There will never be a better time to make choices about the rest of your life. Waiting may mean that crucial decisions are taken out of your hands. You’ll have fewer options if you wait until you’re under the stress of dealing with a health challenge. Now is the time to enjoy carefree retirement living, secure in the knowledge that you’ve put a plan in place for the future. If you postpone planning now, someone else may make those vital choices for you.
Remember all the times you asked your parents for help? You figured the bill would come due someday. You just didn’t expect it to come so soon.
Maybe you notice things your parents once did effortlessly are no longer easy. You see your mom faltering when she walks. Dad never plays golf anymore. The trips they promised themselves now seem remote. Even getting dressed and making breakfast every day seems overwhelming.
Maybe you’re helping your parents deal with health challenges. Even if they’re healthy now, you worry about what may happen in the future. You want to protect their assets over the long term. You need to ensure their security and comfort for a long and happy life.
A recent survey found that the aging population is placing a severe burden on the American workforce. One in four U.S. households is involved in caring for an older relative or friend. As the average lifespan increases, more and more parents require help from their adult children, whether it’s just checking on them now and then or providing full financial support and physical care.
Caring for a parent is emotionally and physically draining. Maybe you’re trying to balance your children’s activities with the demands of your parents’ chronic illnesses, while simultaneously juggling a full-time job. Research reveals that most workers don’t tell their employers what’s going on in their lives.
Caring for your parents is more than a full-time job. Maybe you don’t know it yet. You’re trying to imagine the daily grind. You may be worrying so much about their health that you don’t realize that you, too, are at risk for chronic health problems that often afflict caregivers.
In the United States, an estimated 65 million adults—about 29% of Americans—are providing unpaid assistance to family and friends. Most caregivers are untrained and ill prepared to deal with medical emergencies. Women caregivers in every age group report more stress at home than non-caregivers. Many lack adequate family and community support. In fact, research shows that a caregiver’s poor health is often a motivating factor in the decision to move an impaired relative into long-term care.
Just like Miss Daisy of movie fame, many of us at some point may have to face the fact that it’s time to give up driving. If you have mobility problems, but stay in your home, you will need transportation to medical appointments, at a minimum. Will your children be responsible for taking you to your appointments? What about grocery shopping and trips to the pharmacy? Will your adult children have to take time off from work to drive you around? How much of your life will become consumed with sheer logistics rather than family time?
If you work, you can’t just leave in the middle of the day to take your parents to medical appointments. What happens if you’re repeatedly absent from work? What if your parents need you while you’re in a business meeting? How can any adult child handle every possible emergency? As a caregiver, you can never relax. You’re constantly waiting for the phone to ring, especially if your parent is still driving. You never know what might happen.
In general, doctors do not like to be placed in the role of police, but a physician may help soften the blow when you tell mom or dad it’s time to surrender the car keys. You can assess their fitness for the road by answering the following questions honestly: Do your parents have substantial visual deficits or hearing impairments? Have they sensibly compensated for poor night vision by limiting or giving up driving after dark? How is their cognitive function and mental clarity? Have they had car accidents or near-misses?
The decision to give up driving can make the world much smaller for your parents. Now you may begin to worry that your parent is living alone and growing increasingly isolated. Research from Harvard, Tufts and major universities has shown that isolation and inactivity accelerate mental and physical decline. Researchers at the University of Southern California warn that the relationship between parents who need care and their adult children often deteriorates into “disharmony.”
How can you make sure your parents are ready for future health care issues or financial worries? Consider how well your aging parents will handle chores like laundry, cooking and grocery shopping. Not to mention arranging transportation to multiple medical appointments. Can your parents enjoy more comfort, service and security for the same budget? The answer is yes. There will never be a better time to make good choices.
Starting now, you can do a lot to make sure that you have a plan in place. It’s not just how many years you live, but how long you stay healthy and happy. Add up all the monthly bills and maintenance costs you pay regularly. Does your home need maintenance? If at some point you need to sell your home, the buyer may insist on these repairs. Then add in the unforeseeable costs of all the health care you may ever need.
If you’ve planned ahead, you may have long-term care insurance in addition to Medicare and Social Security. Depending on your health challenges, you may need supplemental care. Can your children or other helpers reasonably provide all the assistance you may require?
A Continuing Care Retirement Community offers attractive living spaces and amenities, social activities and access to increasing levels of care as needs change—all in one location, guaranteed for life. Many CCRCs offer a 90% refundable entrance fee, which offers tax advantages, protects your assets and preserves your estate for your children.
Early interventions have been shown help stave off serious health problems. At a CCRC, trained professionals make sure people with diabetes eat a healthy diet and control their blood sugar levels to help prevent future complications. Staff members are alert to potential cardiac problems or early signs of dementia. Did you know that cognitive decline has been linked to diabetes? Type 2 diabetes, often linked to excess weight and a family history of diabetes, can develop at any age.
If your parents have mobility problems, a CRCC will already be outfitted with the latest in assistive devices. You’ll find wide doorways, adequate turning room for wheelchairs or scooters, and easy-to-adapt bathrooms with large showers with seats and grab bars. Compare the ease of one-story living with the difficulty and expense of installing a lift chair for your existing staircase. It’s expensive to remove custom modifications later.
You can’t predict a heart attack or stroke. The brain is extremely vulnerable to damage because of its constant demand for oxygen. When blood flow is suddenly cut off, oxygen-starved tissue rapidly begins to die. Although clot-busting drugs are available, they must be given within at most four hours. How can you be sure your parent who lives alone will be able to call for help in time? When it comes to life-saving treatment, nothing matters more than a responsive team on call 24/7.
The first signs of developing dementia seem to be problems with walking and balance. Research shows that physical changes often precede declines in thinking. Parents often live alone, isolated from family and friends, cut off from the support network provided by the workplace and the community. Cognitive problems often follow the death of a spouse, exacerbated by deteriorating health and financial insecurity.
You’ll find that a lot of help is available when you’re ready to make the transition from living at home to the comfort and convenience of a CCRC. Senior living experts and geriatricians have walked this path before with people from all walks of life. They know what works—and what doesn’t. There will never be a better time to make choices about the fun and enjoyment in life. Why not stop worrying?
Wouldn’t it be easier for everyone if you let the experts take over? You’ll appreciate knowing that CCRCs hire professionals who’ve passed a background check, unlike many agencies that simply send unlicensed “companions” or home health aides. Many CCRCs offer Life Care programs to ensure that even in an era of escalating costs, your parents will enjoy the security of guaranteed access to health care at predictable rates. Adult children can be invaluable when it comes to making a smooth transition to a CCRC. Why don’t you take the first step? If you’ve been wondering whether it’s time for your parents to move to beautiful surroundings where they can enjoy wonderful amenities and round-the-clock security, it’s time to make the call.