Seniors who have a disability often need supportive services and should carefully consider their retirement options.
According to the United States Census Bureau, almost forty percent of older Americans have at least one disability. Having a condition that limits your senses or your activities can be challenging at any age, but as you grow older, it can present an additional set of concerns once you plan to retire.
If you have a disability, what are your options for retirement? If your goals are to continue living independently, what sort of services are available? And if you’re planning a move to a new community, what should you look for?
We’ve put together this mini-guide to be used as a practical resource when considering your retirement options. Whether you choose to stay in your present home or move into a community, it’s important to understand the requirements of your clinical condition, both now and in the future.
Transportation Options for Medical Appointments
According to the United States Census Bureau, the most common disability among seniors is difficulty walking or climbing, and the second-most common disability is getting around to doctor’s appointments and other errands that require transportation. This points to a larger concern among older Americans: how to get around as you age. Many seniors, regardless whether they have a disability, lose their ability to drive a car. Here are some transportation considerations.
- Family - Even if you’re lucky enough to have a relative who can drive you where you need to go, you may still want to look into transportation options that allow you to be as independent as possible. You may want to give your caretaker a break once in a while and sometimes, extenuating circumstances may make it impossible for a relative to get you where you need to go. It’s always good to have a few ideas in mind for a backup transportation plan.
- Medicare - Medicare will only pay for an ambulance in an emergency situation. But if your doctor has prescribed medical treatment that must occur away from home and if transport isn’t medically advisable except in an ambulance, then Medicare may pay some of the cost.
- Local Community Services - There might be a local service that you can call when you need transportation to a medical appointment. The U.S. Administration on Aging manages a helpful website with a locator tool for finding Elder Care in your area. These local services usually have a special van that’s equipped for transporting people who have a disability.
- CCRC Retirement Communities – Some CCRCs will transport you to medical appointments as part of their services. Read more about CCRCs.
Because mobility and transportation are the top issues facing seniors with disabilities, many choose to move to a senior living community.
Senior living communities should support their residents in more ways than just day-to-day activities like transportation. They should support their goals and celebrate their personal achievements. Read about how Gary Elsner became a competitive athlete and feels stronger than ever at age 77.
Senior Living Options for Seniors
If you choose to move to a community that offers more care and assistance than you are able to receive in your present home, it’s important to understand your options. There are three levels of seniors living:
- Independent Living - This is the most autonomous level of senior living, where you have an apartment or home in a community that’s created just for seniors. Seniors who enter an independent living community seek a convenient, low-maintenance lifestyle. It’s a good choice for seniors with disabilities who can manage the tasks of daily living on their own but who desire access to services. These services include social activities, entertainment, housekeeping, on-site dining, and easy access to a medical facility.
- Assisted Living - This is a residential community that offers assistance with everyday activities like dressing, taking medications and bathing. Services are usually offered on an a la carte basis. Residents still live on their own or in semi-private rooms in order to maintain some degree of independence.
- Skilled Nursing - Seniors whose disabilities require them to have 24-hour medical supervision, as well as assistance with the tasks of daily living, will need to consider this highest level of care.
- Home Care - There’s also the option of Home Care, which is in-home support and care for seniors. Home services are available to serve a wide variety of needs, such as bathing, housekeeping, assistance in moving, meal prep, transportation, and more. If you need help managing your disability but want to remain in your present home, this may be a good option. If you require care around the clock or if your savings are not significant, it may not be the optimal choice.
Questions to Ask When Visiting an Assisted Living Community
If you are considering moving to an assisted living community, it’s important to take a tour. Arrive prepared with a list of questions to get the most out of your visit. You’ll want to come away with a sense of whether the community can support your special needs with an effective service plan.
Here’s a list of questions to ask. Getting answers will help you and your family make better decisions about where you should live once you retire.
- If my needs change, are there additional services available?
- How do I pay for additional services that I might need temporarily?
- Are there other residents here who have the same or similar disabilities as me?
- Are your staff trained in working with people who have my disability?
- Are you a licensed community?
- What medical services are provided?
- What happens if I have a medical emergency while living here?
- How does your cost structure work? Do the different levels of care have different costs?
- Do I sign a contract when I join this community? What does it cover (e.g. health care, personal care, transportation, support services)?
- What happens if I want to move somewhere else? How and when may I terminate a contract and what is your policy on refunds?
- What happens if my level of medical need increased while I’m a resident?
You should supplement this list of questions with some additional questions that relate to the needs of your specific condition. And while we’re on that note, whether you choose to live independently or move into a community, it’s important to talk to your doctor about what needs they foresee in your future. As we age, health conditions change, and you may require additional services or a higher level of care at some point.
Find the Best Quality of Life for You
Remember, as a person who has a disability and who is about to retire, you have the same goals as every other person your age. You want to live where you can pursue the best quality of life, and you deserve dignity, independence, and the freedom to make your own decisions.
As you consider your retirement options, don’t lose sight of those goals. For information about choosing where you would like to retire, click here to read Acts Retirement-Life Communities’ tips for choosing a retirement community.
Want to learn more about Acts Retirement-Life Communities? Click here to read about the health services available to residents.