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When it’s Time to Make a Change In your Living Arrangements

separator Sometimes it happens fast. Serious illness comes from out of the blue. Your spouse, who cared for you every day, dies. A grown child who was always there for you moves away.

Other times, it’s a gradual thing. Your spouse is showing signs of dementia, and you wonder how difficult it will become to care for him or her, and whether you’ll be able to do it at all, after a point. Or you notice it’s becoming more difficult to take care of your house and yard. Or maybe not even more difficult—you just aren’t that interested anymore. Or maybe the stairs are harder to negotiate. Maybe you’re simply ready for a change.

Whatever the reason you or an older loved one has for needing to make a change, it’s always a good idea to do as much advance planning as possible. Sure, things happen unexpectedly, but you can still make plans for that. The old “expect the unexpected” adage applies here.

Here are some of the things you can do so that when and if the time comes to make changes in your living arrangements, you’ll know what’s available, what you can afford and what’s most appropriate to your lifestyle.

Housing for seniors is varied and changing
Most people 50 and older are aware of the basic types of senior housing out there. There are independent-living communities, which offer housekeeping services, meals that are served in dining rooms, social activities, etc. Then there are assisted living facilities, which help residents with activities such as bathing, dressing and getting from place to place. At some point, if your health needs become more intensive, you have to leave an assisted living facility and move to a nursing home. There are also some communities that offer all types of services in one location. These are typically called continuing-care communities.

But things are changing all the time. Some companies are beginning to offer assisted-living-type services right in a person’s home. Some continuing care facilities have changed the criteria under which you are allowed to remain there. Financial arrangements can vary from state to state, even in places that are owned by the same company. And the types of rooms and living arrangements can change too.

If you think there’s any chance that you (or a loved one) will be changing your living arrangement at some point in the future, be sure to do the following:

►        Talk with a financial adviser
You need to know exactly what your financial situation is before you decide on any new living arrangements. This might sound obvious, but many people don’t find out about this kind of thing until the last minute. That’s the worst time to make important decisions. So sit down with a financial planner to find out what you can count on in the years ahead.

►        Talk with a local geriatric care manager
This professional can help you sort through your options, and help you determine whether things like staffing levels and basic policies of a facility are adequate and beneficial for residents. Geriatric care managers can also help you identify the kind of facility that would be a good match for you.

►        Be aware of all the costs
Make sure you know which services are covered by the basic fee, and which services cost extra. Find out whether costs are expected to rise. Ask how often they rise, and by how much.

►        Be sure you know exactly what’s in your contract, and how it affects you
It can’t hurt to have your lawyer or financial adviser take a look at the contract of the facility you think you’re going to choose. For example, some people become sicker than they expected, and they have to leave an assisted-living facility when they least expect it. You need to know exactly what the criteria are for your continued stay.

►        Talk with residents at the facility you’re interested in
There’s nothing like getting information direct from the people who live where you might choose to go. Ask them about all the things that are important to you, whether it’s the quality of the food, the friendliness of the staff, the level and quality of care, etc.

National Institute on Aging; The New York Times, “These Days, ‘Retirement Living’ Can Mean Many Things,” 6 February 2005.
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