Advice About Assisted Living for Aging Relatives (NYT, 10-16-13)

The New York Times ran part one of a question-and-answer article on assisted living and other living arrangements for seniors.  It seems that senior living options are very location-specific so I’m not sure of the value of this general article.  But see what you think!

I did find value in the first commenter’s nine suggestions.  The first commenter, Kay, said she had seen a parent through dementia and three years in seven different care settings.  Her suggestions include:

1. Buy long term care insurance for yourself, now. This kind of care is expensive.

2. Your parent failed to do #1, and also failed to be wealthy? Your options are extremely limited. Examine your state’s Medicaid program carefully. Pay someone to serve as a consultant, if need be.

2a. Is your parent a veteran? This saved our bacon. Our state runs veterans homes, and the tariff at one of these was low enough (I assume with a DoD offset) that my parent could afford it. It took his whole pension, but didn’t impact us. That said, those places were often in distant, rural areas (they were anchors of the local economy, and placed there to be so), and so were hard for us to get to for visiting. Not to mention his friends.

3. Does your aging relative have dementia of some type? Most facilities are designed to care for the physically frail, not the physically OK but mentally frail. Locked units would drive a sane person crazy. With more Boomers aging, hopefully we can find a better solution.

4. Look into any state benefits for the disabled. Our state has a program that provides a caregiver for ADL’s if the recipient is disabled (and probably poor enough). Anything that can keep you in your own home is cheaper.

5. Group homes, if your relative would be happy with that option, are a more affordable and humane choice. (We’re talking a suburban house where each bedroom has a resident, and there are at most two caregivers present. This only works for people with relatively few needs.)

6. Most facilities of any type are heavily populated by women. If your relative is a man, he might totally hate this. Mine did.

7. Even in the best of places (nursing homes especially), staffed by the most loving caregivers, there is no substitute for family. You need to visit as often as possible. Did your relative run out of toothpaste? Is the clothing in his/her closet actually his? This can be a real problem if you live far away.

8. Be prepared emotionally for the disagreements between siblings regarding the care of a parent. This tore our family apart in a way that nothing else even approached. (And, no, it wasn’t about money.)

9. Investigate places in more rural parts of your area. They might be just enough cheaper that you can afford them. But, the drive will be long.

Next Wednesday part two of this article will appear.

Here’s a link to part one of the article:

Ask an Expert
Advice About Assisted Living for Aging Relatives, Part 1
By The New York Times
Published: October 16, 2013