3 Insights from Working in Senior Living
Edward Nevraumont, Chief Marketing Officer at A Place for Mom, shares insights he’s learned from working in senior living that are beneficial in planning out retirement to having important conversations with aging parents.
Traditionally people who work in senior living do so for their entire working lives. A Place for Mom is a bit of an anomaly as we have pulled people from other industries and brought their skills into senior housing. I was one of those people who got pulled. I spent my career doing everything from packaged goods and telecom to retail and online travel. I use a lot of the same skills in senior housing, but for very different ends.
I’ve shared a lot of that marketing expertise in a series of posts on our partners blog, but this post is more personal. After working in this space for three years, there are three big takeaways I’ve gathered for my personal life. I thought I would share them here.
1. You Need to Save for After Retirement
For the last half-century financial services companies have been telling us that we need to save for retirement. We’ve also been told to prepare for death (especially if we have dependents). But until I worked in senior housing I didn’t really internalize that period that comes in-between. It’s not something people talk about, but between that theoretical retirement life where you are traveling the world skippering your own sailboat and the time when you pass away, you are very likely to be in a state where you are alive and functioning, but you aren’t leaving the house. You will likely go through a time when you will need help:
- Help making sure you eat
- Help making sure you don’t fall (or if you do, making sure you’re prepared)
- Help taking your medication
- Even help going to the bathroom
It turns out all that help costs money.
Assuming you don’t want to end your life destitute or taking whatever the government chooses to supply, you will want to have a chunk of savings ready to ensure you live out those years (and there may be a lot of them!) in comfort. You can find many of APFM’s financial tools here.
2. Earlier is Better
It turns out that senior housing is a lot like college or summer camp. A lot of people of the same demographic are housed in a community while the staff ensure there is a continual flow of fun activities. If you are relatively healthy when you move into senior housing, then you get to take advantage of those activities. If you aren’t, then they are really just window dressing.
Like college and camp you will want to have friends in this new community. It’s a lot easier to make friends when you are relatively healthy and can participate in activities with other people. If you move-in to a community and are confined to your room, you are reliant on your friends and family who don’t live in the community to come and visit you. Even if you aren’t confined, if you move-in after dementia sets in it’s hard to make new friends (as you have trouble forming new memories to remember them). If you move-in early you can form relationships with your fellow residents and often still remember them when your memory starts to fade. (It also makes you more comfortable when you wake up and recognize where you are — which you might not if you wait too long).
3. Have the Conversation with Your Aging Parents
Insights #1 and #2 help a lot for my own life, but I’m still a long ways away from needing to take action on them. But my parents are a lot closer. I’ve seen many people avoid the conversation with their parents (or grandparents) until there is some urgent problem that causes an immediate need. When that happens you will need to track down everything from birth certificates to medication history to financial assets. Your parent(s) may not be in the best shape to help you find that stuff.
If you wait too long, the conversation, rather than being theoretical and rational quickly becomes emotional. That’s not the best way to be making these decisions.
A while back I had my team make a checklist of what that conversation with your parents should look like. If you haven’t had the conversation yet you check out our checklist and dive in. It’s not as hard as it sometimes seems if you do it early enough. In fact, if you want additional support, go ahead and fill out an inquiry form on the site or give us a call. We can put you in touch with an Advisor who will help you walk through the process. APFM doesn’t charge you anything and we have nothing to sell you, we just want to help. (Hopefully when you do need senior housing you will come back to us and our Advisors can help you with that too. In that case we are paid, but only by the community where you end up moving-in to, never by the family or the senior.)
These are the three insights I share with my friends and family when I talk about what I’ve learned at work. I hope they can help others who were where I was a few years ago.
Do you have any follow-up questions about the insights shared in this article? Please share them in the comments below.
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