Aging with Grace—Choosing a Home for Mom
When the time comes to move an aging parent out of their home, it can be difficult to process the many emotions that arise. Having a plan in place before the time arrives is not only good thinking, it can also be your saving grace. There won’t be a need to second guess yourself or other family members as the details have already been planned. Your mom will need your support more than ever, and you’ll know what to expect and can stay level headed. So, what can you expect throughout this process? Here are a few things to consider as the next phase of mom’s life comes to fruition.
While knowing the exact time to move will be different for everyone, there are a few signs that will alert you that the time is drawing near.
- There are unused rooms or spaces. What once was a house that boasted large closets, storage space, and a spacious living area, is now a space that has become overwhelming for your aging mom. If she’s not using all of the rooms, or if they are being used only for storage, it may be a good indicator that it’s time to downsize.
- Household chores become a struggle. If mom is having a hard time keeping up with basic household chores, she may need something more manageable. This goes for yard work too. If outside spaces are becoming overrun with growing foliage and debris, consider what would be useful for the next phase of mom’s life.
- The house is no longer the main meeting place. As children grow up and start their own families, family events and holiday festivities begin shifting to new locations. If mom’s home is no longer the “home base” for the family, letting go of the childhood home or current residence has a stronger case.
- Financially, it makes more sense to sell the home than to keep it. Aging comes with a price and not just metaphorically. Doctor’s bills, insurance premiums, residential housing costs, all of these and more can add up to quite a hefty bill. And with most housing markets seeing instability all across the country, moving out may be best determined by how much equity that’s built up over the years. If the house isn’t being passed on to other family members, a smart move may be to put up the “for sale” sign in the front yard and bank those savings for the coming years.
Aging isn’t a one-size-fits-all process, and it’s important to determine the level of care mom will need. Understanding the adult living options and levels of care are vital to this process. Here are a few options to consider:
To learn more about the levels of care The Williams Home, Inc. has to offer in Lynchburg, Virginia, click here.
As with any major life change, the first step of planning is to do your research. Here are a few things you’ll need to consider throughout the process.
- Bring mom into the process. This may be a no-brainer, but it can be a step that’s easily overlooked by adult children. Let mom have a seat at the table and share her thoughts and concerns. After all, she’ll be the one actually making the move.
- Determine your budget. Figuring out your budget is a crucial first step. Knowing what you’re able to afford before searching for your mom’s new home will help you avoid getting attached to a place only to realize it’s well beyond your budget. Be realistic and honest with yourself as this will need to be sustainable for an undetermined amount of time.
- Decide on non-negotiables. Make a list of the most important things that mom needs from her new housing. Take into consideration health-related amenities as well as basic needs for daily life. Think beyond just the here and now as you make your list. While the “perfect place” likely won’t exist (at least within your budget), notate what things mom would like to have. This list will be handy when it comes to final decisions.
- Tour your top prospects. Once you’ve got your list of needs and wants, narrow down your options and schedule a few tours of prospective living arrangements. Your advisor can help with this or a simple Google search can offer suggestions. Make sure your needs are included (they’re needs for a reason!) and use your wants as a guideline to weed out the rest.
According to a 2015 study published by the US Department of Health and Human Resources, an aging senior can rack up a whopping $138,000 in costs related to long-term care. In addition to this mind-numbing figure, it’s estimated that half of seniors (age 65 or older) will need long-term care, and 1 in 7 may need care for longer than 5 years. So what’s the solution?
Affording the care mom needs should be planned as far in advance as possible. When you understand your budget beforehand, it can alleviate some of the stress that naturally comes from this next stage in mom’s life.
Consider the type of care she needs and what environment will be best suited for her. The price will rise with additional amenities, so this will help you narrow your options that may accrue unnecessary costs.
Max Out Employer Benefits
Your first chance to save will be utilizing employer benefits such as retirement funds and healthcare savings while mom is still working. Having these savings adding up over the working years will allow for a larger financial safety net and prevent you from relying as heavily on government funded programs such as Medicaid. While government assistance is not a bad thing, there’s no guarantee that you’ll receive as much funding as you need. If mom is still working, have a conversation with her about what her current benefits are and help her adjust her policies if necessary.
401K & Other Retirement Savings
Ensure mom is set up for retirement success by contributing at the very least the maximum amount the company will match to her 401K. This is essentially “free money” as most companies will match up to a certain percentage. If mom can’t contribute the entire amount on her own, see how you can help with other bills so she can hit the company’s maximum contribution. Don’t leave that money on the table!
Health Savings Accounts
Health savings accounts are another employee benefit that can be used for long-term care. These pre-tax deductions set aside money to be used for health-related purposes. Money in these accounts roll over from year to year, and you can withdraw the money tax-free if used for qualified healthcare expenses. The amount you’re able to contribute can change, so check with your employer to learn more.
