Posted December 21, 2007

This past weekend I went to Florida.  For some reason the temperature just kept dropping, as if I had brought the Chicago cold with me.

My parents just retired two weeks ago.  They have lived just south of Buffalo NY all of their lives and have decided to leave the snow behind for some sunshine.

They investigated a few places on the Internet over the past year and had the opportunity to see a few in Florida earlier.  My mom was totally against the idea until they started visiting them.
I met them down there and got to see what they had been looking at.  I have to tell you we have nothing like these places in Illinois.  I often get requests, but without the sunshine, I just don’t think we can compete.  As much as I would like them to be near me, I don’t think I hold a candle to year round golf… and they would still have snow to deal with though I am sure it would be shoveled for them.

Everyone kept asking me if the places we looked at were filled with OLD people.  My parents are young, only 60 & 63.  My view of old people is very skewed.  You are not old until you hit about 90 in my mind.  But I was still surprised to see a lot of people my parents age.

I am really excited for this next chapter in their lives and really feel that it will add years to their lives.  I can’t wait to find out which community they finally decide on.  And I also can’t wait to spend next Christmas in the sunshine instead of a blizzard.

Know Before you Go..

Last night I attended a seminar on retirement planning. Besides being the youngest person there by about 40 years… I picked up a few bits of information on Continuum of Care Retirement Communities also known as CCRCs. 

On one hand they seem perfect because they have independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing and usually make a promise to continue to take care of you even if your money runs out. This of course is after you pass a medical and financial application.  And if you don’t qualify, you will be turned down.

However, I think its important to note – and I took this away from the class- that before you even go look at places to live (senior communities, assisted living, skilled nursing, retirement – whatever…) be sure you know what you are working with.

Here is what you should know as a minimum before you tour ANY community.

  1. What are your total assets? Value of home and investments
  2. What is your total available income?  In addition to your social security and pension if you have one, what would be your yearly income off investments and dividends should you choose not to reinvest them?  Some buildings will take this number into account on the financial application.  And not just the expensive places, affordable housing as well..
  3. What is it costing you now?  It will seem really expensive if you compare the monthly to your mortgage or rent.  But you have to add the following to your monthly living expense to get a better comparison.  For instance – your real estate/property taxes, your utilities, housekeeping, lawn care, maintenance, groceries, eating out, home owners insurance, any in home care you may currently be receiving.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that you will still have the expenses of your doctor and hospital visits, your Medicare and any supplemental insurance as well as your prescriptions.  The only time this would be taken care of is if you were on Medicaid, which as we know is the health insurance for those with absolutely no money.

I can’t stress how important it is to know those numbers above before you look.  You do not have time to waste looking at places that you cannot afford financially.  In my business it helps me narrow down those choices for families and save time and frustration.


When Retirement Community Living is the Right Choice..

Aging Parent Solutions

“I’m not ready.” If you are an adult child with aging parents who needto make a lifestyle change because of declining health, maybe you’vealready heard those four little protest words “But, I’m not ready”followed by… “for that kind of lifestyle.” Or, “But, I’m not ready – Idon’t like change. I don’t want to make a move, or alter anything that Iam doing!”

Helping our parents make choices about where they want to live out thelast chapters of their lives doesn’t have to be a tug of war. After all,freedom of choice is the granddaddy of all freedoms – followed closelyby, freedom to live where we want to live; freedom of speech; andfreedom to live our lives unconditionally with those we love.

The freedom to move, or to stay put in our own homes becomes compromisedfor any of us when our own health and physical capabilities decline withage. There are 22.4 million Americans receiving some form of assistedcare in their homes. Today’s elderly face tough choices as the homewhere they have lived for 60 years becomes unmanageable with maintenanceissues, or if the physical layout with stairs and multi-level livingareas present safety issues and challenges to mobility.

Find out what’s really going on.

Why all the resistance? It’s called fear and frustration. Whether we aresending our kids off to kindergarten or college, they have reservationsabout what life will be like ‘away.’ Will they make new friends? Willthey learn the schedule? What if the food is awful?
Our elderly parents may be harboring the same fears – coupled with therealization that they are stuck in a body that has physical limitations.Their physical body is not cooperating with their intentions. It is thesingle reason that they can’t get up the stairs, and why they verballyrepeat their needs a dozen times. “I need to be at the doctor’s officeat 2:00pm.” “Will you be here at 1:30?” But what’s driving that fear, isnot only the chipping away of physical capabilities, but also the threatof losing the freedom of choice.

What is their biggest fear about retirement living?

Tune into the fact that your mom and dad have a mental picture on theirback burner. This snapshot is subliminally telling them that this newresidence may be the last place that they will live – or the last stop.On the surface, they will participate in the retirement community’s openhouse, the educational seminars and the tours. But underneath it all,they still hesitate.

