The COVID-19 pandemic quarantined my husband and me in Arizona. Both of us are in our seventies, and we discovered a lot of white space on our calendars. It was finally time to attack our list of Things To Do Someday. At the top of the list was downsizing.
We wanted to avoid the kind of last-minute crisis we'd heard of friends having: when a health issue arose, their family would have to rush to find them new living arrangements. Choosing where to live before we were forced into making snap decisions was important to us.
We had firsthand experience with this circumstance: we moved to Arizona in 2002 to care for my mother when she was 90, and we took care of her for eight years. During that time, she had a stroke, and we quickly had to find a home for her to move to. This got us thinking about our two sons and future caretakers, who lived a thousand miles away in Oklahoma. If we felt it was inconvenient to drive six miles to care for my mother, how inconvenient would it be for our sons to have to drive a thousand miles?
We decided the best gift we could give our kids was to make caring for us as easy as possible. So our journey of downsizing and changing our address from Arizona to Oklahoma began.
The process of downsizing began with my office. Beginning with my desk, we went through every drawer and file. In one file, we found a legacy letter we hadn't completed, so we got to work finishing it. Norm and I decided we wanted cremation, so we bought two vaults and planned our resting place to be in Wilber, Nebraska, Norm's hometown. His grandparents used to own the farmland where the cemetery is now located.
Once that was taken care of, the longest period in our downsizing adventure began: it took us 10 months to clear out household items we no longer needed. The most challenging things to sort through were the antiques we inherited from our parents. Our children were not interested in them, so we showed photographs to an antique shop owner, and she bought over $3,000 worth of merchandise.
The next step was to talk to our financial planner. He told us to find a place where we would enjoy living and be happy. Visiting with our financial planner motivated me to call our long-term care insurance company. It was important for us to understand the benefits of the policy we had purchased over 15 years ago. Home care is included in our policy, and it was nice to know there was a possibility we would not need to move to a nursing home. Being a nurse, I knew I would take care of Norm as long as I was able. Having this knowledge was helpful when discussing rates for assisted living communities and nursing homes.
We had a few requirements: we wanted independent care in a private home. We wanted two offices and access to a yard for our dog. We did not want to do yard or housework, and we preferred a community where meals are included. Norm wanted room for a workbench and a garage because we were not used to cold winters. Being the social partner, I wanted to see a calendar of life enrichment programs. We also wanted to be within 30 minutes of our sons' homes.
We narrowed our choices down to 14 different communities. My list included 55+ retirement homes, apartments, and facilities that include assisted living, nursing homes, and memory care. I also looked at Life Care Community (CCRS), which guarantees your lifetime care at a specific price.
We were able to stop researching CCRS facilities because we had good long-term care insurance, which included home care. However, it was essential to have 24-hour access to medical care in case of an emergency and Home Health Care availability.
When it was safe to travel again, we got to work deciding. We chose to look at what appeared to be the best retirement facilities first, then work our way down to the least expensive. Our idea was to rent and invest the money we made on the sale of our home. Our first stop was Touchmark at Coffee Creek.
This is one of a two-part series. See how Touchmark ranks in the next installment!