So you are planning on aging in place. You’ve implemented a plan that has included home modifications to help you as you get older. Then, just as you feel proud and secure in your plan, you have new disabilities to consider. Just because you need some assistance does not mean you have to sacrifice your independence. In fact, a little long term care planning now can give you independence for longer and ease the burden on you and your loved ones later.
Whether you gradually require some assistance or you have suffered a sudden illness or injury such as a heart attack or stroke, long term care may be necessary at some point. Long term care doesn’t necessarily mean forever but you may require assistance for many months or even years. Long term care can help meet your health and personal needs when a condition keeps you from performing everyday tasks.
Consider Types of Long Term Care
Many people will require some amount of personal care at their home as they age while others may need permanent assistance and medical help that can be provided at a facility. According to the National Institutes on Health, as much as 70% of people over age 65 will need some type of long term care during their lifetime. Since you will not know what type of assistance you will need someday, it is important to research your options so you can perform you long term care planning. Once complete, organize a plan and discuss and share them with your loved ones. There are various options for long term care.
- At home – Various caregivers including family and paid caregivers can assist with everyday living services such as bathing, dressing, using the restroom, moving from bed to chair, grooming, pet care, eating, housework, paying bills, eating, transportation, shopping and taking medications.
- Day program – Adult day programs are provided in a community setting and offer meals, activities and social interaction and are a great option if you require some assistance during the day. Many programs provide transportation and some health assistance with things such as medication and glucose or blood pressure checks.
- Senior Housing – Usually are rental apartments in a senior community that may offer some services such as housekeeping, meals, group activities and transportation.
- Assisted Living – Facilities offer many amenities and services such as housekeeping, social and exercise activities, transportation, meals and also have staff to provide more personal assistance such as help with bathing, dressing, using the bathroom and taking medications.
- Continuing Care Retirement Community – Offer various housing options that allow residents to move between them based on their levels of need. Usually includes senior housing, assisted living and nursing home options all on one campus.
- Nursing Home – Facility provides 24 hour nursing care for people unable to care for themselves. Sometimes this serves as a residence for someone recovering from an illness and sometimes as a long-term residence. Nursing homes offer many of the same services of other facilities, however, there are additional healthcare services such as 24-hour care, skilled nursing, rehabilitative therapy and end of life care.
Which service level you require will depend on your circumstances and abilities. When it comes time, speak with your physician, therapist, nurse and family to help assess your needs.
Long Term Care Planning questions
There are many questions you need to answer in order to evaluate what is right for you. Consider these long term care planning questions to start you off.
- What level of services do you require? Do you need round the clock care or some assistance during the day? Do you require a friend or family member or do you need a nurse or health aide?
- Where do you want to live? What is available in your area?
- When considering location, what is important to you: being close to grocery, pharmacy, physician, church, etc.?
- What can you afford? What will Medicaid and insurance pay for? Medicare does not pay for long term care.
- Will you purchase long term care insurance?
- Is your home a good fit for your needs? Can your home be modified to suit your needs?
- Do you have help from loved ones?
- What has your doctor recommended?
- What are your preferences (large/small facility, social activities, location)? (See Research for more information.)
- What are your beliefs and values?
- What are your must-have amenities?
Researching care options
Make sure you research each community, facility and caregiver to decide if you want to put it or him in your long term care plan. Speak with various communities/facilities in the area you are looking into. Consider care services; rules; cost; waiting lists; social activities; facility physicians and nursing care (can you keep your own physician?) and their qualifications, training and availability of staff; caregiver to resident ratio; safety measures; and accreditation, licensure and other certifications if required. Then take some time to check online, with a resident association and with other people in the area to see what people are saying about the community.
Good research involves some hands on work… it is no different with long term care planning. With your questions in hand, take a tour of the facility/community and decide if it suits you. Think about your first impressions and observe how the residents and staff appear. Are they happy? Is the facility clean? Speak to more than just facility administrators. See if you can speak to nursing staff, residents, other service provider or even a family member of a resident. They may be able to answer some of your questions. Also try to schedule a second visit so you can see if your first impression was accurate.
With a little effort now, you will have many options available if the need arises for long term care. Take time now to develop your plan and discuss your decisions with your loved ones. Make sure everyone knows the options and your desires. Then keep enjoying your life and rest at ease knowing that you planned and prepared to continue living comfortably.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Administration on Aging
Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio