By Karen Nettler, MSW
I intend to live forever, or die trying. — Groucho Marx
Legendary wise-cracking comedian Groucho Marx wasn’t alone in his thinking. We all hope to remain active and independent for as long as possible. Achieving old age is a blessing — especially if we get there on our own terms! But the reality is we cannot control everything that will happen to us. We do our best to stay healthy and fit, but sometimes illness or an accident interferes with our plans.
Therefore, it is a wise strategy to make plans while you can, and be ready to alter those plans as you grow older. Too often, people delay the process for a variety of reasons: fear, procrastination, or perhaps a belief that everything will take care of itself. Decisions, then, are often deferred until a “crisis” hits and, at that point, the older person may not be able to articulate what they want and the situation may become overwhelming for everyone involved.
Experts recommend that you take the time now to develop a picture and a plan of how and where you would like to age — while you are still healthy and capable of evaluating the options ahead of you. Ideally, you should include your spouse/parent/children or other significant people in your life who might be responsible for helping you live according to your wishes when you may no longer be able to fulfill them independently. This plan should include:
- Communicating your wishes honestly. You or your children may think that you expect to live with them when you can no longer maintain your own home. Openly discuss the pros and cons of such an arrangement.
- Exploring the options for staying in your own home safely. Find out what type of assistance is available (grocery shopping, laundry, assistance with bathing, medication monitoring, etc.) and calculate the cost of those support services.
- Researching alternatives. Many people have pre-conceived notions about nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Get out there and visit some and make appointments to find out about eligibility requirements for each (they vary greatly) and the cost. You might be surprised to learn that Medicare does not cover these expenses.
- Evaluating your financial resources. Once you are familiar with all the options, you’ll need to figure out what you can afford. If you have long term care insurance, find out what it actually covers and how long it will last.
- Going online. Check out the wide variety of resources on the web which provide tips on what to look for in assisted living and nursing home facilities. Some helpful online tools and resources can be found at retirementlivingsourcebook.com (the Maryland edition), aarp.org, or mhcc.maryland.gov/consumerinfo/longtermcare/assistedliving.aspx
If it all seems overwhelming, turn to a trusted professional in the community to help facilitate the discussion among your family members, identify community resources and narrow down the options. Jewish Community Services Care Management Program provides Care Managers who are knowledgeable about the community and the options to support healthy living, maximize safety and maintain a quality of life as we age.
Karen Nettler is a former Director of Community Connections for JCS.
JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.