By Lindsay Hutter
How lucky do you feel?
Those were the words of a Goodwin Living Board Trustee as he shared his approach to conversations with older adults brushing aside encouragements to plan for their future. I had just joined Goodwin Living, a faith-based not-for-profit senior living and health care services organization serving older adults across the DMV area, and was on a listening tour. Little did I know how salient his words were.
Most of us know older adults, whether they are family, friends or neighbors. We’ve likely heard some say, “We’ll visit senior living communities when we’re ready.” Others say, “We’ll move into assisted living when we need it.”
They must feel very lucky.
Their statements imply that they will decide the “when.” They will know “when” that is and that “when” will come when they say so.
Recent national data suggests luck is not prevalent when it comes to aging and needing some assistance. A recent survey conducted by Nexus Insights and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that one in four adults 50 years of age or older said they or a loved one had experienced a long-term care crisis in the previous 12 months. Here’s what that data means: the next time you’re enjoying dinner with a group of friends, look around the table. One of them is likely to experience a long-term care crisis.
How can you avoid this outcome in your own life or the lives of those you love?
1. Take good care of yourself.
2. Make a plan and discuss it with your loved ones.
3. Do your homework.
Take good care of yourself
A rich resource for your own total health is the International Council on Active Aging’s Seven Dimensions of Wellness. These seven dimensions include intellectual, physical, environmental, social, emotional, spiritual and vocational.
Some may say, “Well of course. That’s obvious, isn’t it?” Take an inventory of your typical day. How sufficiently is each of those seven dimensions addressed every day in your life? Obvious and implementation are two very different concepts.
Make a plan
Goodwin House Alexandria resident Fred Pang was recently interviewed by WUSA-9 about the retirement planning that he and his wife undertook. Pang’s first bit of advice was to not plan in a vacuum.
“Gather your family, your financial advisor, your insurance advisor and everyone who will be part of the team that supports you when you have needs. Gain the benefit of everyone’s wisdom and their care for you and come up with a plan as a team,” Pang said.
Something we often hear from older adults when they are asked about “their plan” is “My children will take care of it.”
Then comes our question. Have you shared this expectation with your children? Have you discussed the possible scenarios and your wishes for each scenario? Do your children have the time and resources to meet your needs and wishes?
The room has a way of getting quiet at that point.
Do your homework
Speak with older adults who have taken steps to age in place in their homes as well as those that have moved into retirement communities. Ask for their insights and lessons learned. Visit multiple retirement communities and learn about them.
For example, some retirement communities have all levels of living. These are called Continuing Care Retirement Communities and have independent living, assisted living, memory support and health care – which are often called nursing or long-term care. The advantage of CCRCs is that you never have to leave the community should you or your spouse or partner need a higher level of care. CCRCs also are more likely to have dedicated physical therapy and rehab services on-site.
Other retirement communities may focus on one or two levels of living, such as assisted living and memory support.
It’s also important to learn about the contracts and financial models so you can assess what you want or are able to spend in the way of retirement and care expenses.
Going back to national research that found that “one in four” have experienced or know someone that has experienced a long-term care crisis, you are doing yourself and your loved ones a very big favor by knowing the senior living and rehab centers around you and knowing their staff. If you or a loved one is in a crisis, do you want to call a stranger at a senior living community or rehab center you have never visited or do you want to call someone you know at a community or rehab center that you have toured?
Back to that Board Trustee’s question: How lucky do you feel?
The writer is the chief strategy and marketing officer for Goodwin Living.