The Cost of Aging in Place: Peace of Mind

peaceofmindI work with some older adults who continue to live in their homes. Their children are not in the area and I help manage the day-to-day finances as well as minimize their exposure to elder fraud. I get to know both my client and their children and I watch them going through many of the issues my family faced.

Recently, I got a text from the daughter of one of my clients. Her dad (who has some mild cognitive issues) told her that someone was moving in with him on the following day so he was busy getting ready for his new roommate. As you might imagine, she was a little concerned that her dad had rented out his home, and she didn’t know about it. I remember those days when your loved one is so convincing! Is it the truth or is it just something they believe to be the truth?

I found not being able to tell the fact from the fiction incredibly disconcerting. Even after my mom was living in the assisted living and there were more eyes on her, I still didn’t necessarily know if what she said about her day was true. I learned to go along with it instead of pummeling her with 20 questions.

The hardest stage of my parents care was when they were still in their home. Most people want to stay there, but as a loved one watching them wobble on their feet, miss bill payments, or sign predatory home improvement contracts, it was hard to witness, We faced all of those issues.

There are some simple things you can do and it’s relative to the health and fitness of your loved one. A few ideas for some peace of mind:

  • Challenge them with a fitbit. If you could get your loved one to wear the device, you could actually see if they are up and about and how much they are moving every day.
  • Get a fall monitor. There are pendants and wrist bands. Some you have to press a button and others have someone call you is they sense a fall. Unfortunately, if there is a head injury, no one is going to press the button, so I would opt for an option that calls you.
  • Install door alarms. Thank you Mary Smith who shared that they installed door alarms to the front and back doors so that when a door was opened, they would get a phone call.
  • Find a friendly visitor. There are many volunteer and low-cost programs that will send someone to visit your loved one in their home. It would be ideal to have someone check-in with them once a day.
  • Consider hiring a personal care assistant. The biggest issue is isolation. Hiring someone to come in and engage with your loved one can help give you a break from the daily worry.
  • Get a roommate. In my town, we are working on a homesharing program where we would match a young professional or college student with an older homeowner. Ideally, you don’t want to start this if there is a cognitive issue, but matching professionals who can’t afford to rent in our town with single homeowners who are living in 3,000 square foot homes alone seems like a win-win.
  • Contact a local daily money manager. Most of my clients are a result of a conversation with mom or dad after bills are missed or checks are bouncing because they are double-paying invoices. There are some simple ways to let mom or dad stay independent and work with someone who can help them manage the day-to-day issues.
  • Hire an Aging Life Care Manager. If there are complicated health issues or mild cognitive impairment, it will be helpful to have someone who can jump in and assist should there be an acute issue, especially if you live out of town.

On my wish list is a refrigerator monitor that can easily be added to everyone’s home. If the door isn’t opened by a time you set, you would get an alert to contact your loved one.

Are there other options out there that have given you peace of mind?  Let me know. Appreciated. 

I want to stay in my home.

MemoryBanc Daily Money Management Services
MemoryBanc offers practical assistance to age-in-place.

I dream of a day when we start talking about leaving our homes and moving into communities designed to keep us active and engaged. Most older adults over 70 have an immediate negative reaction to leaving their homes. I personally imagine the freedom of college life when I could easily stop by and visit friends.

Now in my 50s, and after caring for two parents, what I do know is that should there every be a critical incident and you need rehabilitation or skilled nursing, the bed that will be available is probably in a facility you would never want to be. When I share this fact, many clients have been open to at least looking at communities in our area. Most of them have a wait list that you can join for a nominal fee. Once you are on the wait list, should you ever need those services, you have priority at the community and can recuperate in a bed you have chosen.

After touring the local communities, a few clients shared that the amenities and activities offered are things they would enjoy. Most of them just don’t know how much the senior housing business has changed in the last decade.

In the town in which I live, we are working on developing resources for home sharing, which is the exchange of housing for help in the home. A home owner, typically an older person with a spare room, offers free or low-cost accommodation to another person in exchange for an agreed level of support. The support may include companionship, shopping, household tasks, gardening, care of pets and, increasingly, help to use the computer. It could just be to have a home- or pet-sitter while you might be traveling. Home share thus provides a solution to the needs of two groups of people – those in need of affordable housing, often younger people, and those who would benefit from some support in the home, typically older people.

