Kimberly Marselas

A few nights ago, the kids made an offhanded comment about a “half-used-up” bottle of ketchup, and suddenly, I found myself the butt of a joke.

“Hey, that’s just like you!” lampooned my husband, never one to hold back on a good, my-wife-is-a-tiny-bit-older-than-me jab.

It’s only recently that I’ve thought of myself as remotely middle-aged. But the truth is, when I’m twice this age, I’ll likely need some help with care. Given our family histories, that young whippersnapper of mine and I have already talked about where we’d like to live by then.

I’m a dream senior living customer.

I’ve simply been in too many beautiful, active communities in the retirement mecca of Lancaster County, PA, to stay in my current house for another 40 years. I’ve interviewed too many residents — some in life plan communities for years before needing skilled care — who wished they’d moved sooner.

Still, if I were to listen to many of the experts around me, I’ll tell my husband we should quit talking (about retirement living, of course).

According to them, we’re still going to be content in our current house at 84 and 82, getting by with occasional home care and all that technology that’s making skilled care obsolete.

I don’t buy it.

I’ve seen how physically challenging and socially isolating it is to care for someone with dementia or advanced cancer.

And as for tech, my thinking aligns with that of Ian Morrison, Ph.D., a futurist and healthcare consultant who spoke at Managed Health Care Associates’ 2021 Business Summit last week.

“The iPhone is not going to change your diaper, let’s be honest,” he chortled between slides on the deficit and Medicaid expansion.

Sure, I expect we’ll use home care at some point, and, at least for now, we embrace tech fairly swiftly. No, neither of us views current nursing home models as ideal housing. But neither of us dreams of aging in place all the way through death, either.

For us, finding our last home will really come down to the people who share the community, whether that’s independent living or the wing of a healthcare center.

We recognize it’s people that make skilled nursing so valuable, both to the person needing care and to those who trust that professionals will deliver it with precision and compassion. We want a home that provides access to that kind of care once needed, rather than creating a burden for our spouse or our ketchup-wielding children.

If there’s any way we can afford it (topic for another column), I’ll be a life-planner all the way. Please just wait at least until I’ve got my AARP card before you start the solicitations.

Kimberly Marselas is senior editor of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.