There are five retirement phases for which to plan. Many of my readers are in the Pre-Retirement phase, which begins around age 50. This is a good time to start seriously thinking about your later retirement years, including your Mid-Retirement and your Late-Retirement phases. These two phases begin with your 70th birthday and go on up to your years of great wisdom. Mid-Retirement years are those during which your otherwise good health could take a nosedive. You should enter your Mid-Retirement phase with the courage to face the possibility of giving up and transferring control. Your Late-Retirement phase starts when your health has already taken that dive and there is not much chance that your health will fully recover. At this point, you need a lot of help to function day to day. If you have taken Mr. Drucker’s advice, you will have done all the planning, and your transition through this phase will be as manageable and life-affirming as possible.
Aging in Place
Aging in place is what they call it when you are staying in your home. Many people consider that this retains their independence. It can be that, and it can be social isolation. If you are considering staying in your home in your wisdom years, you will want to stick with me here. Even staying put is better when you plan for it.
In June 2012, Forbes Magazine ran an article about social isolation as a health risk. Staying at home can be isolating if you are not mindful to keep up your social life. “Loneliness in individuals over 60 years of age appears to be associated with increased risk of functional decline and death.” If you want a long, healthy and independent life, don’t neglect this aspect in your planning to stay home. Don’t slide into it like a vehicle on an icy road. Plan for control and keep control of your social activities. As you age, social activities take effort to maintain, but it is well worth the effort.
Aging at home will almost certainly mean you need outside assistance or care at some time. To plan ahead, you first need to understand the types of assistance from which to choose.
This is usually a relative or a good friend who helps you when you require some degree of assisted living. Generally these helpers are unpaid for their services. Caring for you in your wisdom years can be rewarding for your helpers in many ways, but it can also take a toll. That toll is physical, emotional and financial for the caregiver.
Professional Home Care Services
These are providers of non-medical services to you in your home. They help with your Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and your Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs).
- ADLs are eating, bathing, dressing, toileting , transferring (walking) and continence.
- IADLs are everyday tasks such as daily chores of cooking, shopping, washing, etc.
Home Care Services professionals are also hired simply to provide companionship. My mother’s friend has a Home Care Services professional. Her friend and the professional go to exercise class together every day. These professionals many times work for an agency. In Texas, these agencies are known as Home and Community Support Services Agencies. They are licensed by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. In other states, they might not be required to be licensed.
Professional Home Health Care Providers
These professionals deliver medically-oriented care. They are licensed by the state as licensed practical nurses or therapists. Like the Home Care professionals, they often work for an agency, which must be licensed in Texas. They can also work for a public health care department or a hospital. Their services might include skilled nursing care, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.
Start Planning with Answers to These Questions
If you are even thinking about the possibility of staying in your home during your Late-Retirement years, run through these questions until your answers provide you with a solid plan for aging in your home. These questions are in the book, What’s the Deal with Retirement Communities by Brad C. Breeding. It is available through Amazon.com for about $7.
- Will your home need to be modified to accommodate potential mobility challenges?
- If you live in a two-story home, is your bedroom upstairs? If so, what is your plan if you reach the point where you are no longer able to climb stairs independently or without risk of falling?
- How will you maintain your home and yard when daily physical activity becomes more challenging?
- How will you stay socially active to minimize loneliness, even when your mobility and independence declines?
- Who will provide transportation to doctors’ appointments and other necessary errands if you are no longer able to drive safely?
- How will someone know if you fall and cannot get up on your own?
- Who will make sure your bills are paid if your cognitive functionality begins to decline?
- Who will help you prepare meals, get dressed, and perform other activities of daily living when you are no longer physically able?
- If you require facility-based care due to an unexpected injury, such as a fall, do you know where you will go to receive such care? Do you and/or family members or other support network have a plan in place for this occurrence?
- Do you have any present health conditions or illnesses that might become more difficult to manage over time, such as diabetes or chronic lower respiratory diseases? Such illnesses could present increased challenges as you seek to stay in your home.
- If you require in-home care or assistance, who will manage scheduling and payments, as well as regular oversight to assure that adequate care is provided and prevent elder abuse?
So you see that choosing to age at home is not a matter of just staying put in your easy chair. You need to make the effort to keep up your social life, make sure your home will accommodate your changing needs and plan for a support system. Once you have the eleven questions addressed, you are well on your way to fully planning for aging in your own home.
If you want to know what to think about when considering the other option of spending your Late-Retirement phase in a retirement community, pick up the Eagle next month. I’ll be tackling that topic in my May column.