On a few occasions, I’ve sought to help families try to manage the cost of senior care for elderly loved ones. It’s a big challenge because on the one hand senior care is very expensive. But on the other hand, families really want to do their best for their elderly parents or grandparents.

This is true for assisted living, in-home long-term care, and nursing homes.

The best solution is to buy a long-term care insurance or life insurance plan. But most seniors dismiss the idea of getting such coverage until they actually need it. What are the other options?

Caring.com has an informative article that explains a lot of what I would say about Assisted Living Costs and Ways to Pay.

The cost of assisted living can seem overwhelming at first glance. However, compared to the average cost of a nursing home ($5,000 to $10,000 per month) or in-home care (about $4,000 per month for 40 hours of care per week), it is often one of the more affordable and convenient options if your loved one doesn’t need close medical supervision.

Read on to learn more about the cost of assisted living and important steps you can take to make this type of care more affordable.

When you receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, many questions and concerns come to mind, not the least of which is covering the cost of care. However, now is a time to prioritize other things, like self-care, family, and friends. To make it easier to focus on those more important aspects of life, here’s what you need to know about your finances so you can spend time tending to yourself and less time worried about costs.

 

Get the Bigger Financial Picture

Care for Alzheimer’s isn’t cheap. In fact, NextAvenue indicates care costs most families in the neighborhood of $60,000 per year. If you should move to assisted living, you could expect to pay around $55,000 annually, while a year in a nursing home would cost $82,000 or more. 

Unfortunately, while Traditional Medicare will help with things like hospital stays, Medicare won’t pick up the tab for the type of daily care most people require, like help with dressing, grooming, and taking medications. You could hire unskilled in-home assistance for around $21 per hour, which obviously could add up fast. While these are daunting figures, don’t get discouraged—you do have options. 

 

Dip Into Insurances

If you have an existing long-term care insurance policy, that can help with the cost of daily care, but if you are older or have a pre-existing condition (like Alzheimer’s or dementia), you won’t be able to apply and qualify for coverage through a brand new policy. U.S.News notes you might be able to use HSA funds for long-term care, depending on the circumstances, but that can be tricky as those funds can only be applied to qualifying expenses.

Families are typically burdened with covering care as well as expenses both during and after your passing, which adds to the stress for everyone involved. The last thing you want is to leave behind a legacy of economic strife. While it’s wise to invest in insurance plans like burial insurance to help with the financial obligations you leave behind, like your funeral, medical expenses, and other debts, with expenses like that, it’s clear a more extensive financial plan is necessary. 

 

Adjust Your Insurance Coverage

Even though Medicare won’t pay for daily Alzheimer’s assistance, Medicare Advantage plans are improving coverage for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia diseases. Non-medical in-home care, home modifications, adult daycare, and assisted living are all on the Medicare Advantage radar, so if you don’t currently have coverage, explore your options. Medicare Open Enrollment runs from October 15 and ends December 7 every year, and you can change plans without penalty during this time.

Keep in mind that even if you don’t currently require assistance, your needs are likely to change over time. An adjustment in coverage now ensures you’re ready for the coming year, come what may. 

 

Think Outside the Box

The natural inclination is to look to insurance first for help with health-related expenses, but there are other ways you can pay for your care as well. For instance, veterans are eligible for assistance through the VA and other military-oriented organizations. Similarly, Daily Caring points out that there are a number of programs that help with home accessibility modifications. You and your loved ones might also be able to qualify for grants designed specifically for those coping with Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

You also might have other untapped resources. For instance, homeowners can consider a reverse mortgage to help cover their care costs. Bear in mind these mortgages are best for those who do not have anyone else residing at the home because of how the loans are structured. Just like it sounds, lenders pay borrowers for the property and the debt increases over time. The loan is settled when the borrower moves out, sells the property, or passes away. While not perfect for everyone, in some circumstances, it’s an ideal solution.

