‘Tipping Points’

When the Benefits of Moving to a Seniors Community Outweigh the Benefits of Staying Home

At Proactive Seniors, our team of advisors has helped hundreds of seniors through building a Proactive Seniors Plan for staying home successfully, and through our Seniors Housing Support, to find a great place to live if staying home is not feasible.  Whichever the goal or need, we help ensure that seniors and their families have the information they need to make their best decisions. 

Even if moving to a retirement residence is only a remote possibility, it is a really good idea to start thinking about what we call your tipping point

Picture a balance scale or teetertotter – on one side are all the benefits of staying in your home, and on the other side are the risks of staying home (or you could say the benefits of moving). The side with the benefits of staying home is initially the heavier side. Over time, with changes to health and energy, the balance may start to move. The tipping point is that spot where the balance starts to level and then begin to reverse direction, where the risks of staying home begin to outweigh the benefits. 

It is important for people to think through where their tipping point is likely to occur, to anticipate it, and be prepared with some good options in mind.  At Proactive Seniors we are happy to help you with identifying those potential options.  Knowing where you would go, if the time comes, means that you or your family don’t have to do that research on short notice, and, you are going to have many more options to choose from.

Here are four situations that are common tipping points for seniors or their families. 

  1. Complexity of Care

At some point the complexity of managing in-home care may become too overwhelming. Imagine a situation where a senior requires a caregiver to come in to provide the following:

  • Morning bathing, grooming, and dressing support, medication administration and help with getting breakfast
  • Mid-day meal, medication support
  • Evening meal, medications support and getting ready for bed

This might be just the bare minimum to support staying in the home.  There are often additional needs that add to quality of life such as:

  • Socialization and engagement in activities, discussion, and outings
  • Housekeeping such as laundry, changing bedding and cleaning the house
  • Support with errands and appointments including driving support  
  • Meal or grocery delivery and someone to prepare meals
  • Overnight support for frequent waking or help to the bathroom
  • Respite support for the spouse or family care supporter
  • Attending a day program or activity group

When the complexity of organizing all these support personnel and programs has become too complicated and overwhelming, the tipping point has been reached.  With multiple people coming and going, this complex care support can be very intrusive on your personal space and disruptive to one’s enjoyment of being at home.  

Moving to a retirement residence can simplify this scenario. Caregivers are on-site and available for intermittent care needs, housekeeping and meals are provided, activities and outings are available to attend if desired and a driver can help with getting to appointments. The result is often fewer people in your ‘personal space’ (as you leave your suite to attend meals and activities) but more frequent and consistent care support, social interaction, and engagement.

Proactive Seniors Housing Advisors can help identify the specific retirement residences or care facilities that provide the right combination of support that is needed for an individual’s unique situation and preferences.

2. Costs of Care

In the scenario above, when there are multiple support services in use, the financial cost can start to really add up. As an example, when you hire private home care, you often have to have them there for a minimum of 2 or 3 hours at a time. If they are coming twice or three times a day, that adds up to 6-9 total hours of care per day at a cost of $35+/hour.  Full time care can be exorbitantly expensive ($25,000/mt). At a retirement residence or supported living facility, the caregivers are on-site and can come more frequently but for shorter amounts of time.  In some residences, care can be provided by public health at no additional cost, some have care included in the monthly fee and others charge a pay per use fee. 

Whether choosing subsidized seniors housing, a publicly funded supported living facility, or a private retirement residence there is a cost involved, however, there is a tipping point where the cost of staying home (food, insurance, taxes, maintenance etc.) plus the cost of care starts to exceed the cost of being in a senior’s community or residence.

Everyone has a different budget and there is a very broad range of prices and pricing models in seniors housing.  Proactive Seniors Housing Advisors will take your care needs, financial situation, and preferences into account to help find a location that best fits your budget.

3. Caregiver Fatigue

When a senior, living at home, has significant care and support needs, either their spouse or an adult child becomes the de facto primary caregiver.  Even if home care support is used, the family member can still feel as if they are ‘on duty’ 24/7.  It is rare (and expensive) to hire 24-hour care, and thus the family caregiver fills in all the gap times. Overnight they are on alert for nighttime waking or wandering, trips to the bathroom, help up from a fall or a phone call to address an emergency. Family caregivers are the glue keeping everything together, and this can be quite an exhausting role, often with few breaks and no holidays to recharge. It is very common for the family caregiver to become fatigued or burned-out and then their own health is at risk. If they end up ill, injured or even in the hospital the whole ‘house-of-cards’ that they have been holding together quickly falls apart. 

Another important consideration is the health of the relationship between caregiver and care receiver. Both roles are challenging and put stress on the family dynamic.

When the family caregiver is at high risk of burnout, the tipping point has been reached. Moving to a senior’s residence can be life saving (for both parties). When couples move together, the facility care team take on the role of being ‘in charge’ of care and the spouse can focus on their own health and wellness. If a senior moves into a care facility on their own, the spouse or adult child now has the time and energy to visit and spend more quality time with their loved one. 

Proactive Seniors Housing Advisors can come up with creative solutions that optimize the physical and mental health of everyone.  Everyone’s situation is unique and requires an individualized approach to finding the best solution.

4. Loss of Control Regarding Where to Move

This is an interesting tipping point and a legitimate worry that seniors have.  We all want to be in control of our lives, and this holds true for deciding where to live and with whom. The tipping point in this case is controlling the ‘where’.   If it is important for you to have this choice, you should consider acting sooner rather than later to preserve that control.

There are a lot of seniors housing options in urban centers, however, there is generally more demand than supply and this demand is going to continue to increase in the coming years as the demographic of seniors continues to grow. The result is waitlists, particularly in subsidized and public facilities but increasingly so in private residences, particularly if a specific size or style of suite is wanted.

Another consideration is one’s health at the time of a move. If a person moves into a retirement residence when care requirements are few, there are going to be a lot more location options to choose from. If care requirements are high, the number of locations that will fit their needs dwindles significantly.    Once into a senior’s community, care can often be scaled up as needed but acceptance becomes tricky if care needs start high. 

Another consideration with ‘waiting too long’ is that if a health issue occurs that requires temporary hospitalization, it may not be possible to return home. The choice then becomes going into publicly funded care or private care. In the public system, it is unlikely that you will get your preferred location, as most facilities are full, and the expectation is to take the ‘first available placement’ and then transfer to a chosen location later (often many months later). If private care is preferred, options are limited to what is available as well (although there is often more available). Either way, having to research, tour and choose your public preferences or private option while you or your loved one has a hospital discharge looming is very stressful. 

Leaving a decision to relocate too late, until it becomes a necessity rather than a choice, often results in much fewer options to choose from, if there is a choice at all. 

At Proactive Seniors we are here to help with a short-notice situation.  Our team can help people find creative and suitable solutions in a crisis.  However, there are a lot more options, and better financial flexibility if seniors and families can plan earlier. 

Even if moving to a retirement residence is a remote possibility, understanding what your ‘tipping point’ is and what your best-fit options are, is a very good idea.  We are more than happy to help.  It is our passion that seniors have all possible opportunities to have a high quality of life and that they can feel confident and prepared for the future through proactive planning.  Reach out to us if you’d like to talk about how we can help.

Proactive Seniors