What is your definition of independence?
My definition of independence means having as many options and choices as possible. When it comes to Senior Living, the options are many and overwhelming. Some are very attractive while others may seem distasteful. Here’s the reality: if you don’t plan for your Senior years, then your options will be limited to your available resources. Simply put, your independence will be determined by the resources you have and what you are willing to pay. For some, enough resources exist that will allow all options to remain open. This is a very small percentage of our population. For most, there will be a limit as to the resources accessible, which in turn will limit your choices.
The goal of the Institute for Quality in Senior Living (IQSL) is educate as many people as possible about the Senior Living industry and its constant evolution and the enormous demand that looms on the horizon. Make no mistake; there is a crisis coming for Seniors in the United States. The growing demand has already begun overwhelming the available resources, further limiting the options, especially for those with fewer resources. But if you’re reading this it’s because you probably already know - you’ve come here because you’re seeking answers, or perhaps you already work in the industry and see the everyday struggles of Seniors and their families.
Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Failing to plan is a plan to fail.” Never is this statement more true than it is when it comes to planning the Senior years of our lives. There are several areas to consider including financial, legal and healthcare planning as well as housing plans. In the inaugural installment of the IQSL blog, we will focus on understanding the importance for financial planning, with several more entries on this topic on the way.
One simple analogy of the impact of one’s financial resources on Senior Living options is to think of them as you would a baseball stadium. If you have the money and desire to be closest to the action, be served at your seat with the best food AND you are willing to pay for it, then you have the freedom to do so. Note that in most stadiums, the amount of seats at the high end is relatively small. Why? Because as a business, baseball stadiums know that there are only so many patrons with the resources and the value orientation that will purchase these seats. So, we move a bit further back and have to go to the snack bar for food that is probably under heat lamps and not the best quality, but we pay less and this option fits our resource budget. For those with less of a budget, they may have to go to the upper deck where, while still in the stadium, are not quite as close to the action and have limited food options. Then there are those who can only afford the standing room option and have limited budget for food. Lastly, there are those who cannot afford a ticket and try to view the game by standing outside the stadium and peering through openings in the fence with very limited views of the action and eat only what they brought with them. Note that there are a finite number of seats in the stadium, which means even if you can afford to buy a ticket, you still may not be able to get in. So, ask yourself, where to you want to sit and what have you done about it?
Obviously, financial resources refers directly to cash but it also refers to understanding what financial resources are available to people in the form of insurance coverage, benefits and social programs. Again, according to the baseball stadium analogy, the more you rely on outside sources of funding, the more limited your options but many will have no other choice.
The competitive nature of healthcare and the services around Senior Living creates a lot of confusion for those seeking answers. The profit motive drives marketing campaigns that are created to stoke fear driving those who are in desperate need to seek answers at every turn. But it is important that we begin separating healthcare and Senior Living.
Here are some basic differences and distinctions:
- Medicare is a federally funded insurance program for Seniors, however it does not pay one thin dime for Senior housing. There are Medicaid programs that do pay some housing costs, but typically only when a significant level of care is needed
- Senior Living environments in most states are actually prohibited from providing every day basic healthcare needs, such as checking blood sugars and taking blood pressures
- Healthcare providers typically derive their revenue from third party payers (insurance companies) with some revenue coming direct from the patient. The Senior Living environment is typically funded entirely by the Senior (or their benefactors)
- The term nursing home refers to healthcare facility that is licensed by the state and typically derives its revenues from providing healthcare related services. Senior Living, such as Assisted Living or Independent Senior Living is typically licensed under a different set of rules for Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFE) and derives revenue from the resident directly with little subsidy from federal or state governments (some states do have funding programs for low income Seniors)
The goal of the Institute is help you understand your options regardless of your situation. There are infinite possibilities and there is no blueprint or one size fits all. But we are here to provide information that hopefully creates some clarity out of the chaos.
So, how do you define independence?