Tips for Couples Considering Assisted Living
More than a million people currently reside in assisted living communities, according to the National Council for Aging Care. While people often think of assisted living as a place where an individual can live more independently, assisted living is also for couples.
People are living longer than ever before, so the number of married couples aged 60 and older is increasing. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau says that the percentage of married people aged 60 and over has increased over the past several decades, while widowhood in this age group has decreased. This means more married couples will consider assisted living together as a unit.
At first glance, the decision to move to an assisted living community would seem the same for one person or for two, but it is actually more complicated than that. The partners may have drastically different health care needs, for example, where one spouse may need help with everyday tasks and the other needs no help at all. The individuals may have vastly different emotional and social needs too. These differences can make it difficult for a couple to find a single living environment that meets each of their needs.
An assisted living community provides the right amount of independence and care for the individuals that live there. These communities also provide the right balance of companionship and space for each spouse.
Many couples don’t know where to start, though, because most resources are geared towards helping individuals learn more about assisted living. Here are a few tips that couples can use to choose the right assisted living community.
The How-To Guide for Couples Considering Assisted Living
Discuss the move to an assisted living community when both individuals are of sound mind and in reasonably good health. Beginning the process early prevents the need to make quick decisions during a health crisis. If a health crisis does occur, having a plan in place saves time, money and worry. Being proactive improves satisfaction in the long run too, because it gives couples and their families more control over the decision-making process.
It is never too early to start considering assisted living, even if communities have a minimum move-in age. Health problems often develop quickly and unexpectedly and waiting for a crisis to take place can limit the available options.
Have a financial plan in place
Financial planning for assisted living can ultimately help a couple save money, as decisions made in haste will often end up being more expensive. Properly planning for long-term care can also help stretch resources.
Cohabitating in an assisted living community can save money as couples typically pay only for one unit, in addition to a small fee for the second person. Even with this fee, living in one apartment is typically less expensive than living in two separate residences.
Assess individual needs
People age at different rates, and some people age more dramatically than do others. This means the healthcare needs of one spouse may be quite different from the needs of the other. Assessing the individual needs of each spouse creates a wider perspective of what the couple together may need in a living community. A doctor, social worker, geriatric care manager or assisted living representative can perform a functional assessment that helps determine the individual needs of each spouse.
Assisted living communities and other healthcare organizations often use standardized forms to assess individual needs. Healthcare professionals in Maryland use the “Resident Assessment Tool,” which helps determine a spouse’s personal care needs along with his or her desire and ability to participate in social activities. An assessment helps healthcare providers and individuals outline the services they need.
Consider individual and shared needs
As a rule of thumb, the spouse needing the higher level of care will dictate what type of living community would be able to accommodate the couple, however, meeting the needs of the healthier spouse is still important.
The healthier, more mobile and more social spouse will likely prefer an assisted living community that offers a variety of appealing and fulfilling leisure activities. To reap all the benefits of these activities, though, the individual needs to feel comfortable leaving their spouse in the care of staff.
Research the amenities and care provided by various assisted living communities ahead of time. Planning ensures that the living space offers a high quality of life for both spouses.
Decide on amenities and services
Assisted living communities offer a wide variety of amenities and services. Fitness and wellness programs help keep couples active and strong. An on-site beauty and barber salon keeps residents looking their best at their convenience.
Couples that put a priority on cuisine can find assisted living communities that offer creative, chef-prepared entrées served in a restaurant-style, fine-dining atmosphere that are staffed by chefs that prepare contemporary culinary dishes and are happy to accommodate special diets. Those that appreciate nature can find communities that offer beautifully landscaped courtyards, flowers and even gardening opportunities. Spirituality is important for many couples; assisted living communities may offer religious services and maintain important traditions that strengthen individual connections within the community.
Consider an assisted living community with memory care
One in nine people over the age of 45 report some decline in mental abilities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Mental decline makes it difficult to perform everyday tasks. In fact, more than half of people reporting mental decline to the CDC said that they had trouble performing everyday tasks, such as cooking, cleaning and taking medications. Mental decline may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
People with memory problems can benefit from specialized memory care offering a meaningful, individualized lifestyle. The best memory care communities honor the legacy of their residents, emphasize their abilities and connection, and provide support for the challenges that people with memory problems face. These communities also provide heightened security for the safety of the residents.
Take tours of assisted living communities
Taking a tour together can help ensure that the assisted living community meets the needs of both individuals. Checking out the accommodations can also help couples plan and prepare for living in the new space.
Discuss specifics with the assisted living community representative. Ask questions about pricing, for example, and review the community’s wellness philosophy, signature programs, customized one-on-one programs, housekeeping, floor plans, dining, amenities and services.
Look for clean, comfortable surroundings that are easy to navigate. Consider assisted living communities that offer concierge services, fitness and wellness programs, weekly housekeeping and laundry services. For maximum convenience, look for an assisted living community conveniently located near main roads, museums, hospitals and doctor offices.
Scheduled transportation services for excursions, medical appointments, shopping and day trips are essential for a high quality of life.
Prepare for downsizing early
Use the floor plans provided by the assisted living communities to determine how much living space is available in the new living quarters. Make decisions regarding large furniture, memorabilia and excess household goods in advance. Plan to bring beds, comfortable chairs, small end tables and a few other furnishings, but save room for pictures, trinkets and other prized possessions.
Downsizing early saves couples from a lot of worry, work and decision-making during the move. Going through possessions is also a great time to relive precious memories.
Keep the lines of communication open
Moving to an assisted living community requires teamwork and open lines of communication between spouses and their families. Sharing concerns and expressing opinions freely can help each spouse get what he or she needs and desires in the new living arrangements.
Living with a spouse in an assisted living community is a great way to enjoy all of the safety, security and comforts of life.
If you live in the greater Baltimore, MD, area or you’re interested in moving to the great state of Maryland during retirement, consider scheduling a tour at Tudor Heights. Our assisted living community provides many of the wonderful perks and amenities mentioned above and then some! Learn more about our safe, secure community online or by contacting our friendly staff today.