If you were to ask your 4 year old if you can live with them when they grow up, they’d likely reply with an enthusiastic “I wanna always live with you; I never wanna live in another place from you!”.
Ask them again when they are 35 and their answer may be different.
Maybe you’ll choose to live with your adult child, but it might be nice if you have other choices too. Planning for affordable housing before you are the older adult is something that cannot start too soon.
Do a quick calculation to see if living with your kids will be optional. Without putting in identifying information or creating an account, Dave Ramsey’s retirement calculator will show an estimate of your retirement savings. It will even show you what you can save if you skip the daily coffee purchase, but you don’t actually have to look directly at that number.
Compound Interest Example
According to AARP’s retirement planning article, “the earlier you start saving for retirement, the better off you’ll be. If you start putting $5,000 a year into an IRA at age 30, you’ll have about $669,400 at age 70, assuming you earn 5 percent a year. If you start at age 50, you’ll have $186,860. Although it’s never too late to start saving, it’s a lot easier if you start early.”
Medicare will cover the cost of mom’s housing and care.
It’s a fairly common misconception that Medicare will cover the cost of housing for older adults, but this is not the case. Medicare will cover up to 100 days a year in a nursing home, but only after a qualifying hospital stay. Particularly since housing prices and living costs are expected to continue to rise, a viable housing plan is more important than ever before.
Most funding for the housing and care of older adults comes from these sources:
The sale or rental income of their home
Retirement income such as a pension or investment account withdrawals
Social Security benefits. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in 2022, retired workers received an average of $1,669 per month in Social Security benefits
The fact is that for most older adults in the United States, their available funds do not adequately cover the cost of housing and necessary expenses. Currently, more than 15 million older adults are “economically insecure,” meaning they live at or below 200% of the federal poverty level ($27,180 per year for a single person in 2022), according to the National Council on Aging. In fact, by 2030 there will be about 72 million adults over the age of 65 with more older adults expected to enter the federal poverty level than ever before.
Budgeting Tools for Senior Housing
Are you helping an older adult to plan ahead or stepping in to help manage a budget for housing and care? There are two free resources to help in the budget planning process:
If the expected income from Social Security is unknown, you can get an estimate of the expected benefit payout from the Social Security website.
Creative Senior Housing Options
It’s clear that affordable housing options and creative solutions are much needed to address the needs of economically insecure older adults. Some housing solutions include:
An Accessory Dwelling Unit which can be added to an existing property. Detailed information about ADUs can be found in our article HERE.
Manufactured home communities for 55+ can be another more affordable option. The home itself is owned, while the land in which it sits is leased. Care should be taken to understand the expected increases for the cost of the land lease.
Senior apartment complexes offer independent living units, sometimes with common use areas and services. The cost of renting is usually less than the cost to maintain a home and cover property taxes, upkeep and repairs.
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers affordable public housing apartments and single-family homes for older adults in need. The two programs which offer the most help to older adults are HUD’s Section 202 Affordable Senior Housing and HUD’s Housing Voucher Program
The Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program does not provide housing subsidies, but tax incentives to encourage developers to create affordable housing. These tax credits are provided to each state based on population and are distributed to the state’s designated tax credit allocating agency.
Both HUD programs and the LIHTC have specific processes and requirements to apply. Unfortunately, they can be time-consuming and confusing to navigate. The demand for subsidized housing is already significant and is only going to increase. So while there are long waitlists, it’s wise to begin the process of applying, even if it means paying an application fee.
What if you could implement one thing that would help your child:
Build a strong work ethic,
Bond with the family,
Learn responsibility and self-reliance,
Have better academic performance,
And improve planning and time management skills?
You’d probably want to do it, right?
The one thing is: chores.
Childrens’ participation in chores was a significant predictor of work ethic, according to the Harvard Grant Study (the longest running longitudinal study in history.) Chores are one of two key things that enable adults to be happy and successful. The first was love.
This parenting approach will also give you time back! (Well, truthfully, depending on the age of your child you may be making investments before you see the return. But hang in there, it will pay off.)
Research from the University of Minnesota indicates that children who start doing chores as young as 3 years old, are more successful as young adults than children who have not participated in chores. Starting at any age is better than never participating with routine chores. However, the younger a child starts doing chores, the greater the likelihood that the benefits carry over into adulthood.
