How To Choose A Senior Living Community
A Guide for Seniors and Families
Choosing a senior living community is a challenging, yet worthwhile journey. Let’s face it. You want to age gracefully. Being in a place that is safe, healthy, and a place where you feel cared for is extremely important.
It’s okay to not know everything about what you want or need during this time. Whether you’re on the fence about leaving home, or you’re ready to move out right away, this article will be able to help you and your family make the best decision possible on a senior living community.
And just remember, this is a time to have fun searching. Don’t think of this as the end of the road but the start of a new beginning.
Following the steps below will help jumpstart and guide you through the entire adventure from beginning to end.
How to Start Looking for a Senior Living Facility?
Consult with Yourself
You should ask yourself a lot of questions throughout the process of looking for a senior living community. Many seniors feel lost at the beginning of the process and find themselves asking…
What if I don’t really know what my needs are?
To start the process, consult your family, your physician, and other important people in your life. Having a healthcare team dedicated to the transition is critical to your success, whether you live alone at home, or in a retirement community.
That said, first and foremost, you should consult yourself. Ask questions such as…
Am I beginning to have difficulty performing daily tasks like cooking, grocery shopping, or cleaning the bathroom?
If you are having difficulty with these tasks, maybe it is worthwhile to consider assisted living, or an independent living facility, with home health services and meal delivery services. Be honest with yourself. Figure out exactly what your needs are.
Consult with Your Family
Second, after some introspection, consult with your family.
Does your family have any concerns about your health? Do they have to help you bathe and shower? Ask them what they think your needs are. Tell them to be honest too.
Sometimes your family might be a bit shy or hesitant to say anything to hurt your feelings, so be sure to let them know it’s okay to be blunt. Your family not telling you things, or you not being receptive to hearing things from them, does not make the process any easier.
Consult with Your Physician
Third, your physician can help you determine what options may be of interest to you. If you tend to mix up your medications, or you need additional help managing some medical conditions that you may have, beginning a process to move out of the home may be beneficial.
Your doctor will also be the person who is able to give you answers without any bias. This is probably the most important person to consult with because of this. Like it or not, you will be biased and your family will be biased too. So take to heart what your doctor says.
Time to Get Real
The process of choosing a senior living community is a time to explore every aspect of your life. Maybe you had no idea that you have frequently forgotten family members’ names, or that you are not drinking enough water to maintain your brain health.
Take these concerns with a deep breath; the people that are helping you in this process genuinely care for your well-being. Your support team wants to make sure that if your home is no longer the safest option for you, that you are still going to be in good hands.
Start Exploring Senior Living Communities
Once you have come to an agreement, or have an idea of what you are looking for, a good place to start is the internet. Are you looking for a smaller, tight-knit community, or a larger, perhaps more upscale facility? Checking out video tours and photo galleries is a valuable way to explore senior living communities from afar.
Also, when exploring, be sure to see if the facility has many different options existing at one place. Many facilities have multiple wings in case your needs change, so some options might be available to you within the same building. This is an important thing to note. Sometimes you might take a turn for the worse quickly and knowing there are more options at the same facility means you don’t have to uproot your entire life all over again.
How Will You Know Which Community is Right for You?
Important things to consider when looking at senior living communities are your needs and health needs, location, and affordability. Make a list of your priorities and rank them in the order that you desire them.
Maybe you value a world-class dining hall, over getting a deal on an apartment with a spare bedroom. Or, maybe you value a location within daughter-distance, over one that has a spa-bath option. Having this list helps you compare and contrast facilities based on what you want.
Here are a few of the the different types of senior living communities:
- Independent living: This option allows for independence, without the stairs that limit your access to the entire house. This option should be considered only if you are able to manage all of your activities of daily living (ADLs such as grooming, dressing, toileting, etc…), and are able to ambulate to and from your room to other places, and activities within the community.
- Assisted Living: This option allows for independence, with the capacity for an aide to come help you at the push of a button. They are able to help with a few things here and there, provide activities for you to participate in, and staff members are readily available in the event of a medical emergency.
- Memory Care: This option allows for constant supervision, and consists of activities that engage residents’ brains while being able to take care of their activities of daily living, medication administration, and having state of the art medical care all around.
- Skilled Nursing/Nursing Home: This option is essentially assisted living plus. Residents are constantly monitored, and carefully watched, and offer highly skilled nursing care that other facilities might not be able to offer. A few of these services including sitz baths (a private area bath with specialty equipment), IV care, dressing changes, frequent vital sign monitoring, and many others.
- Continuing Care Retirement Communities: These facilities offer many different living options, in addition to skilled nursing, and hospice services. If you are looking for one facility that offers multiple options, one that can accommodate the potential for changing needs, this would be a good selection. These can alleviate fears of moving from one facility to another facility, with mental declines, or improvement that makes you unable to be in one community as opposed to another.
Those are many of the options that are available to you as a part of the senior living community search. Do any of these seem appealing to you?
Weigh these options over and once you have narrowed down which facilities offer the services that you need, go down your priority list. Continue to narrow down which facilities match your criteria.
