Options For Senior Couples

Choosing the Best Living Options for Senior Couples in Need of Additional Care

One of the more difficult decisions couples face is deciding where to turn when one spouse is independent but the other is experiencing health issues that require additional support. The choice typically comes down to two options: bring in home health or find a new living option that can assist the spouse in need while supporting the independence of the other.

If the couple wants to remain together for as long as possible, it is important to start planning early. Waiting until an emergency occurs will dramatically reduce the options available. We have compiled other tips below.

Tip #1: know the signs around the house

If you are your spouse’s sole caregiver, you may notice signs around the house suggesting that you need the support of a senior living community. If you are experiencing any of the following, it may be time to consider a change.

  • When you rely more on others. If neighbors are pitching in or family members are stopping by more often, it could be a sign that you and your spouse need additional assistance.
  • When “cooking” becomes “reheating.” When caregivers are overwhelmed, convenience is prioritized over nutrition. This means foods are often reheated instead of prepared from scratch. Though simple to make, frozen foods contain high amounts of sodium and unhealthy ingredients, which lead to complications like heart disease and diabetes.
  • When you can’t keep up with housework. As the spouse of an unhealthy partner, much of your time is likely spent caring for them. This leaves little time to dust, vacuum or mop. When home maintenance begins to dramatically decline, it might be time to seek more help.

In addition to these indicators, there are also red flags related to specific illnesses. For example, when a spouse with dementia or Alzheimer’s begins to display aggression, memory care is needed as soon as possible. Inevitably, these issues can lead to an incident that limits the decision-making power and independence of both spouses.

Tip #2: know your support options

With so many different types of senior living options, it can be challenging to determine which is best for you and your spouse. The descriptions below provide insight into each; however, it is often best to discuss care options with staff members from individual facilities before making your final decision.

Home Nursing

Many couples start by hiring a home nurse to assist the spouse in need with medication and device management, grooming, health assessments and more. At-home nursing can ease the burden of caregiving on the independent spouse and family members.

However, there are downsides to at-home care. Different nurses may be sent on different days. Unfamiliar faces are especially problematic for individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Costs are also typically paid out of pocket unless Medicare coverage is available.

Further, most homes lack handicap-friendly access. Typically, homeowners must bear the expense of widening doors, adding ramps or installing roll-in/roll-out showers and handles in the bathroom. Such additions can cost thousands and actually decrease the resale value of the home.

Short-term Rehabilitation

For spouses on the mend from surgery, illness or a fall, short-term rehabilitation is available. As the name implies, short-term rehab is not a long-term fix. Rather, it provides individuals time to recuperate before going back home. Though, home nursing is often required when patients do return home.

Assisted Living

Assisted living communities are designed to provide assistance to individuals who need help with activities of daily living like bathing or eating. If a couple decides to pursue assisted living, the healthy spouse would either continue living at home and make regular visits or move into the assisted living community as well.

Memory Care

Memory care communities are residential settings that are designed to support individuals with memory impairments, like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to helping residents with activities of daily living, memory care communities also have added benefits and security, such as additional healthcare services, specially designed rooms and floor plans, and programming designed to stimulate cognitive function.

Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)

Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) are all-inclusive, maintenance-free communities that offer independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing with a variety of amenities. These communities also offer built-in healthcare services that can accommodate residents’ needs as they change. That means couples can live together in the same apartment or home and receive the appropriate level of care.

Tip #3: know the cost considerations

Unfortunately, cost can make or break a couple’s decision to move to a senior living community. On average, an assisted living community costs $4,000 per month. Because medical personnel provide residents with around-the-clock monitoring, skilled nursing communities often cost double that — averaging $8,100 per month. Home nursing, memory care communities and CCRCs, fall somewhere in between those two costs.

Before writing off certain senior living options, it is important to consider what is included in the monthly charge. In most senior living communities, for instance, cost includes utilities like electricity, water, basic cable, Wi-Fi and telephone. Amenities and services like housekeeping, security and maintenance are also included. Various financial options are available to help cover the cost of senior living. Though, it is important to meet with a financial advisor before making a final decision.

In sum, if you wish to live with your spouse for as long as possible, it is important to start exploring your options early. Waiting until a crisis occurs to make a decision will dramatically limit a couple’s living options. It may also compromise the level of care one spouse receives as well as how independent the other spouse can remain.