When you think of senior living, what springs to mind? Many of us hold outdated ideas of what senior living was when we visited our grandparents twenty or more years ago. However, senior living communities are nothing like they were just decades ago.
Senior living today is nothing like a sterile hospital, but is instead more like a community hotel with innovative approaches to overall wellness. It’s no wonder older adults are including senior living communities in their retirement plans; senior living means more amenities and fewer household responsibilities.
But how do you know which community to choose? Today’s older adults have a variety of choices when it comes to senior living solutions, which is empowering. However, too many choices make choosing a community feel overwhelming or even confusing.
Fortunately, you can help your loved one find a senior living community they will love for years to come, if you know the right questions to ask during your research process. Here are the top eight questions that can narrow down your options as you begin your research and schedule community tours.
1. Where are you located?
Let’s start with a basic question that covers more than just an address, neighborhood, or city. Just like any real estate purchase, the location of a senior living community matters. You want to be sure you pick a community that is in a desired town or neighborhood that will improve quality of life and maximize family visits.
Look for a location that suits your loved one’s needs, as well as yours. For example, you might choose to look at communities in a favorite city or neighborhood that your loved one has ties to, or you might choose one that will make stopping by for a visit after work or on the weekends easier with your commute.
Although you won’t necessarily always be able to find a community in your exact desired location, you can narrow down your choice based on how close the location matches the needs of your loved one and family.
2. What senior living lifestyle options do you offer?
Next, it’s time to ask a question that nails down whether the community you are looking at will give the type of assistance your loved one needs now and in the future. Not all senior living communities are designed to serve every senior, and that’s okay. Communities offer different types of care solutions so they can best serve their residents. Getting to know more about the options a community offers will help you make your decision.
Independent living is tailored to serve the active senior who wants to get rid of home maintenance chores and discover more time to pursue their passions or hobbies. These communities have team members available around the clock for security or emergency purposes, but they typically do not have caregivers on-site to provide daily assistance.
Assisted living offers similar maintenance-free amenities and services as independent living communities, but with the added assistance and reassurance that around-the-clock caregivers can offer. Residents who thrive in assisted living often need some type of assistance with one or more activities of daily living, such as dressing, eating, or showering.
Memory care is specially designed for those living with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. Their environmental touches and specially trained team members meet the ongoing challenges that accompany the disease.
Many senior care communities offer more than one option at a single location, providing continuity of care and enabling your loved one to age in place as their needs change over the years.
If you aren’t sure which option is best for your loved one, consult their physician. Your loved one’s doctor will not only know the ins and outs of senior living, but will also know your loved one’s current and future needs. They will be able to offer a solid recommendation for you. The senior living community staff can also provide information and advice on the appropriate care level for your loved one, depending on their needs.
Is it time to get help for you or your loved one? Take our 4-minute assessment to get more detail on the right direction for you.Take the Assessment
3. What are your monthly and additional costs?
Now it’s time to review how senior living fits into your loved one’s budget. Senior living communities can be more affordable than most people believe, especially when compared to the cost of caring for your loved one at home, which is a pleasant surprise to many family members. However, it is still important to ensure a community’s fees meet your loved one’s financial goals.
Begin by asking about monthly fees and what those fees cover, as well as any additional costs that could arise if your loved one’s care needs increase. You can also explore other options to offset costs by inquiring if the community accepts your loved one’s long-term care insurance, VA benefits, Medicare or Medicaid benefits, as well as the tax benefits of senior living.
Whether you're just starting to explore senior living for yourself or a loved one, we recommend reading this guide on financial planning for senior living.
4. What does your activity calendar look like?
Investing in senior living means enjoying the amenities and opportunities that come along with the community, including socialization opportunities. Research has demonstrated that seniors who feel lonely or are isolated from their peers are more likely to suffer negative health outcomes. Perhaps the biggest perk of senior living is the easy access to friendly neighbors and team members.
One way that exceptional senior living communities encourage connection between residents is by curating an activity calendar that appeals to everyone. To determine if the senior living community features interesting events and programs, ask for a copy of the activity calendar and look for opportunities that would interest your loved one.
Keep an eye out for activities that enhance different dimensions of wellness and are the hallmarks of a well-designed activity calendar, such as:
- Exercise groups
- Spiritual activities
- Excursions into the community
- Volunteer opportunities
- Trivia and games
- Live concerts
- Fun socials
5. What can you tell me about your meals?
For many older adults, preparing meals for themselves three times per day is overwhelming and can feel like a real chore. Senior living communities offer a variety of dining options and plans, which you should research while narrowing down your choices.
Although some people still harbor the stereotype that senior living food mirrors “hospital food,” in most cases, senior living cooks take pride in preparing delicious meals for residents that are never bland or boring. Get to know more about the dining program by asking to see a copy of the community’s weekly menu and looking for delicious and varied options. Menus should be seasonal and offer a mix of comforting favorites and new dishes to try.
During your tour of the dining room, ask more about the kitchen team and their commitment to serving residents. The dining room should feel comfortable, welcoming, and social. The dining team should be friendly and committed to excellent service for everyone, no matter their care or nutritional needs. If your loved one needs a specialized menu or dining adaptations, inquire if those can be easily met at the community as well.
6. What training do caregivers receive?
When seeking senior living, it’s imperative to pay attention to the team members working at the community. After all, these team members are the ones who will be getting to know your loved one and caring for them daily. For assisted living and memory care communities especially, the foundation of service lies with the caregiver team.
Determine the quality of the team by inquiring about training. Ask if the community offers the opportunity for their caregivers to receive a thorough orientation, as well as ongoing education about senior health topics and interventions. These answers can point to a well-educated and empowered team.
If you're considering memory care, we suggest reading this interview with a Memory Care caregiver.
7. Are families encouraged to be involved in community life?
Superior senior living communities encourage family members and friends to do more than just visit their loved ones. They want family members and friends to be involved with life in the community.
Look for communities that encourage family members to visit often, as well as those that offer special family events. You can inquire if there are family support groups that would meet your needs, if you are interested, as well as confirming that family involvement is encouraged in the care planning process. These observations can determine if family input is valued and sought after at the community.
8. How do you make the move and transition easier?
Finally, ask about the transition or move, even before you make your decision. Moving to a senior living community is just like any other move: It can be stressful. Exceptional communities will have a plan in place to make the new resident feel comfortable, welcomed, and settled in.
Discover how the move-in process is organized and if there is a specific person to walk you and your loved one through the moving process. You can also look for extra special events to make new residents feel welcome, like a community welcome committee or a new resident lunch.
Selling a house before moving into a senior living community? Read this step-by-step guide to help you map out the entire process.
Ready to learn more?
These eight questions are an excellent start as you begin to search for a senior living community, but this isn’t a comprehensive list. Learn more questions to ask and observations to make by downloading our free resource, 5 Steps for Evaluating and Choosing the Right Senior Living Community.
Then, when you’re ready to begin exploring exceptional senior living, ensure a Cedarhurst community is on your list. Our communities offer a variety of senior living solutions, and residents enjoy exceptional care and amenities.
Learn more about your Cedarhurst options by contacting us. We would love to meet you and your loved one and tell you more about what makes our communities so unique.