If you have a child with ADHD, the article “How Can I Get My Kids to Do Chores?” from the Child Mind Institute outlines the benefits for executive functioning and ideas for rewards and consequences.
Lastly, Iet’s acknowledge that it is frequently easier to “do it yourself”. This is very true. But with a long-term vision and a deep desire for your child’s overall success and happiness, implementing chores is a worthwhile endeavor.
Even if they break a glass unloading the dishwasher, at least they’ll be a happy adult.
A senior housing option that is getting more popular (but doesn’t inherently solve care needs) could solve the housing challenge. It is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU). These are small houses or apartments that exist on the same property lot as a single-family residence. It’s a solution that can be an affordable and flexible housing option.
What are ADUs?
ADUs are a secondary dwelling unit with complete independent living facilities for one or more persons. Up to 1200 Sq.ft of additional space can be added to your home with an ADU. Today, ADUs are known by different names: tiny homes, granny unit, granny flat, in-law unit, in-law cottage, mother-in-law apartment, sidekick home, laneway home, backyard guesthouse, backyard cottage or secondary dwelling unit.
What are JADUs?
Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADUs) are allowed to be created within the walls of a proposed or existing single-family residence and shall contain no more than 500 square feet. JADUs offer additional housing options. They may share central systems, contain a basic kitchen utilizing small plug-in appliances, may share a bathroom with the primary dwelling, all to reduce development costs. JADUs present no additional stress on utility services or infrastructure because they simply repurpose existing space within the residence and do not expand the dwelling’s planned occupancy.
Common ways to finance an ADU:
Home equity loan
Personal line of credit
While California, New York and Vermont are taking the lead in ADU grants and programs, other states such as Texas, Colorado, and Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington also have expanding programs to help fund and facilitate ADU construction. (In California, all CalFHU funds for the ADU Grant program were fully reserved as of 3/1/2023.)
If the housing challenge can be solved with an ADU, it’s possible that funds usually reserved for housing can be put toward hiring care.
In addition to ADUs, there are many many living and care options. You may have heard of a Life Plan Community or Continuing Care Retirement Community, Board and Care Home, Assisted Living, Adult Family Home, Skilled Nursing, or Palliative Care. Making sense of what they address and how they differ can be really confusing.
Housing and care options for older adults span levels of independence, price points, levels of care (or not at all) and distinct living environments. If you find yourself suddenly thrown into solving housing and care for an older adult, it’s a lot to sort through. While changes are generally part of the process, it’s clearly easier on everyone when moves are minimized.
Select the best housing and care options
Our Housing and Care Options chart provides descriptions, a “good fit” profile and cost comparisons. If the older adult has care needs (or will soon) and you aren’t certain which care setting is most appropriate, their physician should be able to give you guidance.
The man who seemed to be in charge (since he was the one who had just given detailed and important directives to the medical staff around him regarding medicine changes and a plan of care for our 10 day old baby) finally paused. He turned to me saying, “Do you have any questions?” “Yes,” I said, “WHO are you?”
There are those who choose to be a medical advocate as a profession. However, most people who find themselves in the role are thrown into it, frequently without any notice. That was my situation. After 21 years of advocating on a weekly (sometimes on a minute-by-minute) basis for my son (and father at times), I’ve found several strategies to be exceedingly helpful.
Five (hard-earned) strategies for advocating well
1.Find out names and titles
Ask for the full names and the tiles of the medical professionals with whom you are interacting. Interrupt them if you need to, ask them to turn their name badges over and if their title/specialty isn’t stated ask them what it is. If it’s unclear to you, clarify what their exact role is in the patient’s care.
Why?There is a hierarchy in a hospital setting and newer, less experienced doctors (like the Residents) can toss out possible outcomes, procedures, approaches and suggested solutions as freely as an enthusiastic flower girl tosses rose petals around. The result can be alarming and confusing, but if you know you are talking to a Resident you can take it all with a grain of salt. If you are talking to the Attending you’ll know to put more weight on their message. (Note: I am not intending to be disrespectful to the Residents and am infinitely grateful for everyone who chooses a medical profession.)
2.Keep notes in a portable binder or notebook
When used consistently both at regular appointments and/or in a hospital setting, this will be an incredible asset in your role as an advocate. It’s where you’ll write down the names and titles/specialties of the doctors with whom you’ve met and the key information provided. Note the date and if it was “in-patient” (in the hospital) so that when you look back it’s clear where the care was taking place. Also, write down your questions beforehand (you really won’t remember them if you don’t) and confirm they’ve been answered before the appointment is over, even if it means asking the doctor/nurse to wait while you do a second review of your questions and notes. (The Ways & Wane GoKit is perfect for this!)
Especially under stress, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of the myriad of details provided in a care setting. If asked by other family members for updates and details you not only have the information captured in writing, but you can take a picture of it and text that as an update. If you are playing tag team with another advocate (like your spouse or sibling), a shared notebook is a great way to make sure information is documented and communicated. (Permission from the patient should be granted before sharing their private medical information like in a text out to a group.)
3.Don’t worry about being the “good guy”
It’s not uncommon to be intimidated by doctors and other medical professionals, but remember that your role is to advocate really well for someone else, not to win a prize for “most congenial”. Don’t be rude, but know that you have the right to insist on second opinions, additional answers, explanations in plain terms or other care needs that are in the best interest of the one for whom you are advocating. At the end of the day, remember that you and the patient are the customers.
It’s very hard to do a great job at being a strong advocate when you are worried about aspects of the interactions that don’t have to do with getting the information you need and making sure the patient gets the best care possible. You have a job to do. Focus on that in order to show up as the advocate you hope someone would be for you.
4. Ban time in the land of “what ifs”
Make a purposeful decision not to put mental and emotional energy into the 25+ “what if” scenarios that you are tempted to entertain, especially if you are googling information. You do not actually show up more prepared for the horrible thing if you practice it in your mind. I believe it’s like practicing getting hit by a car so that if you get hit by a car it won’t hurt. There will likely be enough difficult things that you must face for absolute certainty, why use up your “perfectly good worry” in the land of “what ifs”?
It’s truly helpful for your mental health to focus on what is actually ahead instead of what might happen, especially since we can be exceedingly good at coming up with the most terrifying version possible. As an advocate, you only have so much energy. Use it purposefully.
5. Gather whatever tribe you can
Especially in the middle of an intense season of being a medical advocate, ask for help. Ask for practical help (can you bring me lunch or pick up X from Walgreens?) and emotional support (will you text me a cute picture or kind thought?). Ask regularly and ask people who you think may say no. You cannot control what their response is, but you can ask and in doing so you may just invite someone into something that will bless them too.
Why? Once you come out of the intensity of the season, there won’t be a prize for the most worn out or emotionally ravaged. We all need community and the reminder that we are loved and cared for too. It’s a very good thing not to do the hardest season by yourself. This is one of the reasons I truly love our mission and work at Ways & Wane – we get to join the tribes of those who are doing their best to advocate really well.
Whether you are advocating or a child or an older adult, you’ll likely show up really well sometimes and other times you’ll scrape yourself up and give what little you can. Either way, you are showing up and that’s amazing. Be gentle with yourself too.
As a parent, you know how easy it is for your child to end up with a little bruise or a skinned knee or a finger pinched (ugh) in the car window. Some of those boo-boos happen under your watch. It’s understandable. If your child is injured at daycare and it’s more than a small injury, the daycare is responsible to inform you.
The guidelines and reporting requirements for daycare centers regarding injuries will vary depending on the country, state, or region. They are often set by government agencies responsible for regulating childcare facilities to ensure the safety and well-being of children.
While specific regulations may differ, there are some best practices:
Incident Reporting: Daycare centers are usually required to maintain a system for documenting and reporting any incidents or injuries that occur on their premises.
Timely Reporting: There may be specific timeframes within which the daycare center must report an injury or incident to the relevant authorities, parents or guardians, and possibly licensing agencies.
Parent/Guardian Notification: Parents or guardians of the injured child must be promptly informed about the incident, the nature of the injury, and any immediate medical attention that was provided.