My town is facing a shortage of teachers, fire fighters, police, and social workers who can’t afford to live near their work and must deal with long commutes. Currently, a one bedroom apartment would require annual income of $66,000 with little or no debt. Our hope is to match home owners, with young professionals and even graduate students, in exchange for affordable housing.

Let me know if you have any successful models working in your community. I would love to be able to help all adults re-imagine the ideal of aging in place. Dreamed.


What’s Right For Mom? Assited Living vs Assisted Memory Care Communities

movingdayI’m excited, overwhelmed and hopeful that we will be able to move my mom who has dementia from her Assisted Living community to a community dedicated to Memory Care. My mom is in a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). My parents bought in back in 1998 and had an apartment in Independent Living until two years ago when the community terminated their Independent Living agreement which forced them to move into Assisted Living. It was stressful but resulted in my parents being in the community better suited to their care needs. We had tried to get them to accept help so they could stay in their Independent Living apartment, but they refused and Assisted Living was the only safe option.

After my dad died, my mom became very combative and disruptive. Whether this was the disease process or how her grief presented, I’m not sure. However, last winter we were told that if my mom’s behavior didn’t improve, we would be getting a 30-day move out notice. To help keep her and the other residents safe, we were required to hire personal daily assistants (pda’s). My mom still would not accept help from others and the people following her around usually just frightened her and made her angry. I got several calls from lifelong friends in the community that my mom was really struggling with the people who were “following her” around.

We went through several pda’s, but one of them has been with my mom now for a year. She was able to gain my moms confidence by being patient and positive. While my mom still doesn’t know her name, she willingly allows her to help now. My mom ended up in a wheelchair after her steep decline. She just lost the strength/confidence she could walk. The wheelchair has forced my mom to accept help from others and most days she is gracious and accepting of the help to dress and toilet.

My mom has always been active and needs more stimulation. After I got the “move warning”, I started the search for a new community. I quickly realized that a place set up to help a variety of individuals with the activities of daily life (ADL) was not best-suited to serve someone with dementia.

The things I realized were different included:

  1. Menus – In an Assisted Living community, my mom is presented with a menu and asked to choose her meals. The act of choice was overwhelming for my mom so I have the pda’s select her foods based on her preferences and food is just offered to her.
  2. Personal Care – I have had to intervene to get my mom showered, her hair done as well as clean and clip her nails. These things are scheduled and occur on a regular basis so mom will be better “kempt.”
  3. Activities – The variety and regularity of activities are endless in a community dedicated to memory care. My mom’s community implemented a program from 9 a.m .until 3 p.m. that worked for a while, but as soon as 3:10 arrived, mom was bored and wondered what she should be doing.
  4. Acceptance – My mom will now be with other’s that are in a similar situation and she won’t feel the looks, hear the whispers or feel the judgement from those that don’t understand dementia.

There are quite a few other differences, but until I started looking, I didn’t realize how all of these small things would really help my mom continue to feel connected and useful. I recognize it now, and am looking forward to completing this move. Anticipated. 

The Choice Between In Home Care vs Out of Home Care

ageormoveI recently attended a session hosted at my Mom’s Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). My parents made this choice more than 15 years ago, however, it’s not like you don’t wonder what it would have been like if they had opted to age-in-place.

“Aging-in-place” is a hot topic now, and in reality there are many “aging” options. In addition to a CCRC, there are local adult care options, many offered by local government and non-profits; in-home care and group home care. As a society, we seemed to have moved away from living with children, but I’m feeling a little guilt about that now. My Mom seems terribly lonely, but I know the move would be difficult on her cognitively.

Had my parent’s opted to “age in place”, we would most likely have had to take my parents to court to gain guardianship. Because they both moved into dementia together, they really didn’t recognize how much difficulty they were having managing on a day-to-day basisI’m thankful we never had to pursue this option. My parents would have recognized and been very hurt by this process.

This session I attended was focused on caring for a loved with dementia. The speaker shared that those that have a loved one in a CCRC feel guilt while those that care for a parent in their home are exhausted.

I know I’m lucky my parent’s made this choice and can afford it. The support of my parents over the past two years has been overwhelming at times. Now, it’s comforting to know that I’m not responsible for my mother’s care 24/7.

It has me wondering how my husband and I will manage this decision. Nothing is perfect, but given the wave of aging loved ones that is going to build in the coming years, I want to start having this conversation now. Discussed.

Please share with me what you are planning to do