While seniors gain personal time from being retired, they also face loss: a decline in physical health, memory, and friends and family members in their age group. The idea of also giving up their house to move into an assisted-living facility can be problematic, acknowledges Dr. Anthony Bassanelli, a psychiatrist and medical director of the Center for Geropsychiatry at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage.
“It’s always better if the person recognizes that it’s the point in their life where they want and need more assistance with their life, but that’s not always an easy thing to do,” he says. “A good way to think about assisted living is not that you are becoming more dependent, but that it will help you maintain a level of independence, depending on what your health needs are.
“Assisted-living programs actually allow people to relieve themselves of practical worries and spend more time on themselves.” Many of them offer a range of continuum care options, including independent apartments with meals and in-home care.
Besides, Bassanelli notes, “In a lot of ways, people [in assisted-living facilities] are much better socialized and more active than when they are stuck alone in their house. Think of it as an opportunity to become more active.”
Family members can help ease the transition into senior community housing. “Work with your family member and set a specific date when they want to accomplish the move,” Bassanelli suggests. “You may even want to consider having a moving party [that] becomes more of a positive, fun-filled event instead of an anxious, sad, worried sort of thing.”
Assuming their cognitive function does not preclude them from doing so, seniors should help select a facility, a floor plan, and what furniture to keep. “Make sure they are actively involved in making decisions,” Bassanelli says. “Many assisted-living facilities have staff that are sophisticated with the issues. They are experts in dealing with families to make the transition. Ask the staff for their help, what they recommend.” Then visit or communicate with [your family member] frequently, especially during the first few months.
Most important is maintaining a lifelong positive attitude.
“The people most successful with these transitions are people who have had a variety of activ-ities through the years and have maintained an active network of friends,” Bassanelli says. “Whatever you can do, socialize and focus on your health. Assisted living helps people do that.”
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities recommends spending time on-site with potential providers of retirement, assisted living, and similar housing accommodations. Take note of how you are greeted, how well the premises are maintained, the ratio of staff to residents, and the interaction between staff and residents (as well as between staff and their co-workers). If possible, sample the services before making a long-term commitment. Many residential facilities have visitor quarters.
The commission publishes a consumer guide to continuing care retirement communities, which includes a list of questions to ask potential providers. Here are some of those questions:
• How do I or my family participate in planning services?
• How often will I receive services, and how long will they last?
• How is input received from those being served?
• What qualifications do staff members have?
• What choices are available regarding meal service, grooming options, recreational activities, etc.?
• What are my rights?
• What are my responsibilities?
• What will this cost me?
• If I need other assistance, is it available?
Source: Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, www.carf.org
BY THE NUMBERS
An American Seniors Housing Association survey published in 2009 reveals that a vast majority of continuing care retirement community residents are female, regardless of age group. In the age group of seniors up to age 77, 71 percent are women and 29 percent are men. The gap grows to 73 and 27 percent in the age group 78 to 82, then lessens to 64 and 36 percent for ages 83 to 87 and 58 to 42 percent for those 88 years and older.
By 2012, nearly 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 each day. By 2030, the number of Americans age 65 and older will more than double from 35 million in 2000 to 71 million. The population of those 85 and older (those most likely to move into CCRCs) could reach 19 million by 2050, based on U.S. Census Bureau projections.
Depending on the region of the country, from 5 to 25 percent of the population can be expected to find the CCRC lifestyle choice an attractive option, according to a CCRC Task Force Report dated July 2010 and published by the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. “That group could be described as ‘planners,’ who will evaluate the risk of needing long-term care, accept their potential need, and value the varying elements of the CCRC contract that provide access to the desired — and, eventually, needed — programs and services of the community,” the report says. A 2009 AAHSA survey indicated a 99 percent satisfaction rate among CCRC residents.
Source: CCRC Task Force Report, July 2010, American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, www.aahsa.org.