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Organized Housing Options
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You made it! Youve reached your golden years and perhaps you have been contemplating, or wondering, what the next step might be for you when it comes to where, and how, you will live. Seniors today have a plethora of lifestyle choices that it can feel overwhelming and, at the same time, confusing when exploring your options. You may love your home that youve been living in for so many years, yet feel that the time is ripe for a change. Or you may be renting and have a yearning to explore whats out there that may be a better fit for the kind of lifestyle you are looking forward to.

Independent Living
These communities are geared towards seniors who are usually 55 years of age or older. These type of communities appeal to mature adults that are still capable of taking care of themselves and find the idea of living in a community of their peers attractive and comforting.

Independent communities usually offer a variety of amenities to make living there comfortable and convenient. They may have a dining room where you can join others for your daily meals. If you love doing your own cooking, many communities also offer homes or apartments with a kitchen area. Private or on-the-premises laundry facilities is another feature as is private parking stalls for residents that have their own cars. If you love pets, many will also accommodate pets.

For many seniors that live far away from family or friends, or may feel lonely, living in an independent community may open up a whole new way of experiencing your life. One of the attractive features of this type of lifestyle choice is the social aspect many independent communities will offer social activities for their residents, providing opportunities to meet others and make new friends. Many offer a variety of daily or weekly activities, and social outings. On-site the community may have a library, movie room, or exercise facility. Many have well cared for landscaping.

Because these communities are geared towards seniors still able to get around and care for themselves, they usually dont offer the same level of health care that a CCRC would; however, should the need arise, staff should be able to contact a medical facility, call a physician, or caregiver.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities
A Continuing Care Retirement Community, or CCRC, has all of the amenities and features that an Independent Community offers, but their focus is geared towards what is referred to as aging in place, meaning that they are able to assist and accommodate the changing needs of their residents. Beyond what an Independent Community offers, a CCRC will also offer assisted living and 24/7 nursing care. This would be the type of community you may want to consider if you think you may eventually need medical assistance and/or care and will no longer be able to maintain your lifestyle without help.

There is usually an entry fee as well as monthly rental rates for your unit which is adjusted depending on your level of need for skilled services. Many CCRCs will offer interested visitors a chance to spend a few days there to see if their facility fits with the potential residents wants and needs.

Regulation of CCRCs varies from state to state so be sure to ask if the facility youre considering is regulated. The Continuing Care Accreditation Commission (CCAC) is the non-profit agency that is responsible for regulating these facilities, but keep in mind that not all states have this regulation in place yet.

If you decide that a CCRC will be a better fit for you than Independent Living, be aware that you will need to sign a contract or agreement before living there. Be sure to consult with your attorney to help you review the documentation before you sign.

Assisted Living/Boarding Homes
Assisted living communities, also referred to as boarding homes, are a growing and popular option for providing care and supervision of aging people. These living options offer a more structured and often a more professional range of services for occupants, including scheduled activities, medical supervision, and an attractive (sometimes upscale) environment.

Costs may be higher in assisted living than at a boarding facility. According to a MetLife Market survey in 2009, the average monthly rent was slightly over $3,000. Residents usually pay this cost from their pension, savings, or long-term care insurance plan. Certain costs may be reimbursable under Medicare and Medicaid programs. However, assisted living residences are not governed under national law, and standards may differ from one place to another. The Assisted Living Consumer Alliance (ALCA) is a non-profit agency that advocates consumer protections for residents in assisted living.

Adult Family Homes
Similar to boarding homes, an adult family home is licensed to provide housing for up to six individuals. Located in a residential area, these homes provide home-like care to residents, along with varying types of medical monitoring and assistance. Some allow pets and provide transportation and services to residents.

Nursing Homes
Many nursing home selections are made unexpectedly, often during periods of stress, as when an aged relative is discharged from the hospital or exhibits behavior at home that requires a change of care and location. Family members who choose a nursing home frequently lack experience in doing so. As a result, they may inadvertently select a facility that is not the most effective in meeting their loved ones particular needs. Several criteria should be considered in making such an important decision:

  • Agency credentials and specialization: Is the facility accredited? Check Medicares nursing home performance comparisons online at www.medicare.gov/NHCompare/home.asp.
  • Does it provide specific services to meet your loved ones needs (such as Alzheimers care)?
  • Is it Medicare- and Medicaid-certified?
  • Location: Is the facility located close enough for family to conveniently visit or to stop by in case of a problem? Is the neighborhood attractive and secure?
  • Staff: Do staff have the required training and certifications? Tour the facility and meet with the director to discuss the facility and its programs. Ask about the plan of care criteria and the physician who is responsible for the facilitys operations. The physician is required to evaluate each resident and prescribe a program of medical care that includes medications, therapy, and nutrition. If possible, the prospective resident should come along to tour the building and talk with the administrator.
Who Should Investigate These Alternatives?
Organized housing is appropriate for most Americans who prize independence, but especially individuals for those who do not wish to rely on their children for assistance on account of incapacity, or those who do not have informal support systems by way of children or other family members. Preferably, the seniors family or select group of relatives and friends should collaborate to explore these various lifestyle options. Questions and concerns can be discussed with the family physician or aging services coordinator. A social worker or geriatric care manager may be consulted for assistance.

When Is the Best Time to Consider these Options?
The best time to consider and embrace organized housing is when you have your physical and mental health about you so you can build friendships and relationships that will hopefully last you the rest of your life. For this reason, it is a good idea to begin the planning process before retirement, probably during middle age. This will enable the family to work closely together and make thoughtful decisions rather than a hurried choice. Just as financial planning requires long-term thinking, so does retirement living.

2011 - Rajiv Nagaich