If you and your aging loved one are ready to begin searching for senior living solutions, you are likely feeling a mix of emotions. You may be excited to discover that senior living communities make health and wellness that much easier for your loved one, and you may be relieved to know that socialization and safety are a priority as well.
Senior living communities offer residents an active lifestyle with the additional assistance they need to stay healthy and happy. Even better, the right senior living community can also reassure family members by decreasing the risk of caregiver burnout and easing their caregiving duties.
However, finding the right senior living can be an overwhelming or even confusing process for most people. Here are five steps to get you moving toward your best decision.
Step 1: Determine Your Loved One’s Needs
It’s important to realize that not all senior living is the same. In fact, communities are designed to serve seniors who require varying amounts of assistance. There are a variety of options available, but not all communities will offer the level of assistance and support your loved one needs. While most communities serve seniors in a number of settings, including independent living, assisted living, and memory care settings, care options can vary by community, so don’t make assumptions about what’s available.
You can use these brief definitions to determine your loved one’s current needs, as well as what their future needs may be.
Independent living is ideal for seniors who don’t need assistance with daily tasks and are searching for a maintenance-free lifestyle that includes amenities and perks they wouldn’t be able to enjoy in their own homes. These communities offer services such as:
- Housekeeping and groundskeeping
- Access to wellness resources designed to keep residents healthy
- A lively dining room featuring chef-styled meals
- Events and excursions for residents to pursue a passion or explore new hobbies with neighbors
Assisted living provides residents with around-the-clock caregivers who can assist with daily tasks such as dressing, bathing, or mobility. These communities are beautiful and offer spacious apartments, but the amenities do not stop there. Exceptional assisted living communities offer perks such as:
- A robust life enrichment calendar
- Delicious meals served in a social dining room
- Regular family events
- Wellness perks such as therapy services, group exercise programs, and physician visits
Memory care communities are specially designed to assist seniors living with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. Caregivers, nurses, and other staff members receive comprehensive ongoing training about dementia care best practices. The community is also designed to feel just like home, with events to promote healthy socialization. Residents have safe access to outdoor areas and enjoy relationships with staff members that help to increase feelings of peace and comfort.
Skilled Nursing and Short-Term Rehabilitation
Skilled nursing facilities provide more clinical care for those living with complex medical conditions, offering the necessary around-the-clock nursing care these seniors need. Additionally, seniors will receive similar care if they are recovering from an illness, procedure or injury. Although the care is similar, seniors who receive short-term rehabilitation get just that—enough rehabilitation to get them back to their daily lives.
Often, seniors who are discharged from short-term rehabilitation are transferred to an assisted living community. A number of assisted living communities offer a certain level of physical rehabilitation.
Step 2: Narrow Down a Location
Now that you understand the types of senior living available, it’s time to narrow down your list of potential communities even further. Let’s talk about location.
Choosing senior living is similar to any other real estate transaction: Location matters. Try to find a location radius within a favorite neighborhood or in an area where family visits are easier. It’s also wise to search for a community near your loved one’s preferred hospital or physician.
Although you might not be able to find senior living communities within your exact location desires, you can find options nearby, which is an excellent start.
Step 3: Talk to the Doctor ... and Your Neighbors
Once you have your location narrowed down, it’s time to start asking others about their experience with senior living. Recommendations from your loved one’s physician or other medical team members can go a long way for you and for your loved one.
Talk candidly about your search for senior living with those you trust, including neighbors or friends who have walked this road before. Others can provide insight by offering their experience, including what they wish they had done, now that they can objectively look back on the process. Remember that everyone’s experience is unique and not necessarily the same as yours.
Finally, check out online reviews and supplement them with other views. If you have a family member, coworker, friend, or neighbor who is familiar with a community, ask their opinion about their experiences. It’s likely that if their loved one still lives in the community, the rave customer reviews you’re reading are likely giving you a true picture. Online reviews can be a good indication of care—people used to be more motivated to write negative reviews, but not anymore. People want to help each other, and spreading the word about a good thing is the new thing.
Step 4: Take a Tour
The best way to see what life is actually like inside of a senior living community is to take a tour. In-person or virtual tours give you a glimpse into apartments, amenities, and the lifestyle available there.
Call communities in advance to schedule your in-person or virtual tour. This way, you can ensure the community can give you the proper attention, and the community representative won’t feel rushed while working with you. Next, be sure to involve your loved one throughout the process by inviting them to attend the tour with you.
While on the tour, make key observations that could help you choose the best community for your loved one. Consider questions like these:
- Do residents seem healthy and happy?
- Are there activities and events happening while you are there?
- Is the community clean and and feel like home?
- Are there areas to socialize with other residents and visitors?
- Are apartments spacious, light-filled, and welcoming?
- Does the cost fit into your loved one’s budget?
You might not be able to get the answers to all of your questions during your initial tour, and that is okay. You’ll want to follow up with a few of your favorite communities after that first tour, anyway.
Step 5: Plan a Visit to Experience Community Life
Once you have your desired senior living community list narrowed down to one or two choices, go beyond a simple tour and schedule time for your loved one to experience a slice of life there. Follow up with the communities and ask if your loved one can attend a meal, as well as an activity or special event. This not only involves your loved one even more in the process, but it may ease jitters about community life if they are able to experience the benefits firsthand.
If possible, attend a family event or support group. This can give you further insight into the community as well. Use this time to see if your loved one enjoyed the opportunity and to gauge how welcoming staff members are. You can also use this time to ask any follow-up questions you may have thought of after your initial tour.
After spending some time experiencing community life and speaking with the professionals who work there, you may find it easier to choose the senior living community best for your loved one’s situation.
Choosing a senior living community doesn’t need to be overwhelming, especially once you have the steps you need to make your most confident decision. Remember to involve your loved one as much as possible throughout the process; after all, it will be their new home. Want more guidance? Dig into even more expert tips for choosing the senior living community that is best for your loved one.