says Laurie McAdams of Butherus, Maser & Love Funeral Home. “Whether it’s about health issues or economic instability, I think that it’s very important to have those ‘uncomfortable conversations’ between adult children and their aging parents. Where do you want to live if you would not be able to care for yourself, alone or with assistance in the place you now call home? What kind of end of life experience do you hope to have? What do you want for your own personal funeral/memorial services wishes? Individuals shouldn’t assume that anyone, no matter how close, really knows what they want. But when everything is going well, people tend to feel invincible and put off these conversations.
At Butherus, Maser & Love we encourage individuals to think of their families after death occurs. The people who best promote pre-planning are the families that have handled services that weren’t pre-planned AND services that were. There is a stark difference in the way in which everything occurs and the extra time family has to spend together, comforting each other, rather than coordinating a funeral. We have many resources and volumes of information to assist people in making informed decisions.
Holidays, and not just the ones that have recently passed but ongoing throughout the year, are often a time of extra stress when older adults are involved. Kids come home to see that parents have ‘slipped.’ In a phone conversation it’s easier to lead family to believe they’re just fine. Often unable to care for themselves any longer, older adults know that decisions that are sometimes against their choice will need to be made. Although that might be the case, there’s a greater probability that it won’t be. As just one example, there are many in-home services available in our community. Families will realize that they could have kept Mom or Dad in their homes longer if they would have taken advantage of these services. In the funeral industry families often opt to make pre-arrangements when family is in town and can all make the decisions together. While children may not want to have these discussions, at the time someone dies, having made these arrangements in advance is overwhelmingly appreciated.”
It’s easy to worry about what might happen or change as one ages, or as a loved one grows old, but being proactive will alleviate the perceived stress of the many ‘what-ifs’. In life, we look for those who are experts to come alongside and help us with the things in which we have little expertise ourselves. While the guidance of those who are dedicated to serving the elders in our community is still underutilized to some extent, gradually that is changing with the times. Most now see the benefits of planning for this season of life and are in favor of the approach that knowledge is power—and it truly is, no doubt.
As awareness grows, the prevailing attitudes towards reaching out to get informed before help becomes a critical and immediate need are more optimistic in nature. Not only are people taking the initiative to seek out information from the various resources in our community, but there’s more of a willingness to accept the changes that come with aging. The ultimate goal is to age gracefully and enjoy life to the fullest, and while there’s a different path to get to that destination for everyone, all can benefit from being well-prepared for what’s to come on such an amazing journey.