Age In Place – Retool Your Home To Suit Your Future Life Stages
by Alicia Reid, realtor with Coldwell Banker Bain
In my real estate business, I noticed something happening a few years ago. Many of my Boomer and even a few GenX clients began to ask me to find properties where they plan to eventually retire or larger homes where they may bring extended family to live with them. It started infrequently, but now it’s common to hear these requests. Boomers are looking for homes or condominiums with main floor master suites, main floor bedroom and bathroom combinations, and single story homes. They are buying them in the safest, most convenient locations. Their planning typically includes using these properties as income producers to help pay their own way. Some of these folks are still quite content living in their 2 and 3 story properties; but they’ve begun the process of future planning for the eventual simplification of their lives in their retirement. But this type of expenditure isn’t available to everyone, nor is it prudent in all cases, especially when considering a home that is already in a fabulous, safe, convenient location.
With the current state of the real estate market and the high cost of selling and relocating, (not to mention the emotional attachment and other reasons many folks have for staying in their homes) many seniors are considering creative ways of remaining in their existing homes throughout their golden years to effectively "age in place". Watching my parents as the Sandwich Generation and experiencing a little of that myself has been rather enlightening. It is impossible for me to discuss planning this without tempering my response with my perspective as a wife, a mother of a special needs child, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, and a granddaughter as well as a Realtor.
The first thing to consider is how aging and health issues impact your daily lifestyle. Here’s the part where you attempt to forecast. Dust off that crystal ball! To make it simple, I have identified the following phases or stages:
Phase 1: Active, alert, driving, older but able bodied. In this phase people are interested in maintaining the lifestyle in the current home, but with less physical effort or exertion. In this phase one the people are independent but may rely occasionally on others for assistance for minor illnesses or short-term projects.
They are able to meet their own social and community needs by reaching out to others and interacting. They are fully autonomous, but may need a little help from others physically to assist them with some of the larger chores, grounds keeping and maintenance around the home.
Phase 2: Whether through general health decline, or even with a temporary illness, this is a phase that fluctuates and the level and intensity of service that is needed may shift as well. In this phase the person or people may become more dependent in several of the following areas, on a regular basis: transit or driving, yard care, home care, nursing care, bookkeeping/ bill payment, bank deposits, banking, stocks, investments, real estate, outside sources of income, medications, laundry, shopping, house keeping, social network, meals and grooming or personal hygiene.
Establish service and care providers well in advance and set up a system for a trusted family member or members, or a friend to monitor the care and service that they are receiving and paying for. The objective is to create the plan and implement it in Phase 1, so that by the time they have entered Phase 2, they will have all the necessary modifications completed so that they may smoothly move forward with life.
Phase 3: The day may never come; people may live lives fully without ever slipping into Phase 2 or 3. But it is vastly easier to follow their wishes; if they give an advanced directive of their wishes. Plan for the possibility of a future where one or both parents may become fully dependent upon others for their care and grooming. Plan for a day when they may not be competent to make their own business decisions.
The day may come when they are not be able to make their own personal, medical and financial and even home maintenance decisions. Who do they want providing these services? If they can’t decide on a family member or friend, or an attorney, they might enlist the services of a special independent third party administrator to make decisions on their behalf for portions of their estate that are business related and may have more possible controversy with heirs, and to run audits and ensure that the care providers, service providers and vendors are not taking advantage of the situation. Budget for these experts in Phase 1 and you will have enough in your reserve accounts to handle these issues.
If it is a complex estate, there may be more than one administrator or trustee overseeing various aspects- business affairs, personal affairs and someone authorized to make health care decisions. These times are trying and emotional enough for family members, it will go much more smoothly if it is planned and guided in the manner dictated by your parent’s wishes. They can be cognizant but not competent to manage all of their affairs. So it is critical that their wishes be carried out when they are in this most vulnerable phase.
Phase 1 is the most involved process. This is their time to create the strategic plan. This is the time to develop a budget, with repair and other reserves, and a plan for the worst-case scenario. This should be as detailed as any business plan. It’s your parent’s business plan for aging in place. They should consult a financial planner and an attorney. Draw up a will, and an advanced health care directive and any other documents that their representatives deem necessary.
The caring professionals at Andelcare are available to talk to you about all of your home care needs, including how to reduce caregiver stress while providing affordable and attentive care to your loved one. Andelcare is a home care agency providing elder care in Seattle WA and surrounding areas. Call us at 888-788-3051.