You Can Stay In Your Home as You Age, but Should You?

Ever talk to chronologically gifted people (seniors, in other words) in your life who want to stay in their house as long as they can? Great. Love the concept. But you know who may not love this idea? Everyone else in your life and, drum roll please, eventually you.

Please sit down as I break the news to you. There is a good chance that if you don't carefully consider how you want to spend the later years in your life, something will come up that will force the decision on you, and you won't be in a position to choose the care or place that you wish. There are a lot of reasons for pre-planning and considering making a change by moving into a care community a little before you feel ready.

Depending on your finances, you may have many choices regarding types of places to live. There are a variety of facilities offering different levels of care. Understand what you can afford in addition to what you want.

If you own your home, selling it will serve as your funding for many of the costs of care. Some facilities require a down payment. Others do not, but your home proceeds are a good starting point to help pay some of the monthly costs. Additionally, you save on home ownership costs such as maintenance and taxes. This can make care costs more palatable.

Rather than go into the different types of facilities, I want to make the case for exploring your next steps before you feel ready to make a move.

Caregiver fatigue is real. Taking care of your partner when he or she needs assistance is a lot of work. Finding care at home is expensive and difficult. Inevitably, many responsibilities fall to family members. Willing spouses may feel uncomfortable acknowledging their limitations. They may try to do more than they should. They can feel shame if they start to resent the role they had not thought they were signing up for. Choosing an assisted-living facility in advance relieves pressure on both spouses.

It is also unfair to expect the children, who are often in the busiest times of their lives, to significantly step in. Tending to parents causes turmoil between the siblings because not everyone can or desires to contribute equally. You don't want those last years of your life to break up the family.

Those stairs. You don't know how your health is going to hold out. We have had clients who are no longer able to climb stairs, yet don't have a first-floor bedroom. When their health incidents occurred, they were scrambling to figure out what to do. If walking up and down the stairs is your exercise, substitute regular walking instead.

House clearing is a huge task. Moving into a long-term care facility in advance of your needs means that you do your own downsizing rather than leaving the kids to do it. You have a life well-lived in your house, including a lot of clutter or stuff dear only to you. Going through your things with your family before you move keeps you engaged in the negotiations over who wants and gets what and helps purge those things that no one wants anymore. I have dealt with this with clients countless times and decluttering is probably a greater gift than any inheritance you may leave.

Isolation is a risk. The problem with getting older is we keep losing things without replacing them. I don't mean the car keys, I mean losing the right to drive. We lose friends and loved ones; we lose aspects of our health. The benefit of aging in a facility is that you have community, activities to engage your mind, meal options and the ability to decide how and when you want to participate. Having even one or two personal connections prevents you from aging alone.

Planning this next step not only takes time, it takes an acknowledgment that we will eventually need a next step.

Starting early gives you a chance to explore alternatives. It allows you to get on waiting lists for places that fit your wants and needs. And it gives your family comfort because you have done advanced planning. So stay in your house almost as long as you can.

Related: Give Yourself a Gift by Being Charitable