This article originally published in Windy City Times as part of a month-long guest column on long-term care for the LGBTQ community.

It’s Time To Move – What Now?

Retirement communities and affordable housing initiatives such as Town Hall Apartments at 3600 N. Halsted St., and the well-known Triangle Square in Los Angeles are striving to meet the demand for affirming LGBTQ housing.

For U.S. LGBTQ-identified seniors ( at 3 million and increasing ), the ability to live comfortably amongst other LGBTQ-identified people provides increased connection and engagement. Isolation, discrimination and harassment follow many LGBTQ seniors in traditional senior housing at a very vulnerable time in life.

As we continue to explore long-term care planning for the LGBTQ community, housing is a primary concern. The first item to evaluate before making a move is cost. Identify where in the spectrum from low-income to affordable to luxury housing, your budget fits. Most affordable housing requires an annual income of $32,000 or less, and varies from facility to facility. Long-term housing can be very expensive: Annual expenditure for a private room in a nursing home averages $83,000.

It is advantageous to consult with an eldercare attorney to explore options for protecting wealth. Reverse mortgages, annuities, trusts, long-term care insurance and life-insurance plans can be employed to help pay for care costs in the future.

The second major area to examine are potential health risks. Identify current health concerns and future mobility. While aging in place at home may sound advantageous, if home is a three-story walk-up, at some point getting out to doctors, the grocery store and friends may become impossible. A realistic perspective on the most likely scenarios will result in a more successful long-term housing solution.

Plan for Aging

 

At the beginning of a long-term housing search, review the self-assessment checklist below to start the planning process.

—Budget

—Personal health risk factors

—Location requirements

—Climate

—Proximity to competent medical providers

—Proximity to loved ones

—Level of desired autonomy

—Level of desired support

—Opportunities for social engagement

—Spiritual life

—Transit options

—Pets

After identifying housing needs and what the budget can absorb, it is time to identify the type of environment. The primary types of senior housing arrangements and a general definition of each are as follows:

—Aging In Place: Remaining in an owned or rented apartment, condo, or house. Arrangements must be made for any personal or care assistance.

—Independent Living Facility ( ILF ) or Retirement Community: Own or rent in an active senior setting, typically an age restriction of 55+. On-site management, social activities, and an emergency call system. Some transportation, and group meal plans. PRICE=$1,500-3,500 per month.

—Assisted Living Facility ( ALF ): Apartment style living with increased assistance for housekeeping, laundry, medication reminders, and personal care. Cost increases with the level of assistance provided. Nursing support available during business hours emergency call system for safety. PRICE= Average cost for one-bedroom unit is $3,293 per month.

—Memory Care: Standalone building or special care unit of an ALF or Skilled Nursing Facility with 24-hour staff, common areas for meals, memory based activities. Personal care, housekeeping, laundry, medications all managed by staff. PRICE=Comparable to ALF or SNF pricing

—Skilled Nursing Facility ( SNF ): Twenty-four-hour nursing care, provide physical, speech and occupational therapy onsite. Licensed direct care providers such as a Registered Nurse ( RN ), Licensed Practical Nurse ( LPN ), Certified Nursing Assistant ( CNA ). Cost includes all levels of support. PRICE= Average of $6,235 per month.

—Continuum Care Retirement Community ( CCRC ): Buy-in for care for the duration of life. Levels of care include independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled care in one location. PRICE=High initial commitment to prepay for the cost of care, between $100,000 to $1 million; $4,000 per month on average thereafter.

LGBTQ Considerations

LGBTQI Health & Aging

Take a tour of each location you consider, ask questions to uncover the experience an LGBTQ person can expect. Ask the administrative team the type of LGBTQ competency training they require staff to participate in. Find out their process for resolving resident to resident harassment or discrimination. Other items from the self assessment checklist should be explored with the potential home setting. Determine if they allow partners to share a room, or have direct experience with your medical conditions.

Online sites www.caring.com and advocacy groups like A Place For Mom www.aplaceformom.com/ provide reviews and help refine options. Also, ask friends and family for referrals, they can offer an informed perspective. The most important tip to remember is to plan early; take the time to research, visit, and be confident in your decision.

Jacqueline Boyd is the founder of The Care Plan, a care-management and mapping company catering to the health and aging needs of Chicago’s LGBTQ communities. For assistance with housing options or other long-term care needs, call 630-479-008 or visit www.the-care-plan.com .