While there are no simple fixes for covering the costs of Alzheimer’s, thankfully, there are several avenues to explore. Look into various insurance policies and get familiar with your other options. Once you have a financial plan configured, you can set that concern aside and focus on the more important things in life—like your loved ones and yourself.

 

Guest post by Karen Weeks: Karen created Elder Wellness as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well. 

Photo by JORGE LOPEZ on Unsplash

Entering our seniors years brings with it a number of complications that can make you feel as if things are beyond your control.  While there is no denying our bodies and minds simply aren’t what they used to be, there are decisions you can make which can improve your quality of life as you grow older.  Here’s how you can grab life by the horns instead of letting circumstances get the better of you.

 

Get enough exercise

Sometimes, there are misconceptions about getting older, and many people think we should become more sedentary as we tack on years.  In fact, the need to stay physically active never ebbs. Some experts indicate there are vital benefits seniors gain from exercise.  Staying fit can lower your risk of a stroke or heart attack, keep your bones and muscles strong, and help you avoid falls.  Exercise can delay or prevent issues like diabetes, arthritis, and dementia. You might even extend your life through exercise.  

If you’re new to exercise, it’s important to discuss your situation with your doctor before you start.  However, there are ample senior-friendly fitness activities to consider. Walking is an inexpensive and easy way to ease into exercise.  Or you can start with some simple stress-reducing stretches, such as neck rolls, calf raises, and standing thigh stretches. If you’re more advanced or looking for something new, consider adding boxing, suspension training, or tai chi to your repertoire.  You’ll be amazed how much fun you have participating in a whole new sport!

 

Ease up on non-essentials

We sometimes need to step back and reevaluate where our priorities lie.  It’s important to set aside time and energy for things that matter, and with that in mind, it could be in your best interest to pare back on certain obligations, like landscaping.  Bob Vila suggests installing some low-maintenance landscaping options, and for some of the excess chores, consider hiring help with trimming and mowing (a lawn-mowing service usually charges $30 – $45).  The same goes for inside your home.  Every now and then, consider hiring someone to do a deep cleaning so you can just tidy up in between.  The average cost for house cleaning in Pennsburg tallies between $135 and $193.

 

Do some decluttering

You might be surprised to learn that a great way to feel more in control of your life is by cutting down on clutter.  As LaserAway explains, clutter is hard on our minds and bodies, causing us to feel distracted, stressed, depressed, and anxious.  It’s more difficult to be productive, and on top of that, when you look around, you see reminders of all your unfinished projects.  It can even lead to feeling fatigued, overeating, and impaired sleep.  

For the sake of feeling better, decide to part ways with things you no longer need or use.  You can sell things in a garage sale, donate items to charities, do some recycling, or even sell things online.  Giving things to those less fortunate is a bonus in the health department, as it can encourage a more positive outlook, lower stress levels, and help you feel happier.  If you elect to sell some items, take that spending money and do something fun!  

 

Spend time with friends

Staying socially connected is an often underrated health concern for seniors.  In fact, some experts state the potential health damage seniors experience from loneliness is on par with smoking.  Interacting with friends stimulates your mind, helping you to remain sharp and retain your faculties.  People who stay socially engaged are more apt to be active and enjoy better physical health. Why not make plans with your friends on a routine basis?  Take a class, grab lunch, or go for a walk in the park. Take good care of your friendships, as it’s a boon to both your health and theirs.

Even if things feel out of control, you still have choices.  Stay active, avoid excess projects and clutter, and make time for friends.  You’ll feel better, thanks to your decision to grab life by the horns!

 

Guest post by Karen Weeks: Karen created Elder Wellness as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well. 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

As your parents grow older, you start to worry about them. You certainly don’t want to encourage them to enter a nursing home, but you want to acknowledge that they’re getting older. Perhaps they’re not as fit as they used to be, or maybe they’re a bit more forgetful, and that old home they bought 40 years ago is becoming more work than it’s worth. You might be trying to figure out how to help them while not infringing on their need to maintain independence. 