In some cases an elderly individual who is ‘testing the waters’ aboutmoving to a retirement community will hunt for any excuse to not make itwork. At GlynnDevins, (www.glynndevins.com) a full-service marketingagency for retired senior living communities, Director of PublicRelations, Randy Eilts has observed many potential retirement communityresidents looking for an out. “Some individuals are operating from thebrass ring of denial. They’ll become more nitpicky about amenities inthe community. Or, they’ll say it’s too expensive, or that thetransportation isn’t adequate.” Eilts added, “For others, the idea ofmoving after living in one place for 40 years is overwhelming.”

Knowing they are not alone

If an aging parent has reservations about making the transition to acontinuing care retirement community, the best way to calm their fearsis to share the orientation with others. When like-minded people seekinformation together, many of their fears are alleviated because of‘power of the group.’ “There is self validation,” according to Eilts.“They know that others are making these decisions, too. Their peers arein the same situation.”

Lisa Sneddon, Senior Living Experts,www.SeniorLivingExperts.com ,
has encountered both resistance from individuals contemplating a move toretirement living, as well as many positive success stories. “I reassurethem that most everyone I work with says the same thing. I also let themknow that these same people often tell me after they move in that they‘should have done this years ago.’"

Going to the source

At a recent resident forum at Las Ventanas, a continuing care retirementcommunity (CCRC) nestled in the Las Vegas valley of Summerlin, (www.lasventanas-lifecare.com)residents didn’t hold back in chronicling the added independence theyindividually gained by moving to Las Vegas’ only continuing carecommunity. “This move made my kids ‘worry-free’. I know I’m not a burdento them, and they know that the simple things, like shopping andmaintenance are taken care of,” said one resident about her decision tomove with her husband. Another couple said that the decision was theirsalone. “We basically told our kids to ‘butt out!’ This is what we wantedto do.” Another resident was adamant, “Do it now! What are you waitingfor?”

Socialization, security and safety are added benefits of retirementcommunity living. Marilyn Witney, whose elderly parents moved into TheHeritage of DesPaines, (Illinois) (www.theheritage-desplaines.com) morethan a dozen years ago gained her own sense of relief about her parents’future. “As their health became more of an issue, this move made so muchsense. Now that my mother is gone, I don’t worry about my dad keepingactive or going to social activities, especially in the winter. There isso much for him to do right there, and so many friends.”

At Senior Living Experts, Lisa Sneddon works with prospects to evaluatetheir care needs, budgets and geographical preferences. “When I ammeeting with people whose budget does allow them to actually afford it,I try to point out the costs of remaining in their home. Many of theretirement communities provide work sheets to help seniors see that itis costing them a lot more than they think to stay at home,” Sneddonsaid.

“If they currently own but are not paying a mortgage, they are stillpaying property taxes and utilities, association fees, and home ownersinsurance. They are also having to pay for repairs on the home which canget expensive if they need to replace siding or a roof or even a hotwater tank!”

Sneddon also encourages her clients to factor in the cost of day-to-dayhousehold upkeep. “They may be paying people to clean, mow the lawn,shovel the driveway and provide transportation. They have to still payfor groceries as well – where meals are usually included in the cost ofretirement living.”

Give ‘em what they want!

There are very few ‘old folks’ homes as they were known in past decades.The new continuing care communities offer internet access, full wellnessfacilities, swimming pools, intergenerational programs, and a host ofdynamic amenities. With lifecare communities, residents will be caredfor at every stage of their lives. One 62 year-old woman who had justmoved into a continuing care community in Illinois saw this transitionas one of her best decision about her future. “I don’t want to have tomove later on when my health declines.”
From a financial standpoint, many CCRCs, like Las Ventanas, offer a 90percent refundable entrance free. The refund is made when the residentdecides to leave, or it can be paid to their estate. In most cases,there is no mandatory length of stay.

When it works

Whenever possible, involve your elderly relative in the decision to moveor stay. If the venue is unsafe, you have to take action immediately.Start the conversation, and then do the homework. Any one of the finecontinuing care communities in your area will act as a willing resourcefor information, and answer your questions. Yes, even if you live inPoughkeepsie, and your mom lives in Las Vegas, call for help. If yourparent lives out of town, call the Eldercare Locator 1-800-677-1116 orgo to www.eldercare.gov .

For long distance case management of your parent, contact a case managerin your parent’s area. The beauty of bringing in this valuable resourceis that you will have a professional making the assessment of yourparent, and then the manager can help coordinate and build in the layersthat fit your parent’s needs To hire a case manager to assess yourparent’s situation long-distance, visit the National Association ofGeriatric Care Managers, www.caremanager.com . 520-881-8008.

Sneddon offers lifestyle advice to her clients. “This kind of livingallows them to do just that, live… not constantly work at keeping uptheir house or staying isolated. It allows them to do things they mightnot have a chance to do if they stayed at home, such as making newfriends or participating in a new activity. It helps they feel moreactive, more involved in the community, more in control of their life,with the peace of mind that care is there if needed. “

She encourages both the parent and their adult children to step up andtake action. “Who wants to sit at home alone wondering what is going tohappen if they fall? Sometimes you have to bring out the "what-ifs" tohelp them see the whole picture.”

Ready or not, it is never too early to make smart choices about sensibleretirement community living.

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