Living alone was taking a toll on Joyce, who at 89 was the oldest resident in her apartment building. While she could manage daily chores like cooking and cleaning, the solitude became too much to bear. Joyce knew it was time for a change and though she’d spent a lifetime saving money, she wasn’t sure what she could afford. Her daughter Sandy knew it was time to talk about senior living.
“It was an emotional conversation and one that was harder to start than I expected,” said Sandy. “We talked about senior living for months before making a decision.”
When it comes to talking to older parents about planning for the future, Sandy is not alone. In a recent survey of 2,000 Americans conducted by OnePoll for Brookdale Senior Living, 58 percent of children with parents age 67 or older worry about them living without assistance. Two out of five have not discussed future living plans with their parents at all, and nearly two-thirds of adult children polled said talking about senior living was uncomfortable and stressful.
- Experience Brookdale's Mutli-Media News Release: How to Pay for Senior Living. -
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. To help families get the conversation started, Brookdale has several online resources, including a Starting the Conversation guide with tips on how to prepare for discussions with your aging parents and suggestions for questions to ask.
“It’s important to focus on having a conversation, not just getting answers. In fact, this should be an ongoing series of conversations with your parents,” said Carol Cummings, Brookdale’s expert on aging. “And you should start now. Don’t wait for a crisis or an emergency to talk about senior living.”
Families not only struggle with talking about senior living options but also with how to pay for the cost. According to the OnePoll survey, seven in 10 people have not started saving for senior living, and only 35 percent of those surveyed think they’ll be able to afford senior living.
- Infographic: Paying for Senior Living -
"When you add up the current expenses of maintaining a home and compare that figure to the cost of senior living, the senior living option may be more affordable than you think,” said Mary Sue Patchett, Brookdale's executive vice president of community operations. "A lot of people use their savings, annuities, pensions and social security to pay for senior living. And a big source of funding comes from the sale of a home.”
That’s how Joyce funded her move to a Brookdale community. "Mom spent her whole life-saving money," said Sandy. "I had to help her understand that this is what she saved for. Between the sale of her home and her retirement savings, she could live comfortably in a community with friends her own age, housekeeping services, three meals a day and a calendar full of activities.”
When it comes to paying for future care, 49% of adult children have not discussed financial planning for their parents' later years, according to the survey. To help families plan for how to pay for future care, Brookdale has published The Five Best-Kept Secrets to Paying for Senior Care, an online downloadable resource.
The guide contains tips and ideas to help families pay for senior living. For example, if you need money for the expenses of transitioning to senior living, some financial service firms offer bridge loans to help cover costs, while seniors wait for the sale of a home or other benefits to kick in.
Some life insurance policies can be converted to a pre-funded account to help pay for senior care. This financial option is especially helpful for seniors because many health conditions are accepted, and there are typically short waiting periods. Policies may vary, so be sure to check with your insurance provider.
There are other ways to make senior living affordable. "You may want to look at a flexible pricing structure which can be more affordable than an all-inclusive package,” said Patchett. Some communities allow you to share rooms or apartments, which can provide savings on rent.
Senior living is not one-size-fits-all. Families have options, not only for the communities they consider but also for how they choose to pay for senior care. The most important thing to remember is to start the conversation now before you have to make a decision.
"Considering my mom's age, senior living was a smart move,” Sandy said. “The cost is comparable to living alone, and our family has peace of mind that mom is doing well—really well—with healthy meals, new friends and security."
For more information about Brookdale Senior Living or resources to help you and your family plan for the future, visit Brookdalenews.com.