Make senior living work for you both
One of the most difficult and challenging times in senior life is transitioning from an independent lifestyle to assisted living when your health begins to decline. The key to a successful transition is to be proactive and have a plan in place rather than be reactive to a crisis after it arises. Trying to find a place that meets your personal, social and medical requirements and assessing the future cost are highly personal decisions based on your individual needs, wants and wishes.
Finding suitable living arrangements as a couple when you have varying personal and social needs and drastically different health situations creates additional and compounding challenges. As a general rule, the spouse who needs the higher level of medical care will dictate the type of senior living arrangement that is best suited to accommodate those needs. At the same time, the healthier, more mobile and perhaps more sociable spouse must also ensure that there are appealing and fulfilling leisure activities that will point to a pleasurable quality of life.
Couples can explore the possibility of aging in place at home with professional home health aides who can supply everything from basic care needs to rehabilitative care, or round-the-clock skilled nursing care for the medically needy spouse. The goal is to also alleviate the burden on the healthier spouse for caregiving and medical attention. Another popular choice for couples with varying needs to explore is a continuing care retirement community. A couple can move in together, but if one spouse needs to move to a higher care living facility on the campus, the couple is still close enough to see each other every day – while the healthier spouse can enjoy the social benefits and leisure activities in the community.
So, for couples who are in the process of planning future living arrangements together, the best way to make the most successful decisions possible is to research your options in advance, identify and discuss your individual and shared social, emotional and health needs, and honestly assess the potential probability of future health changes before they arise. Reaching a final decision for couples with differing needs is a balancing act that comes down to prioritizing the wants and wishes of two individuals who want to stay together, but who are at different places in their lives. The process works best with open and honest communication, reaching for compromise and recognizing the importance of the love and respect that has kept you together for all these years.
Steven V. Greenstein is executive vice president of wealth services at The Sanibel Captiva Trust Company.