Tips for Choosing a Senior Living Community
I like this facility, but is it “good?”
Any facility can appear to be great on the surface, but there can be many strings attached. So be careful, remember, you might be leaving your home for good.
Here are a few tips that can help you along the way to decide which place is best for you.
- Rent Lock: This is a feature that some communities have, while others do not, so doing the research is important. Affordability is one of the main factors that either draw in or detract prospective residents from a facility – some even move outside of their home state to go to a facility that seems worth the while. Rent locks are often spelled out in agreements, but the fine print is easily skipped when reading through tedious contracts.
Some facilities have a time frame where the rent cannot be increased, but beyond that point, the decision is left up to the facility. Others have rent lock programs if you agree to stay with them for a certain amount of time. Do not rush this part of the process, and make sure that you are making the best decision for you, for your family, and for your wallet.
Home Health Attachment: A newer feature that some facilities are adding, but something worth looking into, is finding a community that has a relationship with/or an internal home health care agency. This means that instead of shopping around for a home healthcare agency when your family is working and you need groceries, you can instead have a caregiver for an hour or two to do your errands, meal prep, and for companionship.
Safety: One of the biggest factors in choosing a senior living community, is making sure that this community will support you. Ensuring that the building is up to code and that the staff members are certified are important to the process of elimination. Are there adequate grab bars in the bathroom, in the shower/tub especially?
Have they been inspected by the state? Some facilities are closing across the country due to low-quality care. Care begins with the building, but it has to be maintained by those who work in it. Making sure that a facility will keep you safe, will not only protect you, but it will give your family peace of mind.
- Reviews: A facility’s success is seen within the reviews, and feedback left behind by employees, residents, former residents, and family members. The reviews posted on a community’s website generally have a favorable leaning, so checking Google, Yelp, and other feedback oriented websites are more likely to give you a well-balanced perspective on a facility. Make sure to read responses left by a variety of people, not just residents, but nurses, CNA/CMAs, administrative staff members, and family members.
Which Senior Living Community Fits Your Personality
This facility fits my healthcare needs, but is it the one for me?
Besides the facility itself, there are other things you should look at and consider. For instance, does the community fit your personality? Does the community have events you enjoy? Do the people seem like your kind of people? Is it uppity or is it low class, and which is a better fit for you? Are the workers there friendly and do they seem caring?
In general, many folks highly recommend seeing if you can talk to a resident, in addition to staff members to gain an insider perspective of what it is like to actually live at this facility.
Aside from administrative staff members, a helpful person to talk to would be an aide/caregiver that works at the facility, to make sure that the aide to resident ratio is manageable. Also, this will help you to know whether the workers are amicable, personable, or if you connect with them or not.
For assisted living facilities: Are residents’ call lights being answered in a timely fashion? Are resident concerns being addressed? And is there a place for resident concerns? Do they look well-staffed? Are there various opportunities for outings, activities, etc.?
For memory care facilities: Are residents properly engaged? Do employees participate in a specialized training programs to interact with and converse with folks that have early/advanced stages of Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other diseases associated with the senior age group? Are there lots of helpful activities to keep residents and their brains active?
More Questions to Ask
- Do I need single-floor arrangements?
- Would I need a step-in shower, shower with a shower chair/bench, or spa tub?
- Does this place seem welcoming and inviting to visitors/residents?
- Is there a likelihood that I will have a roommate?
- Is this a safe distance from my children/family?
- Is this facility wheel-chair friendly (bathrooms especially)?
- Does this facility allow for pets/service animals?
- Does this facility have a kitchen that can accommodate my dietary needs (such as low sodium, lactose-intolerant, etc.?
- Do the facility offer classes and sessions on important topics like security (scam emails, phone calls, etc…), the signs of elder abuse, exercise regimens, etc…?
Making a Final Decision
I have found the best senior living community for me, what do I do now?
Once you have narrowed down your list to the final one, do a final look over your priorities list, and make sure that it has everything that you need. Make sure the facility is within your price range, within a proper distance between you and your family, etc.
Have one last family meeting regarding your arrangements and contact the facility about your life-changing decision. Also, schedule a medical assessment with one of their nurses to make sure that they can accurately address your personal care needs.
Additionally, have a discussion with yourself to confirm that this is the right decision, for your health, for your well-being. Also, make sure it’s right for your loved ones and family. Make sure you are ready to turn over a new leaf for a chance to start over.
When signing contracts, make sure that you have a trusted family member or loved one with you so you don’t agree to something that you were not made aware of and that you aren’t being ripped off.
Wow, you’ve made it to the end of your decision. You were able to create a list of priorities that you wanted in a facility, found communities that addressed your level of care needs, stayed within your budget, and came to a wonderful conclusion. Now, the facility you chose is going to become your new home.
Don’t fool yourself, this is going to be a big change. It won’t be easy at first. Choosing a senior living community and then actually moving to one is very different. It is a very tough yet rewarding process. It can yield many benefits in both the long and the short run.
Congratulations on making a choice that will improve your quality of life for years to come!