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Aging in Place

Joseph Coupal - Monday, September 25, 2017

Spring Arbor, Greensboro, NCThe great majority of older adults say they'd prefer to live out their days in their own home. For many, this desire is so strong that they’ll insist on staying in the face of what seems to be an impossible situation.

But even as a friend or relative begins to decline and need more support, "aging in place" can usually continue to work.

The good news is that there’s a wide and growing array of supports available to help older adults age in place safely and in comfort.

Practical needs

Practical needs to consider include:

Transportation. Driving -- which many older adults perceive as the key to their independence -- is a touchy subject, but talking about it is crucial, as is assessing an older adult's ability to continue to drive safely. Assisted living offers a number of available alternatives.

In-home safety. In assisted living they have installed things like bright lighting throughout the home, light switches, and grab bars in the bathroom, for starters. A certified aging-in-place specialist can make suggestions and help figure out how to implement needed changes.

Finances. Like driving, money is a touchy subject, but it's important for aging-in-place older adults to have a clear sense of their financial resources and how long they will last.

More ways to help an older adult age in place

Financial needs

Sit down with your relative and go over whether they have the income to cover their needs over time. A financial planner who specializes in eldercare can help. If it looks like there's going to be a lack of funds, become familiar with financial options.

Healthcare. Again, planning is key. If they’re willing, review healthcare coverage and make a list of doctors and nearby hospitals. Make sure everyone caring for your loved one knows what the plan is if a medical problem arises. The more information you have at hand before something happens, the better prepared you'll be to help when it does.

Household maintenance. One of the main reasons older adults wind up moving to senior living communities is because they have trouble "keeping up with the house."

For more information on assisted living and aging in place, contact Spring Arbor.

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Find The Best Place to Grow Old

Joseph Coupal - Monday, September 18, 2017

Spring Arbor, Richmond, VAIt's time to sell the family home and relocate to somewhere a bit more -- peaceful? Affordable? Friendly? Cultured? We all have different needs when it comes to choosing the ideal location to live out our later years. Here, ten things to consider when it comes to planning out your "second life."

1. Access to medical care

One of the biggest mistakes people make when choosing where to live out their later years is neglecting to ensure they have access to complete, modern medical services. People have this idealized view of what their retirement will be like. They picture somewhere picturesque and serene, and before you know it they're out at the end of a country road with the nearest hospital 25 miles away. Then when illness strikes, which it's likely to do during the later years, there's no system in place to manage treatment.

What to look for? Make sure the area you choose has a full-service hospital or medical facility that can provide care for any kind of chronic or acute illness, including chemotherapy or radiation for cancer, cardiac care and rehabilitation, diabetes management, and other types of geriatric services, such as Alzheimer's expertise. If you don't have access to these services, chances are high that you're going to regret your move at some point. Just as with disaster planning, you want to plan for the worst -- then you can hope for the best.

2. Low-cost housing options

Affordable housing is an essential factor in choosing where to live when you're on a fixed income or need to make your retirement savings last. Sell a $300,000 home and move into one costing $150,000, and you've not only cut your costs in half but put an equal amount into savings. Of course, this does tend to mean moving away from popular urban areas on the East and West coasts. But as recent real estate data attests, baby boomers are also finding ways to stay in their beloved urban centers by learning to live in much smaller spaces. In the past few years, many cities have built or are building condo and loft developments aimed at active seniors, and they're proving extremely popular.

When calculating your cost of housing look at a number of factors beyond simply the real estate itself. Property taxes, heating costs, and homeowners insurance all contribute to how much you're paying to put a roof over your head.

Culture and affordability

3. At least one great bookstore

Sure, it sounds odd, at first, to focus on such a small detail, but many experts in senior relocation have learned to use this factor as a bellwether. Why? Because great independent bookstores are cultural hubs, offering classes, sponsoring author talks, and functioning as gathering places for like-minded people. The presence of a good bookstore also says a lot about the more subtle qualities of a town's population, especially if you're looking to settle where you're likely to find interesting people. After all, a town has to have at least a reasonable number of cultured, intellectually curious people to sustain the bookstore over time.

4. Overall affordability

The people who study retirement affordability have many different calculations and indexes that they use to evaluate the cost of living in various communities and geographic areas. The cost of housing is a primary factor, of course, but the cost of transportation and other services can be equally or more important. Then there's the fact that some states don't have any sales tax, while other areas tack on as much as 10 percent per purchase.

