The Many Faces of Aging

By Jacqueline G. Goodwin, Ed.D.

The Spectrum of Care

Many adults face the question of moving into a retirement community or welcoming in-home care at a certain point in the aging process.

No longer staid and boring, retirement homes offer dynamic options for seniors. Retirement communities are continually improving by keeping seniors active with mental and physical exercises while intertwining independent living and hand-on care. It sure isn’t rocking chairs and bingo as the industry meets a younger, more active senior.

However, sometimes people get the idea that moving to a retirement community would be giving up something. In actuality, living un a retirement community can be a step up to age in place where you’re totally independent and unconfined.

Deciding to buy or rent a home in an age-restricted community is a major step toward achieving the new lifestyle you want. That’s why it’s important to consider a variety of factors that may influence your decision. The more you know ahead of time, the more likely it is that you’ll actually be able to experience the kind of life you’re after. So, for example, ask yourself questions like:

What’s my budget? These days, it’s fairly easy to find homes in retirement communities that can match almost anyone’s budget. But it’s vital to have a good handle on exactly what you can afford. When you explore the potential costs, remember to consider any additional expenses such as yearly or monthly resident fees. Some of the most luxurious communities also have equity memberships, which are ownership stakes that require an extra financial investment. And don’t forget to consider how much you’re likely to pay in local taxes.

What are the community’s rules and covenants? Every retirement community is going to have some type of homeowners’ association that governs what’s allowed and disallowed. It’s there to help ensure that home values are maintained and that residents stay safe and socially engaged. As part of that role, it will implement and enforce various restrictions. So it’s wise to find out exactly what those restrictions are before moving in.

What are my potential neighbors like? Your future social life is too vital to overlook. You’ll probably want to feel welcomed and comfortable with being yourself. So try to get a sense of the general vibe and personalities of residents in the community. Do you think your own perspective on life will be at home there? Talk with some current residents and find out. Also, remember that more and more niche communities are popping up. For example, it’s now possible to find LGBT-friendly communities as well as places for self-described hippies.

Am I ready to live in a different climate? If you’re thinking about moving far away from your current home, then it’s important to know what it will really be like to live in your new location. Weather is a big part of that, especially if you’ll be a year-round resident. If you can, spend some time acclimating to the climate. Rent for a little while before buying property. Make sure you’re OK with how each season feels. Sometimes, people only visit a region during its peak tourist season, so they don’t get the benefit of seeing how things may change over the course of an entire year.

Does the community offer activities that you care about? One of the main points of moving into a  retirement community is that you’ll get to enjoy more of the things you like doing. So make sure that any community you’re considering offers the activities you want to partake in. And find out how often recreational facilities are open for general use versus for organized classes or activities.

How far will I have to go for medical care? The answer may be very different for every community you look at. In some large communities, certain on-site health care services might be available. In others, medical facilities may be as little as five minutes or up to 45 minutes away. But if you’re considering a 55+ community in a remote region, then you may want to find out if it has a designated area for supporting emergency medical airlifts.

Beyond the factors above, your decision may just come down to how a particular retirement community makes you feel. Can you imagine being happy there? Does it truly represent an opportunity to start thriving in the way that you’ve been looking forward to? You deserve to make those lifestyle goals happen.

Aging in Place

“Aging in Place,” an industry buzzword that describes just that is another option seniors need to consider before opting to live in a retirement community. Check to see if the retirement community you are considering offers independent housing, apartments, long-and short-term nursing care and hospice services.  If you choose this option you can come in at an independent state and receive more help as you age, without having to move from your original home in the community.

For those seniors who want to remain in their private residences, a spectrum of services is offered by many organizations in the Harrisburg area, including Home Instead, Bayada Home Health Care, Affilia Home Health, Homeland Homehealth, and Central Penn Nursing Care, Inc. From light housekeeping and medication management to assistance in daily living, home health care offers aging adults the familiarity of home with varying levels of assistance.

And if you need medical supplies and/or medical equipment while at home, eHomeHealthCare offers top leading brands at affordable prices.

Regardless of where you live, hospice and palliative care provide highly personalized services, including companionship and skilled nursing. With palliative care doctors can provide treatment to seriously ill patients in the hopes of a cure for as long as possible. These patients may also receive medical care for their symptoms, or palliative care, along with curative treatment. Like palliative care, hospice provides comprehensive comfort care as well as support for the family, but, in hospice, attempts to cure the person’s illness are stopped. Hospice is provided for a person with a terminal illness whose doctor believes he or she has six months or less to live if the illness runs its natural course.

Hospice is an approach to care, so it is not tied to a specific place. It can be offered in two types of settings—at home or in a facility such as a nursing home, hospital, or even in a separate hospice center.

Homeland at Home brings quality care and support to patients in the comfort of their own homes. Services include compassionate end-of-life hospice care by Homeland Hospice. Likewise, Hospice of Central Pennsylvania provides care in a place that seniors call “home.” That may be in an actual residence, an assisted living or skilled nursing facility, or in Hospice of Central Pennsylvania’s personal care home called Carolyn’s House.

Elder Abuse

Each day, millions of older people in America and around the world are negatively impacted by elder abuse. It’s an ugly problem that needs to be better understood and taken more seriously by everyone, in every community. Nobody deserves to be neglected, exploited, or abused from facilities, caregivers or relatives. Unfortunately, the warning signs of abuse are often missed, ignored, or rationalized away—even by well-meaning people. In fact, it’s likely that most cases of elder mistreatment go unreported, which means that Adult Protective Services, law enforcement agencies, and other relevant authorities often don’t get the chance to intervene on behalf of seniors who need help. As a result, countless older adults experience a poorer quality of life and worse health outcomes than they otherwise would.

If you’re worried about a relative, the National Institute on Aging says to look for symptoms of abuse such as confusion, depression, unexplained bruise or burns. Increasing social isolation, bed sores and an unclean appearance are also red flags.

If you think people are taking advantage of your senior loved one, call the county department of human services, the Statewide Senior Abuse Hotline at 1-800-490-8505 or the local police.

Power of Attorney for a Parent

As we age, some of us eventually lose the ability to handle our own affairs. That’s why you’re smart to find out how to get power of attorney (POA) for a parent who is sick, disabled, or experiencing mental decline. But even if your parent is in good health right now, it’s wise to plan ahead for potential challenges. You simply never know when an injury or illness may take away your mom or dad’s capacity to manage finances or make important decisions about medical care. In fact, the best time to start considering power of attorney is before a parent requires any caregiving.

Broadly speaking, you get power of attorney for a parent by having him or her name you as the agent in a POA document that he or she has signed while sound of mind. However, the process is rarely as simple as it seems, especially when it comes to ensuring that your power of attorney will be recognized by third parties. Things can also become more complicated if you’re trying to get power of attorney for a sick parent who is already suffering from dementia or another terminal illness or incurable condition that affects his or her ability to communicate or make reasoned decisions.

“The ability of a Power of Attorney can be broad or very focused depending on the need and can be tailored to one’s comfort level,” says Jason R. Carpenter, Esquire, of the Law Office of Jason R. Carpenter.

“A proper estate plan, including a Durable Power of Attorney, allows trusted loved ones the power necessary to help you when you are in your weakest state,” adds Carpenter who also specializes in elder law. “Most people are shocked when they hear stories of other people having trouble doing simple everyday things such as paying a cable bill without a durable power of attorney. Without a one it can be a battle or even impossible.”

According to Carpenter, “Elder law is more about nursing home placement and avoiding people losing assets to skilled nursing facilities.”