Medical Attention: Daycare centers should have protocols for providing appropriate and timely medical attention in case of an injury. This may involve administering basic first aid or contacting emergency medical services, depending on the severity of the injury.
Incident Investigation: The daycare center might be required to conduct an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the injury. This investigation could involve speaking with staff members and any witnesses to the incident.
Documentation: Daycare centers are typically required to keep records of all injuries and incidents, including written reports, witness statements, and any follow-up actions taken.
Reporting to Licensing Agencies: Depending on the severity of the injury and local regulations, daycare centers may be obligated to report certain types of injuries to the appropriate licensing or regulatory agencies overseeing childcare facilities.
If your child has an unexplained injury that happened while they were at daycare, ask the facility about it right away. Also, assume good intentions and hold judgment until you have the full story.
“I’m just practicing walking” was the answer my father gave me when he would walk around by himself without his walker. We’d lost count of his falls, so a walker seemed pretty important. At least to us. To him, not so much.
“I don’t want anything new” was the answer Betty gave her daughter when she suggested that a cane or walker might be helpful to her. She was surprised by the answer since she was watching Betty move from spot to spot holding onto furniture and walls. Like a rock climber, she was gauging where her next handhold was going to be.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
About 36 million falls are reported among older adults each year—resulting in more than 32,000 deaths.
Each year, about 3 million older adults are treated in emergency departments for a fall injury.
One out of every five falls causes an injury, such as broken bones or a head injury.
Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.
More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling—usually by falling sideways.
Women fall more often than men and account for three-quarters of all hip fractures.
Obviously, the results of a fall can have serious consequences and the need for stability seems obvious. Why is it that an older adult is resistant to using a mobility device, like a walker or cane?
Reasons an older adult may not want to use a walker
Moving without a mobility device may be a source of pride for them.
A mobility device may make them feel like they look old or frail. Unlike a discreet hearing aid, mobility devices are highly visible and may feel like a label of “I’m weak and dependent” or not cognitively “with it”.
They may get special treatment ,which may be embarrassing.
They may be concerned they’ll become dependent on its use, losing the ability to ambulate without the extra support.
Approach the topic with plenty of sensitivity. Ask them to share with you what their thoughts are about using a walker, cane or other device. After listening thoughtfully, share your concerns for their safety. Express your desire for them to maintain the independence they have, pointing out that a fall may take that away from them.
Sometimes it’s difficult for an older adult to be objective about their current needs. If the older adult would value an objective assessment, the National Council on Aging assigns a fall risk score with the completed Falls Free Check Up.
Checklist to mitigate effects of unsteadiness
If the older adult is unwilling to use a mobility aid, but is unsteady, consider:
Asking the older adult’s doctor to review their medicines to see if simple changes can provide the same results while reducing the risk of falls.
Asking the older adult’s doctor to conduct a balance assessment test to determine their risks and if physical therapy would help improve their strength and balance.
Consider an eye exam, since improved vision can reduce the risk of falls.
Making their home safer with improved lighting, railings and putting frequently used items in a place that’s easy to reach.
It’s important to note that, when not used properly, walkers and other mobility devices can cause the accidents they were meant to prevent. Ensure the device is suited to the older adult’s needs and is being used correctly.
The older adult’s doctor or physical therapist can provide valuable guidance on what to choose and fit the device for their height, weight and abilities. Also, when prescribed by a doctor for use in the home, Medicare Part B can cover 80% of the cost of walkers, rollators, and other “durable medical equipment” if it is deemed medically necessary.
Your Digital Care Advisor has a section titled “I want to keep an older adult safe” which has a number of excellent resources for fall prevention. You’ll find home modification resources and balance classes covered by Medicare.
You may not agree with or fully understand the older adult’s perspective and choices when it comes to using mobility devices. As difficult as it may be, respect those desires and choices. It is one of the ways to honor them in this season of life.
Most parents have a love/hate relationship with screens when it comes to their children. Screens can be entertainment, a social outlet and a babysitter while dining out, but most parents have concerns about the impact on their children’s social development.
Research from a study on social isolation and its impact on child and adolescent development housed in the National Library of Medicine supports a “strong association between social isolation and anxiety and depression in children and adolescents”. It also reports “higher levels of cortisol and worse cognitive development”, which can impact school performance.
