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Plan Now to “Age in Place”

I recently heard a story of a new housing facility in Wilmington, Delaware where a developer was developing housing for people to be able to age in place.  Not an assisted living complex, not a retirement or nursing home, not a super small home.  These were single-family homes with nursing care set up for each household. The stand-alone homes were marketed for a day through word of mouth, and they sold out before they could hit the multiple listing service (MLS). “Age in Place” housing is catching on as people see the conditions in which their parents are dying and the cost of that care. Many long-term care facilities have been overstreched in our COVID world, and as a result, the quality of care has become so diminished that people are seeking alternatives to this expensive and often poorly serviced portion of the housing sector.

Our loved ones were imprisoned during COVID! If you had a parent or loved one in a long-term care facility over the last year, it most likely has been gut-wrenching. Almost prison-like with separations and visits through glass or not at all.  It’s been extremely difficult to monitor their care adequately. We all had to put our trust in a system that is exhausted and broken and does not allow for direct observation.  So many of our loved ones died alone. You can do something now so that you have options in the future.

Most people wait too long to plan for end-of-life housing. I see it firsthand in my profession. Many times I am helping move my clients to a facility and making all the arrangements for moving and clean out. A portion of my career is dedicated to servicing this sector because people are just waiting too long or not preparing correctly and need the help I can provide. Moving is a BIG deal and exhausting. Your biggest pare-down move should be shortly after your kids leave for college in your 50s or early 60s. If you do not downsize then, at least clear out your house.  Even the healthiest of us start to lose the ability to handle what is required in a big move. You will not believe how organized you must be and how exhausting the process is. Planning well will give you peace of mind and control over your destiny.

My clients have taught me a great deal about living and, unfortunately, about dying. So many of them wait too long or do not prepare for the high expense of living longer and what that means. Universally, I am hearing now from almost all of them, that their end-of-life accommodations are wiping out their life savings. So, I am writing this blog post to help you understand some of the challenges you may face early on and to help you plan for them accordingly.

What if I told you to enter a mediocre, private long-term care facility in and around Milwaukee today costs a minimum of $430,000 for a non-refundable entrance fee and $7000 a month in rent? Let’s say you enter that average facility when you are a healthy 75-year-old and you live to 95. The calculation of that is over $2 million in today’s dollars, not including incidentals. What you get for that expense, should be carefully researched by you and your family.  Did you know once you enter a long-term  facility, if you require nursing care you give up many of your rights.  The staff at the facility decides when you eat, bathe, and get your medication. Not you. In addition, surveillance is NOT allowed in long-term healthcare facilities. Let’s say you live in Chicago and have a parent here in Milwaukee in a long-term care facility. If your parent is not good with technology, like Zoom or Facetime, observing their care is next to impossible. Cameras are absolutely forbidden to monitor them. Many people do not know this! Even if your parent is good at technology, some facilities make connecting to Wi-Fi extremely difficult. Make sure you research court cases for any facility you or your parent is considering in the state’s CCAP to see how many pending lawsuits there may be due to quality of care issues.

Aging in place. Thinking about it differently might spur on a better end of life experience for you. Hopefully, I am a long way from the end of my life, but I’m planning for it now.  I am in the process of building a new age-in-place home, spurred on by my amazing and insightful clients.

This new home is ADA compliant but does not present that way at all. We used the latest technology and building codes to be able to accommodate both of us being impaired including nursing care when required. The home has the option for voice activation with interior and exterior surveillance and monitoring systems. We filmed the skeleton of the home in the event we would ever have to break through walls to add or remove anything to accommodate our aging condition. All the cable is coaxial and is underground and is placed in one massive tube to make it easy to remove and add technology as it advances. The hallways are all five feet wide and give an expansive feel to the home. The rise into the house in any direction is five inches to accommodate small ramps and we have zero-entry showers (no curb).

It is all pretty cool and financially a lateral move from an aging Whitefish Bay home with steep stairs and a detached garage. Will it save us money? I honestly do not know, but we are hoping it will give us freedom and choices we would not have in a long-term care facility. We are praying for the best outcome here and time will tell.

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