And the cost of medical and dental services varies much more than most people realize. Surgery in a big-city teaching hospital, for example, could set you back 40 percent more than the same surgery in a community hospital.

Jobs and weather

5. A strong job market for second-career job seekers

This is an increasingly important factor for baby boomers looking to settle down for the second half of life but not ready to pull out the recliner just yet. The criteria for this one are pretty straightforward: You want a town with below-average unemployment.

It also helps if an area specializes in particular industries that tend to fit with your job skills and work history. Capital cities are strong in government jobs, which tend to offer good options for older workers. And cities in which there are new or growing industries and service sectors, are more welcoming to older job seekers as well.

6. Good weather

What constitutes good weather is largely a matter of personal taste; some people want to ski all winter while others can't stand the thought of not seeing fall color. But by and large, when you look at the criteria that experts use to pick the best places for retirement or aging, they tend to be in the sun belt and other areas with mild winters. And that makes sense; tasks like driving do become more difficult as we get older, so throw in driving in the snow and you have a potentially dangerous mix. And many residents of the Northeast and Midwest are all too ready to flee south and stop paying astronomical heating bills.

Still, start by thinking what good weather means to you, personally. Are you willing to put up with high temperatures in the summer in order to enjoy a mild winter? Are there outdoor activities that are important to you that depend on the weather? Hint: Mosquitoes can scotch a fishing trip, and gardening can be frustrating in the desert.

Houses and services

7. Comfortable houses for aging in place

That dream house you're lusting after? Yes, it has a gorgeous deck with a view and the cutest window seat, but does it also have wide doorways and a one-story floor plan? These are the criteria people all too often overlook. And housing stock tends to vary greatly by community. In one town, all the houses might be more than a hundred years old with multiple floors and narrow hallways, while in another area all the housing stock is post-'50s ranches much more suitable to aging in place.

When you buy a house at 65, chances are good you're still going to be living in it at 85, so that's what you need to plan for. A one-story floor plan with few stairs? Check. Doors wide enough to accommodate a walker or wheelchair? Check. Tubs big enough to put a bath stool in? Check. What about the laundry -- do you have to go down to the basement to do it? These are the kinds of things people don't think about at first but that become hugely important in determining whether they're happy with their choice down the line.

8. Availability of services

Make sure any area you're considering has access to the services you want. Need a decent bakery? Check that your new town has one. Similarly, if you regularly visit a chiropractor, massage therapist, or acupuncturist, you won't be happy if you have to give those services up -- or drive 30 miles to access them. If it's important to you to have a beautiful garden, you may want to see if gardeners are plentiful -- and affordable -- in the community you're considering. And if you hope to live out the rest of your life in your own home and don't have a lot of family close by, chances are you'll need some in-home care at some point.

Leisure and family

9. Golf and the arts

We all like to spend our free time in different ways, but by and large most people are in search of a community with rich offerings when it comes to the arts and leisure activities. After all, what's retirement (or semi-retirement) for, if not to enjoy all the interests we were too busy for when we were putting in 50-hour weeks?

10. Proximity to family

If you have adult children, and especially if you're lucky enough to have grandchildren or are hoping for some, proximity to family's going to be one of your major considerations, and rightly so. But it still pays to be creative when thinking about this situation, rather than rushing off to buy a house down the street.

Younger families may need to be in an expensive urban area because of job and school requirements, and you don't have those considerations driving you. One solution: proximity to a major airport. Choose to live within an hour of a major airport, and family can visit you easily and conveniently even if they're a state or two away, opening up many more options.

Take future caregiving needs into consideration as well. The statistics show that 70 percent of long-term care is provided by family, typically a daughter. So talk openly with your adult children and grandchildren about who might be willing to take on that role. Be sensitive to potential family conflicts, too.

I tell people: Live close enough to get there easily, but far enough away that if you're mad at each other, you don't have to run into each other at the drugstore.

For more information on assisted living, contact Spring Arbor.

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Life Thrives in Assisted Living

Joseph Coupal - Friday, September 15, 2017

Spring Arbor, Greensboro, NCFor many families, the biggest questions are about the type of skilled nursing facility that is best for their loved ones and how assisted living and personal care differs from other forms of around the clock care.

