You might be solely responsible for making decisions regarding your own senior care or the care of a loved one. If you are like most people, you feel a great deal of pressure to make the right choice. After all, the quality of your choices greatly affects a person’s health, social and financial needs. You must also protect the individual’s legal rights.
There are three main choices you face when making elder-care decisions:
- Medical care
Try to break these larger choices into smaller, more manageable decisions so they do not seem so overwhelming. Engage the help of others, especially family members who might be affected by the choices you make or who can help you fulfill some of your decisions.
Deciding where to live is one of your most important choices. Seniors can live independently for many years in their own homes, but sometimes medical, psychological, or financial problems require that they move from their residences. Depending on your condition, you might consider a move to a senior independent living facility, an assisted living facility, or a skilled-nursing care complex. This move can be temporary as you or a loved one recovers from an injury or illness, or a move can be a permanent solution for a problem related to unsafe housing.
Deciding whether to remain in one’s home is a very difficult choice. Seniors want to stay at home for as long as possible because, after all, home is where the heart is. Consider staying at home if there have been no major illnesses or accidents in the past six months, cooking and cleaning is not a problem, and you or your loved one can get medical care when you need it.
Moving to an independent or assisted living facility may be the right choice if you or a family member can still get around but need just a little help. A skilled-nursing care complex is the only choice if a serious health issue prevents you or your loved one from living at home safely and comfortably.
As the primary decision maker, you will need to sort out the finances for the living arrangement. You must investigate the financial health of the individual, determine if there are any applicable Social Security, Medicare or other benefits that might pay for senior housing, and secure appropriate housing within the individual’s price range.
Here are a few more questions you can ask to help you make a senior housing decision:
- Can the staff meet your medical needs or the needs of your loved one?
- Is the facility close to medical facilities, shopping, religious facilities, senior centers, and other amenities that are important to you or your loved one?
- How does the facility handle billing for amenities like telephone, television and internet?
- Does the facility have safety features and a disaster relief plan?
- What happens if the facility asks you or your family member to leave?
- Can you participate in facility management and decision making once you or your loved one moves there?
Once you choose a new residence, you might be responsible for cleaning out the old place and perhaps even selling a home. If you are making these decisions on behalf of a parent or other loved one, you may have to consult with immediate family regarding the individual’s possessions. The decision to get rid of personal possessions and real estate has profound psychological, social and legal consequences, especially if you are acting on behalf of another.
You need to determine how much medical care you or a loved one requires. Unless you are a trained healthcare worker, you might need a little help assessing the physical needs of a loved one. Consult with the individual’s physician or private nurse to help you determine an appropriate level of medical care.
You or a loved one might need only a little help with housework, dressing and using restroom facilities, so home health care might be an option. On the other hand, moving to an assisted senior community with a specialty memory care program is appropriate if you need care for Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
Finances may be difficult to manage as you or your loved one requires more medical care. You might have to consider allowing a family member to take over your financial responsibilities if you find you cannot keep up with bill payment. If you are making decisions on behalf of another person, you might find yourself responsible for their finances.
It is always best to consult with a professional financial planner when transferring financial authority to another individual. Consult with an attorney when necessary.
Elder care decisions are never easy, whether you are helping a parent pick out clothing for the day or making a decision to move out of your home and into an independent living community. Give yourself every advantage during this difficult decision-making process by talking with friends and family, consulting with medical and legal professionals, and touring living facilities. Most of all, try to avoid feeling guilty or apprehensive about your choices.
For information about how to choose a senior living community, read this free guide: 7 Questions to Ask When Screening Senior Living Communities.