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Tips for Couples Considering Assisted Living

As America’s population continues to age and life spans continue to increase, finding an assisted living community that is able to serve the differing care needs of a couple is becoming more important than ever. In many cases, one member of the couple requires assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) or has otherwise substantially different care needs – physically, mentally, emotionally or socially.

Because couples often take care of each other and work to remain in the home they have shared, they’re not the average occupant in assisted living communities. But since 58% of Americans who are 65 years of age or older are still married, it’s an important consideration that cannot be ignored. With this in mind, and wanting to make a transition as seamless as possible, let’s look at the issues and options a couple may face as they consider assisted living.

Do the Research Before it Becomes an Urgent Need

Sometimes, moving to an assisted living community is necessitated by an incident such as an accident or illness which often requires a quick decision. Having done your homework in advance and being prepared when the need arises reduces stress at a time when tensions may be high. Planning ahead also helps you to know that you’re making the right decision because you’ve done so when your head is clear, and you’ve had time to weigh all the options available to you.

Being proactive allows you to take your time as you weigh your options and it enables all concerned to be involved in the process, which may not be the case after an accident or illness has occurred. Being prepared and having a plan in place saves time and money, provides greater satisfaction in the long run and makes it easier to find the perfect fit for all concerned.

Look for a Solution that Accommodates Changing Health Care Needs

Members of a couple may have a difference in their healthcare needs. Other couples may have the same needs at the present, but those needs are likely to change in the future and often not at the same pace. Minimize stress by becoming familiar with a community’s policy concerning resident retention as health care needs change. If you’ll need to arrange for services to be provided by a third party, or if you may face the possibility of having to move one or both parties to a different community, such as a skilled nursing community, to provide for their care, it’s best to know what to expect as you move forward.

It may be to the couple’s best interest to consider options that make allowances for any differences in care needs and any changes that might occur in the future. It’s best to be aware if you have the option to pay for additional outside assistance, or if you’ll be required to move when care needs exceed that which the community is able to provide. Fortunately, there are several options available for couples who have a difference in healthcare needs, now and in the future.

Assisted Living with Additional Assistance from a Third Party

A couple may be able to live in an assisted living community even when one of them needs more care than is provided by the community by arranging for the services of a personal care assistant/aide or private caregiver. The services would be provided by a third party (not affiliated with the assisted living community) and payment would come out of pocket. If this is an option you would be interested in pursuing, now or in the future, check with the community you’re considering to make sure this would be an option you can take advantage of while living in that community.

Assisted Living Communities with Multiple Care Options

Some assisted living communities also have other on-site options such as independent living, skilled nursing care and specialized memory care units all within the same senior care community. This means that each spouse can live in the part of the community that best meets their care needs but remain within close proximity to each other. This enables them to share activities and meals. Unlike a CCRC (discussed below), there is no large buy-in or entrance fee and a couple can enter the community at any level of care the community provides. There is no assurance, however, that should care needs change that a room will be available to house either party.

Family Care Homes

Family care homes, also referred to as residential care homes, are residential homes, often situated in traditional neighborhoods, that offer options for couples who have differing care needs. Family care homes provide personal care services to a small number of persons in an intimate homelike setting. The provider often lives in the home or they hire others to provide the care. Personal care homes vary in the types of services they provide, many times dependent upon the type of medical training the owner/provider has received.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)

CCRCs provide a continuum of care all in one community, independent living through skilled nursing and memory care. As care needs change, a person moves between the care levels while remaining within the same senior care community. Although a couple with wide-ranging care needs may not be able to live together in the same part of the community, they are able to live in the same community even as each of their needs change. This makes it easier for the couple to maintain contact and visit with each other any time of the day or night. It also makes it possible for them to share activities and to take their meals together while still receiving the assistance and care each of them requires. CCRCs often have a costly buy-in and often require the couple to enter the community as independent living residents.

Consider the Needs of Both Persons

Each couple is unique, and each person making up that couple has individual needs including social, relationship and health. Ask yourself the following when considering a community:

  • If one member of a couple requires more care and assistance, is the community able to provide that care, or will the couple be able to pay for the additional care to be provided by a third party if they should choose?
  • Does the community have activities that appeal to both individuals, especially for the more active and healthy of the two?
  • And, will the healthier spouse feel comfortable leaving their partner in the care of staff to take part in those activities?
  • Will both of their social needs be met?

Be sure to tour and thoroughly question the communities you’re considering concerning the amenities and care that is provided to make sure the community will cater to the needs of both members of the couple and that both will have a fulfilling and enjoyable life should they choose to live there.

Prepare for Changes

Life is filled with changes and moving into an assisted living community will require major changes for a couple that has lived in their own home for the majority of their lives.

Prepare to Downsize, a Lot!

Most senior living communities continue to be designed with the single occupant in mind; therefore, a couple must often be prepared to downsize significantly to fit into a single set of rooms. Two-person rooms and apartments may be available but can be costly and still require extensive downsizing.

Prepare for a Loss of Privacy

Most people entering senior living communities find they must deal with some loss of privacy. But for a couple, the comings and goings of the staff may mean an even greater loss, especially for a couple who wants privacy to be intimate.

Concessions are Inevitable

When two people are at very different places in their lives and have a difference in care needs but want to stay together, concessions may need to be made by one or both parties. Work together to find the best compromise and then find a community that will help to make it happen.

Consider Finances

Although the cost of the room or apartment in an assisted living community may be the same for a single occupant or a couple, similar to paying rent on an apartment, expect other costs or fees (second-person fees) to cover the additional cost of meals and other amenities and services. Some assisted living communities also charge level of care fees based on the resident’s care needs. If only one spouse needs a higher level of care, only one such fee is charged. If both require more care, two fees would be charged to cover the care of both spouses. Some communities offer larger apartments for couples, but at a higher monthly fee.

Some communities utilize a multi-leveled pricing model with packaged services. This means that if one partner needs minimal assistance, the cost of their care would be at the lowest level. Other pricing models are based on a fee-for-service or a la carte model, while others are all-inclusive.

The prospect of paying for care in a senior community can be daunting, especially when paying for two. Costs can overwhelm a couple especially if one or both partners require skilled nursing or memory care. Some communities accept Medicaid, and others do not. Adequate planning for long-term care, such as purchasing a long-term care insurance policy in advance, can be the key to stretching the resources you have available to you.

Assisted Living as a Couple at Tessera of Brandon

Finding the appropriate care for a couple with differing care needs can be a balancing act. There are no hard and fast rules that apply to couples and senior living communities; therefore, it’s best to know what you want and then find a community that best meets your wants, needs and desires. Be sure to ask questions and to find out all you can about each community you’re considering. Take nothing for granted.

Tessera of Brandon is committed to helping you pursue an active lifestyle, individually or as a couple. Our various floor plans featuring studio, one- and two-bedroom options will help you find the perfect living space as a single person or a couple. Contact us today to learn more about the amazing experience that awaits you at Tessera of Brandon, Tampa’s premier assisted living and memory care community.

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