We all live where we want to, until we can’t anymore. Then, housing becomes a much bigger issue than we ever thought it would be. It is not about which town, or which neighborhood, or split level or ranch. It is about what type of housing will accommodate us as we age, and, to be honest, as we grow more infirm and in need of care.
Most people want to stay in their own homes, and they do. We have written an earlier blog (and we will more than likely do it again) about the illusion of independence that often comes along with insisting on remaining at home alone. But for folks who plan ahead, or who have decisions forced upon them, looking at living alternatives is a really really good idea.
We lump living arrangements into three categories: independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing care. Independent living can be all sorts of things, from a single family home on a street with other single family homes (or out on a ranch or up in the mountains), to an apartment. Independent living in some settings can include a communal dining option, regular housekeeping, and even security checks to keep an eye on you. In general, though, independent living means that no one has the job of keeping tabs on you, unless you hire someone or have a family member who does that for you.
Assisted living means just that. It is communal, usually in an apartment building complex, with housekeeping, dining, social activities, transportation, some medical assistance available, and security. You pay a monthly fee for those amenities, but what you get is the security that you are not alone, and you do not have to take care of a yard, maintain a house, keep a car unless you want to, clean or do laundry, and prepare meals. For most assisted living communities, however, if you get sick, you have to leave.
You know what skilled nursing care facilities are.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities combine all three levels of living arrangements. La Vida Llena in Albuquerque and Good Samaritan in Las Cruces are two good examples of CCRCs. You pay an entrance fee and then a monthly fee for the rest of the time you live there. For that, you get the guarantee that they will take care of you until you die, if you choose to stay. If you do not want an entrance fee, there are CCRCs in New Mexico that charge by the month, but as your level of care goes up, so do the monthly fees. Montebello in Albuquerque and Taos Retirement Village in Taos are examples of this type.
One of my sisters moved to a CCRC with her husband a few years ago. They remained in their own city and kept their social network. He had a stroke in June, 2010, and having the health center right there has made a big difference. While he was in the health center, my sister was able to continue her own life and to visit him often. He also received visits from his many friends and acquaintances who live there as well. Now he is back at home in their apartment, and he gets regular care from the nursing staff to monitor his progress. One of my other sisters is investigating a CCRC in a city from which she moved several years ago, before her husband died. She visited recently and had lunch at the CCRC with three of her old friends. She thinks she will move there in early next year. How nice to have these plans in place!