Thursday, February 01, 2007

Assisted Living - Pros and Cons

Recently, I, along with many of my colleagues, have been experiencing the challenges of aging parents. In our discussions, we have concluded that our parents may have been better off, and likely in better condition now, if assisted living was an option they would have considered. We also recognize that our parents, at best, would have gone kicking and screaming.

For those of you new to the topic, assisted living facilities are generally apartments which offer a range of help from transportation and meal preparation to medical care. Assisted living is the bridge between independent living and a nursing home, where full time care is required.

Here are my pros for assisted living:

Create more time to enjoy life. With assisted living, people can keep doing the things that are important to them and let others do the tasks that are less important. For example, my mother always taken good care of the house. When she was younger, it was a very easy task. In recent years, it was taking all of her time to do daily chores, she had no time for the things she enjoyed.

More accessibility to social contacts and activities. As driving and mobility became more difficult, my parents were able to get out less frequently. In addition, they had survived many of their close friends. It was difficult to get out and meet new friends. Being a community would have enabled them to do so easier.

Medical care in house. As my parents got older, it became more difficult for them to drive. As a result, they were less likely to go to the doctor for routine checkups and occasional illness. In most cases, this wasn't a problem. However, occasionally an illness becomes a major problem. In my father's case, he had pneumonia for about a week before finally going to the doctor. Unfortunately, the pneumonia was too advanced by the time he went. I believe if he had been in assisted living that he might be alive today.

Here are my cons for assisted living:

Less freedom - Because assistance is required, people will generally have less independence than before. Many of their activities, including meals, will be on a schedule. They will have less time flexibility to choose when they do things.

High cost - The cost of the facility we used was about $5000 per month. This included meals, social activities, local transportation, minor living assistance, and on-site medical serivces. Fortunately, the costs were covered by social security and passive income. If we had taken out a long term care insurance policy prior to needing assisted living, about 1/2 of the costs would have been covered by insurance.

Assisted living is a difficult choice. The cons usually outweigh the pros for most people. It is a big loss of independence. And the costs are high. In the future, I hope that more attractive options become available.

A creative and interesting alternative to low level assisted living, which some seniors are using, is to live on a cruise ship. The cost is about the same as assisted living at $4000 to $5000 per month. One also gets four out of five benefits of assisted living: meals, social activities, local transportation and on-site medical serivces.

For more Crossing Generations articles, check back every Thursday for a new segment.

Photo Credit: morgueFile.com, Bobbi Robbins

This is not financial, health or senior advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2007 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

6 comments:

Ellen said...

Another con for assisted living is for people with mild dementia: removal from familiar surroundings can hasten a mental decline. When my grandmother finally gave in, we discovered in very short order that she had been hiding her memory lapses for quite some time, using tricks that came from living in the same house for many decades--many of her memories and coping mechanisms were in some way tied to the physical surroundings.

But the upside to that is evident--she was given help before she was entirely incapable of living independently. Granted, there's no way of knowing when that would've happened, but it's better than knowing exactly when--and regretting postponing the move.

Super Saver said...

Ellen,

Thanks for your comment and additional perspective. I agree that the decision on assisted living is typically a difficult one.

Nancy said...

What a timely article for us. We have been grappling with these issues as they relate to my mother, and it helps to see your perspective on the matter. Thanks!

Super Saver said...

Nancy,

Thanks for your comment. Good luck with the decisions that you are facing. I hope my article will be of some help.

Joe said...

This is a great article for multiple reasons. I found both your pros AND cons lists very helpful. This really is an extremely difficult decision. On the one hand you don't want to take away your parents freedom, but you also worry about something bad happening to them living alone.

I actually stumbled upon a site just yesterday that addresses the issues in this post plus a lot more. Great Places Inc. They have this really great toolkit section that has lots of information on this whole process. I also was just messing around with their search function too. Worth checking out.

Thanks again for this great post. There is lots for me to take away from this.

Manda said...

The past two years have been difficult for my family. Both of my parents have had health problems that have required my sisters and I to care for them. When they are healthy, they are still capable of handling most things, but times of good health are dwindling.

On many occasions, I thought perhaps they should be in assisted living. But, knowing my parents, I understood that was not an option.

However, we've recently received news that my father's cancer is terminal. That leaves us with decisions to make regarding my mother. She has never taken care of any of the financial responsibilites of the household. She will be lost without my dad. She will need to either live with one of us, or move to an assisted living facility.

The choice is difficult. I appreciate your blog article listing pros and cons. It helps when considering our options.