Knowing how to recognize a good opportunity to start looking for long term care options can be difficult. Whether we are looking for ourselves, a family member or a loved one, considering senior care can often signal an unwanted decline in our or their health.

In many cases, admitting that it is time to look for additional support is the hardest step. Ultimately however, this is the best decision people can make for themselves and their family.

There are a few ways we can make this process a bit easier for ourselves and our loved ones. All it takes is a bit of research and planning to understand the senior care options in the area, even if we don’t plan on using these services for a couple of years.

Having a plan and a basic understanding of your options will make for easier decision making if our loved ones – or we – need senior care services sooner than expected.

Also, understanding our choices before we need them is the best way to ensure all parties involved feel at peace with the decision. The number of senior care options is growing, so no matter what our ideal age in place model is, there is certainly an option.

Below are three tips on how to get started!

Research Care Options in your Community

In-Home Care

In recent years, the demand to age in place has created a booming market for in-home care services. There are a variety of care services available to consumers ranging from need base to hospice care.

As we decide to age in place, it is feasible that we may require some, if not all, of these services over time. There is a difference between a Home Care Agency and a Home Care Individual business. Check out caring.com for a full overview of each.

Nursing Home Care

Nursing homes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. If you know you would like to remain in the area of your current home, you can start by reaching out to local assisted living facilities or continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs).

Although the thought of moving to a nursing home is not always pleasant, there are several reasons why this could be the right option for you. Nursing homes will provide around the clock skilled care and assistance whenever you need it, which takes the responsibility of care off of family caregivers.

Area on Aging

If you are living in the States, a great place to start your research is with your local Area on Aging. They will have an abundance of resources and knowledge of your surrounding area and point you in the right direction.

You can easily google search your county name area on aging or use the Paying for Senior Care tool.

Have Conversations with Close Friends and Family

A recent study by the University of Minnesota found that only 40 percent of Americans aged 40 to 65 think it’s likely that they will need long-term health care services.

When asked who would provide their care if they needed it, many people based their answer on current living arrangements, which did not account for changes in family dynamics or children moving away.

Taking such a critical need for granted can do a disservice to you and your family members. Making assumptions about your future needs, without discussing with those involved, could result in an unwanted change to your plan.

To start, have a conversation with friends and family to see if they have considered their future health care needs. Most of us don’t, so “no, I haven’t” is a reasonable response.

This makes sense – it is hard to think that there will come a time when we would actually need help doing our everyday tasks. But, asking this question can help all parties narrow down options and create a feasible plan that you all could agree upon.

Write Down Your Plan and Tell It to Whoever Will Listen

Once you have identified the right plan for you, write it down. Having your wishes written down on paper is just an added security that your future health care choices are honored.

This process doesn’t even have to be formal, so don’t worry about calling a lawyer (unless you want to). If you would like to have some formality, you can sign your letter in front of a witness (who can be a close friend or family member).

Communicating our plan with our loved ones is an excellent way of ensuring that they will know what to do if ever in a situation where they must make decisions for you.

These types of conversations are also beneficial because they normalize the process. Too often we are afraid to broach the conversation about senior care. However, it is a highly important conversation to have if we would like to have a say in the way we age.

Preparing for A Piece of Mind

Aging is a natural part of life, and if we are lucky enough to experience it, there are still many things to learn and be involved with even in our later years.

There may come a time, however, that we will be unable to make decisions for ourselves. This might sound scary, but if we prepare for this ahead of time, there is no reason why we can’t age in a place we feel comfortable and at home.

How have you prepared for your future health care needs? Have you talked with friends and family about your preferences? Have your researched resources within your community and how to access them? Please, share your story so that you can help others join in on the conversation!

Molly WisniewskiMolly Wisniewski has cared for older adults living with dementia for over ten years. She is a recent graduate of the Erickson School, UMBC where she received her M.A. in the Management of Aging Services. Her blog Upside to Aging is dedicated to sharing an alternative and more positive side to aging.

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