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Be Wise With Money

Moving On

Find answers to your senior living questions

Rev. Harold Kamman loved his home. But the Thrivent member knew he couldn't stay there forever, especially after his wife died. "You don't think anything's going to happen to you, but you look around and see people getting older and realize something might," says Kamman. "When you're alone in the house, you think, 'Why not go to a smaller place where everything is provided?' It gets to be a chore to take care of a big house."

If you – or a loved one – are wondering if it's time to move out of the family home, here are answers to questions you may have.

How do I know when it's time to consider senior living, either for myself or someone I love?

"A move is often triggered because of a health issue like a stroke or decline in vision, or someone has stopped cooking or lost a spouse," says Corey Thompson, manager of senior living at The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. "Many people make a decision because their children fear they're not going to be safe. It's the right time for them to move when they need a change or more services than they have in their current living situation."

How can I find out what options are available to me?

There's always Google, but to get opinions and insights, contact your local aging agencies or senior centers for information. You may also want to ask your doctor, friends and family, and other trusted advisors such as your pastor, lawyer or Thrivent Financial representative. "Once you've done the initial research and put a list together, then you need to make a personal visit," advises Rita Vicary, administrator of marketing and sales for Lutheran Senior Services in St. Louis, Missouri.

Thrivent members get free access to Independent Living, an online source for information and helpful resources.

How do I know if a place is right for me?

Ask yourself: Does it feel like home? Can I picture myself living there? Is the staff friendly and capable? Does the community offer the services I'm looking for at a cost I can afford? If you can, talk with staff and residents and try out events, classes or meals to give you a better sense of a place before you make a commitment.

Can I afford it?

You'll want to know your budget, but you'll also want to figure out exactly what is covered at the places you're considering. "Ask questions to find out what services may be packaged together," says Mark Anderson, president and CEO of Knute Nelson, a senior housing and health care organization based in Alexandria, Minnesota. "We encourage people to speak to financial advisors to determine what you can afford or if you need assistance."

What if my spouse needs more or less care than I do?

Thompson suggests looking at continuing care retirement communities, which offer a full continuum of care. They are more costly, but they do make it easier for couples to stay close, whether they're in the same apartment, building or campus.

What if I change my mind?

Ask about the termination agreement at any community you're considering, Thompson suggests. You'll want to know how much notice is required if you change your mind or, if an entrance fee is required, how much money you will get back. But you might end up liking senior living more than you expected. "Don't be afraid of the move," Vicary says. "Senior living communities are not where you go to die; they're where you go to live. Retirement communities are vibrant places. People will often say, 'We wish we would have done this sooner.'"

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