Assisted living is a fairly new category of care, but one that is sure to grow in the coming years. One of the things families need to know is that life doesn’t stop at an assisted living or personal care home; it thrives. By incorporating larger living and activity space and embodying the concept of allowing residents to age in place, this type of care provides residents with quality around the clock assistance without having to move to a licensed long-term facility when their care needs increase.

The term ‘assisted living’ has been used for more than 20 years and applies to assisted living residences. They can design programs to meet individual needs – for short-term stays when support services are required, and for permanent residency when chronic conditions exist. Both offer a holistic approach to health care that provides residents with quality around the clock care from trained caregivers and in many cases nurses too, but also supports an environment in which residents have a wide variety of options and choice when it comes to their daily activities.

However, assisted living differs from personal care in three ways: construction, concept and level of care. This model has been adapted over the years and still is focused on social benefits, but very much incorporates many of the medical services that older residents need to lead full, satisfying lives, while also granting them a greater degree of independence.

Assisted living residents come from all around and they provide a homelike atmosphere and focus on the needs of residents and what makes them happy.

People come for various reasons; some for short term stays, but most are looking for a community that will allow them to age in place and live their lives to the fullest, and that’s where the focus is.

The decision to move a loved one into an assisted living or personal care community is a family decision and with the holidays coming up, many families will be spending a greater deal of time together. Most people would rather age in place at home, but that’s not always an option. While talking about short-term and long-term plans for loved ones isn’t necessarily anyone’s favorite subject, this upcoming season provides a good opportunity to have those difficult discussions and look at options.

For more information on assisted living, contact Spring Arbor.

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Five Benefits of Assisted Living

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Spring Arbor, Richmond, VAFamily members or caregivers need to move slowly and with compassion when they try to convince an elder to move from the family home. However, once the adjustment is made, many elders are thrilled with the change. Here are five reasons.

Safety.

Assisted living centers are set up to provide a safe, comfortable environment for elders. Many, though not all, have secure entrances. Nearly all are monitored enough so that elders aren't vulnerable to attack or burglary as they may be if they stay alone in their home. Just the fact that there are other people around makes communal living safer than being alone in a house. Also, most assisted living centers have alerting systems so if residents have emergencies in their own apartments or rooms, they can summon help.

Meals.

Appetites can diminish as we age, plus many people don't enjoy eating alone. Elders home alone often warm up something in the microwave or on the stove rather than preparing a nourishing meal. They then may eat in front of the TV for company. In assisted living, meals are provided and they often offer many choices of food. But the biggest plus may be that people have company for their meals.

Many centers offer kitchenettes, so people have the option of preparing some meals in their apartments if they choose, which some do, especially breakfast. However, the pull of communal dining is pretty strong once they get used to company. When people have company for a meal, they generally eat better, so these communal meals can help keep a senior healthy. Also, many assisted living centers keep an eye on how well the elders eat to see if supplements seem to be necessary.

Transportation.

Most assisted living residences provide group transportation for shopping and to community events. Also, they can generally arrange transportation for seniors who need to get to clinic appointments. Each center is different, but the ability to go where they want is important to elders, and many seniors can no longer drive, or choose not to drive in heavy traffic. Assisted living centers can be a big help getting people where they want to go.

Less worry.

Even renters have to actively contact a landlord if there are plumbing or other problems in their apartment, and often they must follow up on repairs. For homeowners, it's worse. Seniors can be taken advantage of by unscrupulous contractors and repair people. They tend to be trusting and this makes them vulnerable. In assisted living, they don't have to worry about repair responsibilities. If something doesn't work properly, they or a loved one can alert the administration and the problem should be fixed. There's no worry about the senior letting in a stranger to fix their bathroom pipe or getting bilked on the bill.

Socialization.

Socialization is perhaps the most important reason why many people who insist that they will hate assisted living end up thriving. Many elders have slowly gotten so they don't want to go out of their home because it's too difficult to get where they want to go. Significant lifelong friends have health problems or have died.

When not actively used, social skills can decline, causing anxiety when elders do go out among people. Depression can set in, furthering their reluctance to be socially active. Elders without social exposure can become virtual hermits, except for those who have family visits. While family visits are fun, seniors needs peers, as well. In assisted living, even those who swore they'd hate it often find, once they adjust, that they again enjoy the company of peers. They play cards, listen to music, exercise, have snacks, go to community events and have people come in to entertain them.

For more information on assisted living, contact Spring Arbor.

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