Housing Decisions for Senior Adults

Sandy Calbreath, Trust Officer

A primary role of a trustee is to manage financial resources so there will be sufficient funds to support a beneficiary throughout his or her lifetime. However, when asked to make a housing decision, the bottom line is only part of the equation. We understand that quality of life is as important as finances. That is why we solicit input from the individual, their family and their healthcare providers in an attempt to identify the client’s medical, physical and emotional needs. Then we seek the best living situation for them at a cost which they can afford.

For “Mary” and her family, remaining in her own home is a high priority. Home is where she feels most comfortable and independent. Since she requires around-the-clock assistance, professional care managers hire and supervise private caregivers. To the great relief of her family, the care managers also monitor Mary’s mental and physical condition. Although the cost is greater than other housing options, the emotional and psychological benefits for Mary and her family far outweigh the additional expense.

Sometimes home is not a safe or comfortable place. In that case, retirement communities offer independent living in a secure environment with optional services such as meals, house cleaning, laundry, assistance with showers or medicine monitoring.

A retirement community was a good solution for “Norma”. After her husband died, she became socially isolated and neglectful of her health and nutrition. Relatives intervened and convinced her to move from her home into an apartment in a retirement community. A very independent individual, she blossomed in an environment which provided her with regular meals, medical monitoring, and as much social interaction as she chose. A benefit of retirement communities is that members can usually transition into assisted living units with minimal disruption of their social activities. This was the case with Marjorie. When she moved into the community, she was still active in her church and her bridge club and held season tickets for the theater and symphony. As her health and mental capacity deteriorated, she opted for assisted living until she reached the point that she needed around-the- clock care. Because Marjorie is most comfortable in familiar surroundings, we arranged for caregivers to stay with her in the apartment. With her caregivers, she can still attend the symphony and other social events without the worry of a mishap.

Many retirement communities provide a continuum of care through end of life.  “Ruth” lived in an assisted living unit until her medical needs dictated a move to the facility’s skilled nursing center. Although Ruth was virtually uncommunicative for the last few years of her long life, the staff remembered her from her earlier days and held a deep affection for her. She died shortly after her 100th birthday surrounded by people who loved and cared for her rather than in a hospital with strangers.

Where a person lives out the remainder of his or her life is a very important decision. As trustee, we understand that each individual’s needs are different and we make every effort to find the living arrangement that will best meet those needs.

Print date:  Fall 2003