It is a common concern to worry about a lack of money in retirement, but many retirees will be hit by an unexpected accommodation crisis. If there comes a time to leave the family home due to health or mobility issues, too many people assume there will be somewhere to move.
Consider the following:
- In Ontario, the waiting list for a retirement bed currently exceeds 32,000. Sadly over 7000 of these seniors are in hospital beds with nowhere to go.
- Most residences of nursing homes are between the age of 80 and 90, meaning they were born between 1928 and 1938. This was not only a period of the lowest birthrates in the past century, but immigration rates were low.
If there is currently a waiting list for retirement beds when birth rates were low by historical standards, all hell may break loose when the baby boomers are ready to enter these facilities. The leading edge of the baby boomers have not yet reached age 75, but over the next few decades, they will overwhelm the system. Should the government start to build nursing homes at a rate that will keep up with the demand, they may focus on lower income families. These may be facilities that financially secure seniors may wish to avoid.
What does this mean for those that are recently retired and will eventually want to move to some type of retirement accommodation? Options include moving to a facility in another community, where space is available or staying in your home and obtaining in-home care. This could be either paid help or a family member that you totally want to overwhelm. This assumes family lives in the same community and is prepared to take on this incredible responsibility. Government support service is available, especially for lower income families, but full-time in-house care is expensive. One family needed 24/7 care for a parent and were able to find a provider they charged $30 per hour. They assumed this was reasonable until they did the math and realized it worked out to $262,000 per year.
Many financially secure families believe this will not impact them as they have the resources to find high-end accommodation. There are residences that are expensive and provide excellent care. What happens when your health declines and you can no longer meet the hygiene or medical standards necessary to stay in the residence? You may receive a knock on your door and be told that you are no longer eligible to stay in the residence and must find accommodation along with the other 32,000 seniors looking for a bed.
Another potential problem is when only one spouse encounters health problems. Consider the following example:
Fred and Sue are in their seventies and their retirement has far exceeded their expectations. Their children have successful careers and they enjoy an active social life. They live in a beautiful home and do not have a financial care in the world. Fred’s health was deteriorating and it was a struggle for Sue to provide the necessary care. The family doctor recommended that Fred move to a retirement community that could better address his medical issues. It had a comfortable one-bedroom apartment, numerous amenities and an on-sight medical staff that could accommodate his needs. Fred begrudgingly accepted the fact that one part of his life was coming to an end. Although Sue was outwardly supportive, she faced a dreadful decision. Does she leave her home and move into a small apartment or does she stay in the home and visit Fred regularly? There was no good answer as it appeared they were separating when they were very much in love. Since Sue lived her life with a family first philosophy, they sold the family home and moved into the retirement community. Although she said nothing, she was devastated by her new lifestyle, that she believed was forced upon her.
After six months in their new residence, Fred’s health turned for the worse and the retirement community could no longer meet his needs. Fred transferred to a nursing home and Sue was stuck in an apartment that was never her home. She moved out of the retirement community and rented a nice apartment. In the space of a year, she lost her husband, her home and her social life, which was the price she paid for putting Fred’s needs above her own. When a spouse requires additional assistance to the point his or her lifestyle is disrupted, the impact on the healthy spouse should not be underestimated
Conclusion – When you no longer able to live in your residence because of age or mobility issues, do not assume there will be someplace to go, regardless of your financial resources.