When we left off last month, we were still talking about needing a little help and telling our adult children that we needed help.
Whether we are leaving our home to move to an independent living complex, whether we need a home health aide to come to our home or whether we might need to move to assisted living, any one of these can be traumatic, scary — and expensive.
Changes for aging parents can be challenging to adult children as well, so there may be all sorts of emotions flying around with parents’ changes or moves.
Perhaps you have decided that you really do not want to keep up the big house and yard. So, let’s start there.
You want to live independently, but you are just tired of taking care of the house and yard, shopping, cooking, laundry, keeping up with taxes and insurance. Or, perhaps you have lost a spouse and are now alone and lonely.
There are independent living facilities for that. The facilities, usually for those 55 and older, advertise all sorts of amenities: garden-fresh meals, scheduled movies, computer classes, fitness classes, hair and nail salons, days trips, transportation and regular doctor visits. The facilities typically provide one- and two-bedroom apartments.
In the television commercials for independent-living facilities, all the residents seem to be drinking white wine in lovely surroundings.
The costs for independent-living facilities vary widely, of course, depending on what amenities they provide.
Then there are large retirement complexes that provide services from independent living to nursing-home care. Often called “continuing care retirement communities” (CCRC), they usually have houses and apartments for independent living, assisted living facilities for residents as they need additional care, nursing-home facilities and memory-care units. Pricing for CCRC can be somewhat complicated.
“While many older adults are tentative about leaving their homes, joining a vibrant community of seniors can be a wonderful experience,” says Help Advisor. “There are plenty of people to socialize with, and you don’t need to worry about chores, transport or cooking.”
That’s all well and good, you say, but you really do want to stay in your own home with a little extra help.
For those who want to stay home — and most people do — there are a lot of home health care agencies available to help with homemaker services like shopping, light housekeeping, laundry and meal preparation. Aides may accompany clients to doctor appointments and provide companionship. Some may even provide financial management.
When even more help is needed, staff from home health care can help with bathing, dressing and using the bathroom, and they can keep track of medications.
At $24 an hour, extensive home health care can actually cost more than assisted living. Genworth’s Cost of Care survey found home health care cost an average of $54,912 in Tennessee in 2021, when extensive care was needed.
If living at home becomes too lonely or difficult, there are assisted living facilities that provide a form of independent living within a housing setting. Even though services vary from facility to facility, most offer 24-hour emergency care, assistance with medications, bathing, dressing and toileting. They provide meals and laundry services, as well as social engagement activities.
Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey found the cost of assisted living in Tennessee in 2021 was an average of $49,260, a little less than extensive home-health care.
Paying for senior services varies all across the senior-living landscape. Independent living is private pay out of your own pocket pretty much the whole way.
Home health care may be private pay. There may, however, be some benefits from good long-term-care insurance policies, and there may even be some Medicaid, Medicare or Veterans Administration (VA) benefits, even VA benefits for a spouse. If you have a long-term care policy, check it out and talk to staff about other possible benefits.
Assisted living may require private pay. There could, however, be VA benefits, including spousal benefits, and benefits from a long-term care insurance policy or eligible Medicaid plans. Again, check out any health-care insurance policy that you have. There will be no Medicare benefits, however, since Medicare will not pay for assisted living.
Sometimes adult children pool resources to help mom and dad meet additional expenses.
There is another source of support for those throughout our area who are former employees of the Department of Energy. For certain diagnosed illnesses, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs will pay for most levels of care. The Energy Employees Resource Center is in Jackson Plaza at 800 Oak Ridge Turnpike, Oak Ridge, 37830. The phone number is (865) 481-0411. If you have worked in the nuclear industry and have some continuing health issues, check out this potential resource.
It may take patience and persistence to get benefits you think you and/or your loved ones deserve. You may also need to preserve some assets, and there are people who can help. An elder-care attorney can help you get benefits you deserve and help you preserve assets. Fortunately, there are some good elder-care specialists in Knoxville and Lenoir City, and you can find them if you Google elder-care lawyers in East Tennessee. Read the reviews as you check out the attorneys.
Aging brings all kinds of new challenges to individuals and their families. Best of luck to those who are trying to navigate new waters in the aging sea.
Whatever you decide about where and how to live, please execute the following for your personal representative (executor):
- Trusts as needed.
- Last Will and Testament
- Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
- Advance Care Plan (Health)
- Durable General Power of Attorney for Financial and Business Affairs
If you had to administer your own estate, what else would you need to know? List everything and let your personal representative know where the information is.
- Social Security Number(s)
- Bank Account Numbers
- Bank safety deposit box number
- Credit Card Numbers
- retirement accounts
- investment accounts
- All Insurance Policies, Including Any That Might Be Held by a Former Employer
- What is Paid Directly from Your Bank Account Each Month
- What is Charged to a Credit Card Each Month
And whatever else you think of. Make it as easy as possible on your personal representative.
Martha Moore Hobson was an early certified financial planner in the area. Although retired, she is an active volunteer in the community.