Finding a Home for an Elderly Person

We spend a lot of time researching where to spend our vacations, where to send our children to college, where to spend or invest our money and even how to create meal plans, whether for a big family occasion or nightly dinners. However, one thing that thousands of proactive planners do not do until it’s too late is investigate where to place an aging parent.

Most older people want to live at home until they pass away. Unfortunately, this isn’t feasible in many situations. When and how we will pass away is not something most people can plan on beforehand, and the reality is that we do not age gracefully — we do so with ailments ranging from inconvenient to debilitating in various degrees.

It is common for seniors living at home to experience a fall or a medical condition that renders them unable to continue living in their own home. In this situation, the choices are few and often less than ideal: Either a family member takes them in or places them in an assisted living or nursing home facility. Additionally, this decision often must be made in haste — before mom or dad’s release from the hospital.

If you find yourself in this situation, the following is a list of considerations to guide you in selecting a facility to care for an elderly parent.

Seek out “culture change” facilities
The trend in senior care is a departure from the drab, institutional nursing home of yore. These days, many facilities are upgrading their environment, staff training and general approach to embrace residents as members of their broader family. These efforts to improve the quality of life for residents include fewer regimens, with the ability to eat, sleep and bathe according to their own schedule — not the facilities’. Ask what food alternatives the facility offers if a resident doesn’t like the main entree offered, or if a separate meal can be prepared to accommodate wishes.4

Tour after hours
It’s easy for a facility to put on a good show when it’s fully staffed during regular business hours. But you should also schedule times to “drop by” at night or on weekends to get a true sense of how the residents fare and if they are engaged and/or attended. Ask how many attendants are available at night, and if they engage with residents who are awake.

Staffing numbers
You can ask about staffing ratios, but that may not give you the whole picture. As you tour the residence, observe if there are elderly people waiting — to be fed, to be helped to their rooms after dinner, etc. If so, the facility may not be properly staffed at all times.

Consistent assignment
“Consistent assignment” is a term used to describe how care attendants are assigned. Ideally, each elderly person receives help from just a few different people throughout the week. This allows them to develop a relationship with them, and the caregivers to learn about individual needs, preferences and even quirks. Change can be disruptive, so having as many as 20 or 25 different people caring for one person in a month can be highly detrimental. Ask if residents have a say in who cares for them.5

Registered nurses
RNs are the only staff licensed to assess a resident’s medical condition, so it’s important to ask if the facility has an onsite registered nurse 24/7. Federal mandates required that nursing homes have an RN on site only eight hours per day, but the better facilities will have one available around the clock.6

Turnover
Ask about staff turnover of staff direct care workers (CNAs or nurse assistants). While the national average is 70 percent, look for a facility with less than 40 percent. Also ask about the turnover rate of licensed nurses. The national average is 50 percent; seek out a facility with less than 30 percent.7

4 Eleanor Laise. Kiplinger. December 2014. “Find the Right Nursing Home.” http://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T027-C000-S004-find-the-right-nursing-home.html#zhMI3EJO5Muom4yo.99. Accessed March 25, 2015.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Pioneer Network. March 25, 2014. “Facts for Features: Older Americans Month: May 2014.” https://www.pioneernetwork.net/Consumers/Guide. Accessed March 25, 2015.

Are You Worried About Money?

Legg Mason recently conducted a survey among affluent  individuals with at least $200,000 in investable assets — the average was $385,000 in retirement income plan savings. At an average age of 58, these individuals were close enough to retirement that planning for it weighed heavily on their minds.1

How heavy? On average, they worried about money approximately nine hours a week. That’s nine hours they weren’t focused on their work, time that could have been spent getting exercise to help stay healthy or spending quality time with family and friends. The findings were worse for about 10 percent of those surveyed: They worried about money two to three hours each day.2

About 72 percent reported their No. 1 retirement goal was to maintain their current lifestyle. Among them, 60 percent were either not confident or only somewhat confident they would be able to retire when they wanted to.3

Among their fears, the top three that could prevent them from achieving their retirement lifestyle goals were: 4

  1. Experiencing a catastrophic event that would deplete their savings
  2. Outliving the income provided by their savings
  3. Living on a fixed income that does not keep pace with inflation

One of the best ways to fight fears is to have a plan. While plans may proceed with varying degrees of success, at least having one tends to help people worry less. According to WebMD.com, setting a specific goal can help reduce the type of stress that accompanies worrying about retirement.5 Once you establish a specific plan for your retirement, you can apply those extra worry-free 475 hours a year to figuring out how to put that plan into action to help you meet your goals.6

1 Emily Zulz. ThinkAdvisor.com. March 10, 2015. “Investors Spend 475 Hours a Year Worrying About Money: Legg Mason.” http://www.thinkadvisor.com/2015/03/10/investors-spend-475-hours-a-year-worrying-about-mo. Accessed March 11, 2015.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 WebMD.com. “Stress Management – Setting a Goal to Reduce Stress.” http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management-setting-a-goal-to-reduce-stress. Accessed March 11, 2015.
6 Emily Zulz. ThinkAdvisor.com. March 10, 2015; “Investors Spend 475 Hours a Year Worrying about Money: Legg Mason.” http://www.thinkadvisor.com/2015/03/10/investors-spend-475-hours-a-year-worrying-about-mo. Accessed March 11, 2015.