A gathering of attractive moms is sipping cocktails and laughing in the throes of a full-blown beach party. A large banner hangs over the beach house behind them, reading “LAURA B’S 40TH BEACH BIRTHDAY BASH!”
Laura is a healthy, good-looking 40-year-old with healthy, good-looking friends. More than a few guys have wandered onto the scene, ignoring the ladies’ wedding rings. One guy, however, is a little older and much too “dressed” for the beach. He makes a beeline for Laura, carrying a brochure.
GUY: Excuse me, but are you Laura?
Laura talks over the straw of her frozen margarita.
LAURA: Who’s asking? (she flashes her wedding ring). Move along, buddy.
GUY: Um, no, you misunderstand. I work for Sunset Planning. Your children hired me.
Laura spits out her drink.
LAURA: What are you talking about? Olive and Junie are 13. They can’t hire people.
GUY: They did, and their father helped. He responded to a Facebook ad and spoke with your twin daughters, who expressed their desire to hire me for this difficult conversation.
LAURA: What difficult conversation? (She looks down at the brochure featuring an elderly woman doing arts and crafts.) What on earth is this? Is this a joke? ANNEKE, DID YOU PUNK ME WITH THIS GUY?
GUY: I assure you this is no joke. Now is the time for you to begin considering how you will be cared for as you age. Your husband tells me you are saving for retirement, which is wonderful, but it will not cover your medical costs or the costs of assisted living should you need it. At that time, your daughters will need to navigate the expense, the emotional stress and the logistical nightmare that occurs with the move to assisted living or a senior living facility. If you want to alleviate some of this burden, you must start planning right now.
Laura stares at him. Several seconds tick by in absolute silence.
FADE TO BLACK
None of us likes to talk about what happens when we get old, but 70 percent of us are going to need long-term care at some point after the age of 65. There are many online tools, consulting services, care plans and options out there, but they are largely not even discussed or considered between parents and their children until the parents are in immediate danger – a broken hip, a forgotten pan on the stove, etc.
At that time, so much is happening all at once – an expense you likely never really thought about, worry over your parents (and/or frustration with them), doctors (and more cost associated with that) and the logistics of either moving or “senior-proofing” a current home to accommodate them. And you have no time to plan all of this because every day that you are deciding among literally thousands of options, they could be in danger. So how can trusted brands help this process to be more organic? How can senior living options be something we plan for and discuss with our loved ones and among ourselves before everything reaches critical mass?
There is no way to spin it differently – conversations about senior care arrangements are a buzzkill and not appropriate for Laura B’s Beach Birthday Bash. No matter how much you advertise “Bingo Every Night” or “Someone Who Cooks For You,” this change centers around adults who have managed to care for themselves their whole lives losing the ability to do so. That is scary. But it still should happen early.
This post from A Place for Mom tells the story of Linda W, who went through this with her mother:
Linda W’s mother fell and broke her hip in May of 2005. The once independent 92-year-old woman, whose husband had died forty-seven years ago, could no longer live alone. Fifty-nine-year-old Linda, who lives 15 minutes away in Kansas City, had just four days to shift roles from self-exiled daughter to daily caregiver and major decision-maker.
Four days to decide where her mother will live for the rest of her life. Linda’s story deals a lot with the resentment her mother feels at being thrust into the facility on such short notice, and it is understandable that she waited considering how strongly we all avoid this topic.
However, as mentioned above, 70 percent of us will need care, which means these conversations are likely going to be a reality now or later, and better for them to happen before there is immediate danger or possibly mental compromise on the senior’s part. According to this article from SeniorAdvice:
Conversations about long-term care can be uncomfortable, but getting a senior parent involved in the discussion early on can help adult children and their loved ones plan for the future. Some seniors will be open to the idea of assisted living while others may prefer in-home care. While not every senior ultimately gets to be in the place they want, knowing what they would prefer can help families make more informed care decisions in the future.
No one ever wants something bad to happen to their loved one, but it is still important to have these conversations with aging seniors sooner rather than later. Something as seemingly minor as a slip and fall can put any senior in the hospital or in rehabilitation, and many families will have wished that they had this information handy.
Early conversations also help with financial planning and laying the groundwork to make more options available when the time comes. Most assisted care and living facilities are not covered entirely by insurance and can be very expensive. Bringing it up in that way, letting Laura B know at 40 that this may be the difference as to whether she can keep the party going at 65, sounds much better than “What will you do when someone has to help you care for yourself?”
Until it directly affects your family, it’s generally easy to go through life with only a vague idea of the differences between categories of senior care facilities. It can be immensely disorienting to start doing research and have to get your head around the different services and prices associated with independent living, assisted living, memory care, nursing homes, senior apartments, in-home care and others. This is especially the case as the options have changed over a short period of time.
According to this article by seniorhousingnet:
While assisted living communities have grown in popularity over the past decade, many seniors and their adult children still have outdated ideas about them. Some believe assisted living is only for the wealthy, while others think assisted living is basically just a more upscale nursing home.
People dealing with this decision might be thinking: independent living might be easier to sell than the other options, but can I afford it? And what happens when I or my loved one starts to actually require assistance – will I be looking at yet another painful transition to a different facility? In-home care is less of a drastic change, but does it provide the necessary amount of supervision and pleasant social interaction?
Moreover, for those who need some level of assistance but are unable to afford the costs of a residential facility, some combination of less structured services may bring senior care back within reach. Brochures for one type of facility are useful near the end of this decision-making process, but at the beginning it is important for seniors and families to be able to see the big picture. Brands should do their part to share this information up front; even if you provide a specific type of senior care, you should only be seeking out clients who are actually suited to your service.
Most of the main websites dealing with long-term care speak to the loved ones or relatives who may be responsible for committing seniors (primarily their adult children), which is understandable considering that they are currently the ones most likely to make this decision, but that isn’t always the case.
Some seniors will make this decision themselves, either before or after their mental health begins to decline – and just because someone has forgotten a pan on the stove does not mean they don’t have an opinion as to whether an assisted living care facility with bingo and beach parties or the one that advertises Bocce ball and craft beer sounds more appealing. And if senior living brands speak to them directly, they may sell more seniors on the idea as an “if I need it, I could do this and this could be a time and place for me to enjoy and reflect” option.
Assisted living or nursing homes at least aim to offer a better life than seniors can have on their own in many cases. But where are the tools that help them to navigate their own feelings about leaving home and making these decisions for themselves?
The presumption that no one goes willingly without coercion from loved ones (hence all the tools and resources aimed at them) is part of what makes this so difficult on the families of the seniors who care for them. Imagine if children never had to bring this up with their parents because their parents have already mapped out contingency plans for senior living.
Moreover, brands should partner with doctors, gyms, and other health-oriented mainstays to begin speaking to people even as early as Laura B at 40 about planning for this part of their future. After all, if you know there is a 70-percent chance of rain, you pack an umbrella.
People are living longer, which means they are developing more age-related complications and living with them for a greater period of time. Simultaneously, senior care – from in-home assistance to assisted living to nursing homes – has evolved and improved to compete for prospective clients who have more and more options – and this will only improve more when seniors and their loved ones take earlier license in making these decisions.