Another study found that these negative effects can extend into adulthood, as socially isolated children have been found to have worse health outcomes compared to their more engaged peers.
Busy schedules and perceived threats to safety can make parents fill time with screens. As child psychologist Melissa Sporn points out, “overscheduling limits socializing and parents’ efforts to protect kids from danger outside, which leads to more inside time on computers and phones”. Indeed, spontaneous play is thwarted by structured family schedules so that even with lots of people around, individual children can feel isolated and turn to screens for connection.
Solutions aren’t as obvious as just taking away the screens. The Mayo Clinic offers 6 tips to reduce children’s screen time, which include creating “phone-free zones” and cutting screen time in half.
Face-to-face time (without a screen in between) can reduce anxiety and improve cognitive development. Summer is a great time to try!
This was the third call Miles got from his dad while he was at work. “I was just thinking about that tackle box with my fishing gear. Do you know where that is?” Yes, Miles knew the tackle box was in his own garage since his dad gave it to him 4 years ago. Did his dad have plans to go fishing? “No, I was just thinking about where it ended up. I thought my neighbor may have borrowed it.” A few hours later his dad called asking if those new taxi services could pick him up for his urologist appointment. Miles reminded his dad that the urologist appointment wasn’t until next month. As much as he loves his dad, the regular daytime calls were affecting his ability to work.
Mile’s dad used to pack days full of activities and projects but was now seemingly uninterested in socializing or pursuing his hobbies. The result was a lot of time to think about where his tackle box was and worry over appointments weeks away. Miles had repeatedly tried to get his dad to engage in the men’s lunch club and model car projects he used to enjoy, but with no success. Miles felt puzzled and genuinely worried over his father’s wellbeing.
Reports warn against effect of loneliness
The experience of Miles’ father is common. Older adults in particular are finding themselves more isolated and bored than ever before. In fact, this is so prevalent that the US Surgeon General released the first ever Advisory on loneliness, isolation, and social connection. Dr. Murthy warns about the public health crisis that loneliness, isolation, and disconnection pose to the American public. Additionally, a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) found that nearly one-fourth of adults 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated.
Social isolation increases dementia
Among older adults, chronic loneliness and social isolation can increase the risk of developing dementia by approximately 50%. Evidence reveals that social isolation and loneliness hinder good health, putting older adults at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.
Factors contributing to social isolation
The cost is clear, but preventing social isolation is complex. The myriad of issues contributing to the isolation of older adults include:
Hearing. Their hearing may be compromised, especially in noisy environments. It can be embarrassing to either not clearly understand what was said or have to ask for something to be repeated.
Fear. They may genuinely be afraid of falling since they know how easily it could mean a broken bone. If they are feeling unsteady at all, walking in new environments may not feel safe to them.
Incontinence. They may have lost some bladder control and/or need to make frequent bathroom trips and don’t want to call attention to such a highly personal issue.
Transportation. They may not feel as comfortable driving (especially in the dark) or may not drive at all which may cause them to avoid inconveniencing anyone by having to drive them.
Pain. Their body may hurt which can cause anyone to feel moody and out of sorts. It also may be physically hard or even painful to walk or sit in various uncomfortable seats.
Ageism. Negative stereotypes and ageism can cause an older adult to want to avoid new situations and people who may not be patient with them or kind.
Unwanted. They may feel like a “downer”, as though they aren’t nice/happy/fun enough to have around.
Everyone is “new”. They may have lost their closest long time friends who may have moved away or passed away. It can feel hard to develop new friendships. We can all relate with that.
Some of these issues can be addressed through medications or assistive devices and some cannot. It’s a new landscape altogether— the old hobbies and activities no longer address their current confidence and situation.
Five “Great Day” Questions
Begin by identifying which of the factors above are contributing to their isolation. Next, ask the older adult if those factors play into their social decisions.
Use these five questions to brainstorm with an older adult about activities.
What would be a “great” day for you? What would it include?
On a scale of 1-10, how content are you with how you spend your time?
What is one thing you’d like to regularly add to your calendar?
What are some of the best things you’ve done recently?
How many activities feel like the right number each day or week?
