We have conversations with older adults and their families every day. One thing is clear: Nobody wants to be dependent on other people for their care!
But, the time may come where assistance is needed and changes have to be made. That’s why it’s important to decide – sooner rather than later – what matters most to us. We think of these as “aging goals.”
- “I never want to go to a nursing home.”
- “My husband and I want to remain together as long as possible.”
- “I am staying home forever!”
There is no right or wrong here. Each person, couple, family, and circumstance is different. Our goal in working with clients is to help them age as happily and comfortably as possible in accordance with their wishes.
Doing that requires setting priorities and making choices.
Get Clear on What Matters Most to You
It’s important to clarify what the older adult really wants and cares about. Even if dad has always joked that, “they are carrying me out of here in a box,” that may not actually be his number one priority when other options and goals are considered.
Remember, too, that there may come a time where the older adult is no longer able to participate fully in these decisions. At that point, it’s always best if the family knows, with certainty, what his or her true desires are.
So step one is sitting down together (or over Zoom!) and having a frank conversation. These discussions can be a bit difficult, but only by getting crystal clear about aging goals can other decisions – about finances, types of care, housing options, etc. – be figured out.
Understand the Tradeoffs Involved
Many times, the aging goals that people choose for themselves are in conflict with one another based on their financial means and the reality of what may happen as they get older.
For example, let’s say you have two primary goals: staying in your house and never setting foot inside a nursing home. Perfectly reasonable. As you get older, however, you may need to bring in more and more help – both to maintain the home and care for yourself or a spouse.
This can work just fine, provided you don’t deplete all of your financial resources along the way. At that point, you may need to leave your house and may no longer be able to afford an assisted living, leaving a nursing home as the only remaining option.
In this case, and again, depending on what matters most to you, a better approach may have been to sell the home sooner and use the equity to move to an apartment in an assisted living.
Whatever the specifics, for most people, there are going to be tradeoffs; we can’t have everything, unfortunately! But like the proverbial hunter who chases two rabbits at once, if you don’t make choices, you may end up with none of what you want.
Fortunately, there are many options available today regarding how and where we live as we age. But we don’t want this to happen by default; there are choices to be made.
One wouldn’t leave for a road trip to a destination they have never visited without using a map or GPS and expect to get there. Similarly, we can’t strive for how we want to live as we age if we don’t have a plan to get there. It’s important to think about our priorities and work through the tradeoffs. In our experience, this is the best way to remain safe, happy, and satisfied in our golden years!