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The Pros and Cons of Housing Options for Your Aging Parents

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More than 70 percent of Americans over age sixty-five1 will need long-term care at some point in their life journey. Whether that care happens in their house, your house, or a care facility of some sort is directly correlated to their physical health, along with any special medical needs they might have. If you are a member of the sandwich generation, the question of housing options for your aging parents is looming larger and larger.

Your parents probably have their own ideal scenarios in mind for where they’ll live in their later years, and they may or may not agree with each other on what’s the best scenario for both of them. You or your siblings may also have an idea about what’s the best-case scenario for your parents, which may not align with your parents’ wishes. Even if you and your parents disagree, chances are you can find a happy medium thanks to the numerous housing options that are available.

Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you consider five of the most common housing solutions.

1. In-Home Care

Perform a background check on all care providers.

This will probably be your parents’ preferred option. Most people like maintaining the same home base throughout retirement. Also, this option allows them to at least feel like they’re maintaining their independence, even if they have to rely more and more on others for care. In-home care is also popular with adult child caregivers, because they know their parents are getting help in the most comfortable location.

To implement in-home care, research local care providers and compile a list of services that provide the care your parents need (check out the National Care Planning Council’s website for help getting started). The cost and availability depend on what type of care your parents need – do they need a certified nurse, or do they just need a home care aide, who helps with daily tasks?

Be sure to take note of the variations in cost and factor in medical insurance coverage, and the kind of home accommodations necessary to make this service possible. Keep in mind, if a doctor orders in-home care, the visits may be covered (at least in part) by Medicare.

One important final note on this: be sure you perform a background check on all care providers. They’ll likely be alone with your loved one for long periods of time and you want to make sure your parents are safe.

As long as the cost of the in-home care is sustainable, this is often the preferred option. However, as your parents age they may need greater levels of care.

2. Nursing Care in Your Own Home

Another option to consider is inviting your parents to live in your own home. Seventy-eight percent of people who need long-term care receive it from family and friends. Make sure you give this option plenty of thought and discuss it with your spouse, and anyone else who may be affected. Even if your relationship with your parents is great, living with them can be a major source of stress, not only on your relationship with them, but also on your relationship with the other people in your house. Making room for new people in a home requires patience under even the very best conditions.

It doesn’t work for everybody, but some people like the opportunity to keep their parents close and in relatively familiar surroundings while saving money they would otherwise have to spend on in-home care or a retirement home. Keep in mind that more bodies mean your household costs will go up. You’ll probably want to re-evaluate your parents’ budget before making the move to account for household costs and the added cost of any assistance or healthcare service provider. Think of this as the perfect opportunity to perform another “checkup” on your parents’ finances. Family meetings with all interested parties become quite important at this stage to avoid conflict over use of parental dollars for your household costs on their behalf.

3. Assisted Living

Assisted living is typically designed for seniors who could do without the hassle and upkeep that come with owning or renting a home, but still want to maintain their autonomy. These communities can look like apartments, condos, townhomes, or gated neighborhoods. According to Genworth’s annual Cost of Care study, the current median cost of assisted living in the US is $3,750. Texas costs sit just below the national average at $3,500. Costs vary widely based on services provided, so be sure to find a place that will match your parent’s lifestyle preferences.

4. Nursing Homes

By contrast, a nursing home is designated primarily as a medical facility. This environment provides 24/7 care for seniors in need of regular medical support. There’s a good chance your parents’ health may require this kind of attention (roughly 40 percent of people who live to age sixty-five will enter a nursing home at some point).

Nursing homes can be quite costly. Looking at Genworth’s study again, the national average cost for a semi-private room is over $7,100 per month, and a private room can be around $8,100 per month.

Even if your parents are currently healthy, now is a good time to research a few suitable options in the event that their health begins to decline. It’s a good idea to be thinking of the next step so that an unexpected shift in health doesn’t catch you off guard, which brings us to the final residential option.

5. Hospice Care

Hospice care is designed to be a place where the terminally ill can receive the care and attention they need in their final chapter of life. We often dislike even thinking about our loved ones passing on, but it is a far better thing to face this reality with the confidence that they’re comfortable and properly cared for in their final moments. Making decisions under the stress of your loved ones’ declining health typically serves to increase that stress. The costs associated with hospice is typically even higher than nursing homes, although Medicare often helps with these costs. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization has some great tips to help you find a hospice you can trust.

If this is a difficult and emotional subject for you, keep in mind that it is probably more difficult for your parents. However, the more prepared you are for the future, the more you can focus on enjoying your moments together now.

If you and your family want help talking through these difficult topics, our team is here to help.

Click here to get clear, actionable counsel. 

1Longterm Care from the Wall Street Journal

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