Additionally, AARP’s “Are You Affected by Social Isolation?” tool can help provide insights. It may be especially helpful if the older adult is likely to respond well or respect a questionnaire assessment from a well known source.
It’s possible that the older adult is content with their level of activity and social engagement. It may be your own (albeit well-meaning) desires for them that need an adjustment. It’s not easy to see someone you care about having a life that looks very different from how it used to look.
However, if they want to make a change, you can now work with them to create “great” days (as defined by them.) Part of the solution will include resolving or diminishing the contributing factors identified above.
Strategies to increase social engagement
Specific activities will depend on their abilities and interests. Start with these practical steps to create more “great days” for them.
Set up easy-to-use technology, ideally with a prominent video screen. There are a number of options that are designed for older adults, like the GrandPad.
Go with them (or set up a buddy) to accompany them to the first event, whatever it is. They may be much more proud to show you off than to show up by themselves. Once there, they will likely begin to develop connections.
Schedule others (extended family or volunteers) to engage with the older adult regularly. One daughter sent calendar invites to her siblings. The older adult may be less likely to cancel or pass up an engagement with someone outside of their regular care circle.
Create an account with a shuttle service or private taxi option like Uber or Lyft. Accompany them on the first few trips to help remove a barrier of the unknown.
Affirm the older adult’s ability to make an impact by setting up meaningful volunteer or work engagements.
Sometimes a single activity or person can make a world of difference in the life of a lonely older adult.
The Ways & Wane Care Concierge team can compile a custom matrix of practical solutions to help solve social isolation for the older adult in your life.
Time sure does fly! Between work, school, extracurriculars, and getting dinner on the table, we can easily slip into routines that don’t include meaningful time together as a family. But making time to connect and create memories is a worthy pursuit. Research shows that engaging in recurring, quality family time has many benefits, as kids “are less likely to have behavioral issues at home or at school” and better mental and physical health (Jones, 2017). Beyond this, quality time as a family leads to closer connections, life-long memories and fun for everyone.
Three Ways to Build Connection as a Family
1. Designate a special family night and rotate who picks the activity (and treat)
Once a week, a different family member gets the chance to choose an activity and a special treat/snack. Children usually love getting to be the one to choose something that the whole family does together. You may find yourself part of a whole house nerf gun war, a Lego building contest, water balloon fight, make-over party (how does dad look with a face mask) or game of “Sorry”. Kids engage more when they feel agency in the decision making process and setting aside a special night every week will help to build togetherness with consistency. Blocking it out on the calendar will help protect the time.
2. Find a volunteer project to do together
You may tell your children how important it is to give back to the community, but the message comes through differently when they watch you carve out time to do this. Volunteering as a family provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate your values in a practical and meaningful way. It can be an entry to learning about other communities and to building empathy. Doing shared work can benefit your community and provide a sense of pride and accomplishment as a family unit. Indeed, Utah State University notes that “family volunteering leads to increased marital and family satisfaction, improved parenting and conflict resolution, shared experiences and values, and foster bonding between parents and children”. You might try hosting a food or toy drive, serving a monthly meal at a soup kitchen, or contributing to a community garden. This Parents.com article has some great sites for family-friendly volunteering opportunities.
3. Plan an Outdoor Adventure
Does it sometimes feel like everyone is glued to their phones, TV or computers? Kids and adults alike rely more on tech than ever before. Being outdoors together creates space for distraction free quality time while you soak up sunshine. Consider sitting down as a family to make an activity wish list and then block out the time on the calendar to make it happen. Maybe you’ll play tourist in your own town, go on a new hike, play around with nature photography, see an outdoor play or concert, plan a picnic, or host a block party. The effort is worth it: The Child Mind Institute notes that youngsters receive several advantages of being outside including the promotion of creativity, confidence, and a reduction in stress. These experiences can create memories and help to build an appreciation for the wonders of the natural world.
Chances are, none of us is going to suddenly become less busy, so it is essential to plan time to prioritize togetherness. By soliciting each family member’s unique interests, setting aside dedicated, regular time together, and finding fun and meaningful activities to try, we promote closeness and connection. Don’t let this summer pass by without making lasting memories with your favorite people.