Under certain circumstances, the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs offers benefits for individuals or their spouses who have served. Find out your eligibility and apply for benefits that can help with long-term care. These benefits are some that most people may not know about, so if you’re unsure, reach out to the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs and see what your options may be.
Set Up a Retirement Trust Fund
Trust funds are a way to set aside assets for a specific purpose and/or time. These assets are managed by a third-party and paid out to the trustee based on the trust fund’s terms. The funds can be paid out for college, graduation, retirement, etc. and can be paid out in one lump sum or scheduled installments over time. There are a few options available for setting up a trust fund, and a financial planner can walk you through your best options and explain the oftentimes confusing jargon.
The perks of a trust fund is that they often include a “spendthrift clause” that helps protect the assets from being used to cover debt in the event the trustee is being targeted by creditors. Trust funds give more control over assets since they do not have to be verified like a will, require no transfer to the trustee (they’re “owned” by the trust, not the grantor), and also offer additional privacy regarding assets.
The Williams Home, Inc. was founded by Mr. James Luther Williams and set up as a non-profit, using an endowment fund to provide for women over the age of 55 in the Lynchburg, Virginia area. He put aside funds for the construction and maintenance of the home, and his legacy lives on today in the lives of the residents.
You want the best for mom. She’s been there for you time and time again, and now is your chance to be there for her. Don’t settle for just okay; find a place both you and mom can agree upon. Remember that she will be the one moving in, so take care that her personality and style, not yours, match the option you choose. Read the fine print before signing anything, and keep an open mind when searching. Some places may come off as less than, but their community can be thriving within their walls.
Whatever you choose, remember to keep your mom at the forefront. She’s relying on you to help her make one of the biggest decisions in her adult life (at least later in life). Both parties need to feel good about the decision. This may seem trivial to you, but to her, it may feel like the beginning of the end.
If you’re considering an independent or assisted living option for your mom, The Williams Home, Inc. in Lynchburg, Virginia has over 70 years of experience. Schedule a tour of the beautiful facilities, and see if mom can envision herself in one of Lynchburg’s finest retirement communities!
Determining the Level of Care You Need
Aging isn’t a one-size-fits-all process, and it’s important to determine the level of care mom will need. Understanding the adult living options are levels of care is vital to this process. Here are a few options to consider:
Active Adult Communities for 55+
This type of residency is ideal for the adult who is capable of performing everyday tasks, such as bathing or cooking, but may be looking for more social engagement with other seniors. These communities are built specifically for senior living and typically require residents to be 55 or older. Residents can still own and maintain their own property (houses, townhomes, condos, or apartments) but live close together to other residents, providing a stronger sense of community. Many places will also offer amenities to appeal to residents: community group activities, social outings, recreational buildings and events, etc.
Retirement and Independent Living Communities
A step up from active adult communities is the retirement/independent living community. Mom still has the option to rent or buy in most places, and the amenities can include food preparation and regular housekeeping such as laundry and cleaning. Residents are able to care for themselves without assistance, and service is available if you need it, but not exactly necessary. Mom can live alone comfortably but also have a peace of mind that someone is there in a time of need.
Assisted Living Residences
Assisted living residences are very much like retirement or independent living communities but also offer the addition of personal care for the residents that need it. Depending on the facility, there can be multiple levels of care for assisted living such as the following:
- Independent Living. In this stage, mom can perform her activities of daily living (ADLs) without assistance. She is able to self-administer any medications or dietary supplements and treatments. You feel confident she could take care of herself at this stage as supervision would not be required.
- Minimal Assisted Living. Mom is still primarily independent but may need assistance occasionally with her ADLs. She can also self-administer or partially administer any medications or dietary supplements and treatments. This level of care can look very similar to independent living, especially in the beginning stages, but there will be times when mom may need additional help with certain medical treatments (such as diabetic injections), and you would not feel comfortable leaving her unsupervised full-time.
- Moderate Assistance. Activities of daily living require more assistance at this level. More advanced care includes incontinence assistance. General housekeeping and laundry are provided, and nurses and other aides are used more regularly.
To learn more about The Williams Home, Inc. levels of care, click here.
If mom needs medical assistance on a regular basis, a nursing home will be able to provide the care she needs. Nursing homes have many of the same amenities as assisted living residences and also offer around-the-clock medical care. Nursing homes boast more professional, medical personnel on staff than assisted living options and can be a valid choice for mom if she has a more serious medical condition.
Continuing Care Communities
Continuing care communities have many of the amenities of other senior living options, as well as providing suitable long-term care with transitional assistance. Residents can receive the care they need as they age without the need for changing locations. Every location is different, so make sure to check with the facility to see exactly what type of care is offered.