For today’s seniors, there are a variety of options that make living independently easier to do than it was even 10 years ago. Some seniors opt to move into retirement communities, condos, apartments or smaller homes that are a better fit for their lifestyle. Aging-in-place is also a possibility, depending on whether their home can be modified to accommodate their mobility and senses as both start to fade. Regardless of which option is best for your senior parent, you can help them find the best living situation that enables them to stay independent as long as possible.

 

Helping With Mobility 

When planning on the mobility of a senior, you can’t just think of how things are right now. You have to anticipate future scenarios and needs. That means planning for walkers, wheelchairs, or general problems getting around. 

Take a good look at the floors in the house. If there are any throw rugs, either remove them or make sure they’re securely attached to the floor, especially around the edges. Likewise, make sure carpeting is properly installed. 

Hallways and doorways should be at least 36” wide to accommodate most walkers and wheelchairs. It might not be possible to widen a hall, but you can either find an alternate path through the house or you can look into buying a new home. Homes in Pennsburg currently have a median listing price of $260,000

If you and your parent opt to look at a new living space, keep a checklist of accessibility needs now and in the future. In addition, if downsizing becomes the main goal, look into best practices for minimizing possessions and simplifying their living situation. Having a home that’s easier to manage will enable your senior parent to spend more time doing the things they love. 

 

Two Special Cases: Bathrooms And Kitchens

Regardless of where your senior decides to live, safety is crucial. When it comes to hazards in the home, there are two rooms that stand out for seniors: the bathroom and the kitchen. Both can be problematic, and they deserve special attention:

For the bathroom: 

  • Make sure the entry doorway is wide enough. 
  • Install grab bars and maybe a bench in the shower. 
  • Keep shelving at arm’s level. 
  • Install another grab bar by the toilet. 
  • Consider an elevated, padded toilet seat. 
  • Make sure the lighting is bright without being overly glaring. 

 

For the kitchen: 

  • Replace tile flooring with something softer like wood, cork, or linoleum. 
  • Add places that make it easy to prep food while sitting. 
  • Use contrasting colors for countertops, especially around the edges. 
  • Don’t use an over-the-oven microwave that requires lifting plates of hot food. 
  • Use lighting under cabinets to limit glare. 
  • Install cabinet shelving that pulls out for easily reaching pots and pans.

 

Building Their Independence

Helping seniors stay independent involves more than a new living space or remodeling a home. It also means changing lifestyles and activities. 

One way to help is to research different services in the area. These days, you can get much more than pizza delivered. Pharmacies, grocery stores, dog walkers (an hour-long walk can cost up to $27), and cleaners are just a few of the services that will come right to your front door. While there’s usually a fee, it’s a small price to pay to help a senior remain in control of their life. And, if your senior parent is tech savvy, they can do a lot of this through their smartphone. 

Doctor visits and medications also play an increasingly important and common role in many seniors’ lives. That’s why you should speak to their physicians and make sure you’re listed as another contact. Also, check to see if your parent’s medications are clearly explained and labeled. Many pharmacies can use large print or color-coding to make drug identification easier. There are also mobile and smart health monitors so seniors can keep track of their own medical needs. 

 

Estate Planning

While helping your senior parent find the best way to enjoy their independence, it doesn’t hurt to make sure they have an estate plan in place. Have a conversation to find out whether they have a will, a plan for end-of-life care, funeral arrangement preferences, where they store important papers, and whether they need to give you or another relative power of attorney. Having these plans in place will give your senior parent, and you, peace of mind should anything happen. 

It’s not easy to watch your parents age, especially when their limitations become more apparent. Help your senior parent maintain their independence by discussing which lifestyle choices will serve them best in the coming years. Is it a new living space or home modifications? Maybe it’s finding new ways to shop for groceries or get help with their dog. Or maybe it’s helping them finally put that estate plan in place so they can sleep better at night. Whatever it is, by offering the support and reassurance they need, you can help them stay independent for years to come. 

 

Guest post by Karen Weeks: Karen created Elder Wellness as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well. 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay