Considerations for three main senior living options during the pandemic.
In our work as Personal Finance Managers, we are often asked to help evaluate the financial impact of different living situations for seniors. We collaborate with Aging Life Care Experts/Geriatric Care Managers as they assist families in assessing living options. Here are some of the issues considered as we advise seniors and adult children of seniors in a COVID-19 world.
For many reasons, health risks to seniors are significant, especially for those needing some assistance with activities of daily living. Given there is still so much to be learned about COVID-19 before some degree of certainty is established in its treatment and prevention, living choices have become especially complicated. What follows offers areas for careful thought around the three most typical senior living options, although this is certainly not the complete range of scenarios. These considerations may help you feel that you are taking nothing for granted in the context of the pandemic.
Option 1 is to remain in the home or in some new, appropriately scaled house or apartment. Of primary importance is to arrange as much in-home care as possible, guided by a physician and/or an aging life care expert. Additionally, limiting exposure to other people is vital, so implementing a carefully structured and well-managed caregiver schedule is essential.
- Know the number of people entering the home, as well as the frequency and duration of contact. Have a detailed, written list of all caregiver safety protocols, the precise rotation of each person entering the home, and the provider company’s procedures for COVID-19 testing and quarantine of its personnel.
- Know the safety protocols for transportation assistance, if that is part of the service or if provided by another contractor.
Option 2 is moving in with an adult child. The same parameters should be evaluated as in Option 1, but there are some other considerations for adult children of seniors. Be keenly aware of the full spectrum of realities of adding your parent(s) to your home life during this disease pandemic.
- Take into consideration the broad range of quarantine challenges —shelter-in-home mandates; one or more adults working from home; kids with limited or no school, after-school, or summer activities; and how all of that impacts the stress and well-being of your family and your parent(s).
- Carefully consider family dynamics — between you and your parent(s) or in-laws, and the possible effects of the situation on you, your kids, and your relationship with your spouse/partner.
- Factor in overall financial impact —your parent’s mobility, transportation needs, and home modifications for access, and how they affect finances — yours and theirs. Be sure to agree on any financial arrangements for offsetting costs, which will vary based on the duration of the stay in your home. Those realities are not fixed and can, and will, change at any point.
Option 3 is moving to an assisted living residence. Generationally, even broaching this subject can be difficult and the family dynamics can be highly emotional. COVID-19 has contributed additional risks and challenges, including mandated separation from family, which introduces more factors of anxiety, stress, and perhaps even guilt to your decision making.
The ability to advocate for a senior by staying connected to their living circumstances, and providing the comfort and caring that only family can, is not something that can be guaranteed any longer. That is not to say assisted living is to be avoided; rather, it must be evaluated in the context of new policies and practices under pandemic protocols:
- Fully understand the details of the living situation. Amenities, including food service, resident medical support, and safety practices for the facility, staff, visitors, and vendors supplying the facility.
- Understand the details about community fees, refund policies, and all terms and conditions in the context of the various pandemic scenarios that facilities have faced in 2020. If you are returning to an assisted living situation after a hospital stay or temporary relocation, it is important to realize that everything is different now at the facility. Re-evaluating all of your pre-COVID-19 decision criteria is recommended.
- Have a new plan. Know what the options are, what action to take, and how quickly you have to act in case of quarantine, resurgence or shut down. A specific plan is particularly important if family members are not in the same geographic region.
- Be sure to evaluate with a professional the importance and impact of social interaction. Social/community contact, structured routines/schedules, and options for activities all have implications on both emotional and physical well-being.
Any contract for in-home care, living facilities, and medical intervention written before March 2020, is not a document to be signed. So, above all, seek out an independent, professional evaluation of any required contract or agreement. Facilities, caregivers, assistance services providers, and family consultants have all been navigating new protocols and terms of liability in real-time. They have attorneys making sure they are protected. Make sure you are as well.
If you need help evaluating senior living options during the pandemic for you or for your senior parents, or if you’d like to know more about Personal Finance Management for seniors, please use our contact form or call us at 212-987-1427 in the New York/Tri-State Area or 917-881-7042 in California.