This stage is marked by a distinct sense that something is wrong, but it's often accompanied by denial and nagging worry.
Maybe you went home for the holidays and realized Mom was burning everything she set on the stove and Dad wasn't taking his evening walks because he could no longer navigate the front stairs alone. Maybe your spouse is becoming frail and you can no longer care for him effectively on your own. In this stage, for whatever reason, living independently is beginning to seem less like freedom and more like an accident waiting to happen.
This is the time to stop worrying, face the situation, and plan an organized and orderly move.
Retirement homes that also offer some assisted living services are an obvious choice, but many families opt for MIL arrangements and bring in home health aids or rely on adult day care providers.
Just like saving for retirement takes advance planning, living in retirement takes forethought and some sense of expected costs and living arrangements.
Check a site such as the John Hancock Long-Term Care Cost Estimator and begin to understand your expenses if you get sick.
Look at available housing
options given your financial situation and whether or not you can (or want to) live with family.
Evaluate your home and decide whether you will still be able to maintain it well into your 80's. If you don't have reliable help nearby you may need to plan to downsize sooner rather than later.
The key is knowing what will trigger the eventual decision to move. Will you listen to your children when they say "It's time, Dad," or will you be a step or two ahead and find your next great home before the family intervenes?
In this stage there's been a medical emergency, your loved one is in the hospital, and going directly home won't be an option. As a family caregiver (ideally with power of attorney documents in place) you will be making many decisions.
Realize that you are not alone and understand that the medical and social services teams are there to help and will be invaluable resources.
Know that you will have to make a lot of seemingly big decisions in a very short period of time, but that what may seem like the biggest, where to get your loved one the best care possible in the short-term, isn't set in stone.
In fact, your best choice may be to find a facility that offers respite care so you'll have time to evaluate your options. Depending on many factors you may have to look at long-term care facilities, adult family homes, in-home care providers or hospice options
The range of options for living assistance is wide and growing daily. Healthy seniors now have choices beyond living in an overly large family home or moving to a retirement home. Frail seniors don't have to move directly to a nursing home, instead they can transition from home to an assisted living facility or adult family home. Both types of homes will have care staff on-site, but the resident seniors will have freedom to come and go as they choose. For seniors needing memory care, families can rely on skilled assisted living homes where care providers are trained to meet their specific needs. There are also a growing number of adult day programs where seniors will be safe and active during the day, but can go home with family members at night.
Are you ready to chart the next chapter of your life?
Much like your children, I'm middle aged and settled and had begun to look toward a footloose and carefree future when my children grew up. Then one of my parents got sick, as parents tend to do when they're approaching the century mark.
I struggled to make decisions on the fly in a whole new world with established rules and expensive and deadly consequences for not knowing those rules.
With some hard learned lessons now in the rear view mirror I'm harnessing the power of online education in innovative ways to help friends and family who will face the same challenges. Combining personal knowledge with research taken from the healthcare, legal and financial sectors, as well as resources from social services, I hope to inspire seniors and their care givers to take control of their aging experience.
The sooner the better.
San Francisco Adult Care.com
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"Keeping up the appearance of having all your marbles is hard work, but important."
- Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants
"It's paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn't appeal to anyone."
- Andy Rooney