It’s hard enough to know when the time is right for senior living, but deciding on the right community can be even more challenging if you’re unprepared. You see, senior living has more options than ever before which means you have the opportunity to select the type of care, the type of environment and the type of amenities that suit you or your loved one best. While it may require a little extra planning upfront, the benefits will be so rewarding. Here’s what to consider in choosing a senior living community.
#1: Identify What You Need
Are you considering senior living because you’re tired of keeping up with the house? Do you want more social opportunities? Has mom been diagnosed with dementia? Do you worry about dad’s safety at home alone? It may be a combination of reasons. Regardless, it’s important to understand what each type of senior living offers.
Independent living communities cater to seniors who require little daily assistance, but want to stay active and social while at the same time freeing themselves from the hassles of home upkeep. You’ll typically find:
- Accommodations that range from condominiums and apartments to free-standing cottages
- A worry-free lifestyle with restaurant-style dining, housekeeping, laundry services and transportation
- An active social calendar as well as a range of classes, clubs and outings
- Amenities that include concierge services, a pool, fitness center, library and beauty/barber salon
Assisted living communities provide housing, onsite care and assistance with daily activities while supporting independence and engagement. You can typically expect:
- Assistance with activities such as bathing, dressing and medication
- Onsite medical care as needed and 24-hour supervision
- A homelike setting with spacious accommodations and amenities such as housekeeping, transportation, pool, fitness center and onsite beauty salon
- Daily social opportunities, activities and outings
Memory care communities specifically nurture and support those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. You’ll typically find:
- Staff specially trained in Alzheimer’s and dementia care
- 24-hour support and a secure, easy to navigate building design
- Therapy, structured activities and programs that encourage purpose and provide social opportunities
- Comfortable private or semi-private rooms, housekeeping and laundry service
Skilled nursing communities are ideal for those with chronic health conditions or incontinence, who require intravenous medications and/or who are recovering from surgery or hospitalization. You can typically expect:
- Comfortable private or semi-private rooms
- Round-the-clock, supervised care and assistance with daily activities
- Wellness programs, social opportunities and activities
- Housekeeping, laundry services, three daily meals, onsite beauty salon and transportation
Keep in mind that some senior living communities offer all these types of care on one campus for continuity in care, added peace of mind and convenience.
#2: Create Your Checklist
Now that you have a better understanding of what the different types of senior living communities offer, the next step is to make a list of what you think is most important. This helps you to stay focused and avoid being overwhelmed by all the choices!
Your list should include:
- Non-negotiables for you, your loved one and/or family
- Location preferences
- Lifestyle preferences
- Nice-to-have features, amenities and/or services
#3: Decide Where to Tour
Once you have your checklist you should be able to narrow down the number of potential communities in consideration. Then it’s time to decide which you’d like to tour; ideally two to three to make comparison more manageable.
You’ll certainly check websites of each potential community and perhaps even call or request a brochure of the ones you’re most interested in. But also make sure to check review websites to get an additional perspective. In addition, ask around. Reputation is very important in senior living so check with family members, friends and neighbors as well as local professionals who may work with senior living communities such as your elder law attorney, financial planner or clergy to get their insight.
#4: Ask Questions
This may seem like a no brainer, but it’s so easy to become distracted by all the people you’ll meet as well as all the bells and whistles they’ll show you while you’re touring communities. Plus, having the same criteria by which you compare senior living communities makes the selection process much easier. Here are some typical questions to get you started.
- What is the associate to resident ratio?
- What level(s) of care is offered?
- What training and qualifications do associates have?
- Are the associates friendly and welcoming?
- How has communication been so far?
- What types of activities and amenities are offered?
- What is the dining program like? Are dietary restrictions followed?
- Is transportation offered?
- Are pets allowed?
- Are the residents friendly and welcoming?
- What security/safety features are offered?
- What types of accommodations are offered?
- Can residents personalize their space?
- Is the community clean and well-maintained?
- Is the location convenient?
- What is the price?
- What’s included in the price? What services are add-ons?
- What are the payment options?
And if you have the opportunity, talk with the residents about life in the community as they will definitely know best! Otherwise, make sure to pay close attention to how residents and staff interact.
#5: Talk It Through
Whether you’re considering senior living for yourself or your loved one, it’s absolutely crucial to include other family members in this process. Of course everyone will have different perspectives, but whether it’s conflicting thoughts, ideas you haven’t considered or simply an affirmation of what you think is best; the transition will be easier for the entire family if it’s made in a spirit of collaboration. Plus you’ll all have peace of mind that each person’s opinion has been valued and heard and all options have been explored.