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You’re at that point: It’s time to explore senior living communities for your loved one because home care is no longer an option. It was a difficult decision to come to terms with, and now you’re worried about choosing the right senior living community. There are so many communities and so much terminology. Where do you even start to look?

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To make the process easier for everyone, we’ve identified tips on what to look for in a senior living community to ensure you’re finding the best care for your loved one, including the following topics:

  • Understand the options for senior living lifestyle and care
  • Pinpoint which senior living lifestyle your loved one needs
  • Know what to ask to get the best answers about community quality
  • Make sure the community you choose is staffed to meet your loved one’s needs
  • Learn about different amenities and their associated costs
  • Find out if resident activities align with what your loved one enjoys
  • Reach out for more resources and information, if necessary

Understand your loved one's options for senior living lifestyle and care

To understand what to look for in a senior living community, you should first get an understanding of differences among the senior living lifestyle options.

What is Assisted Living?

Seniors in assisted living get the medical and other support they need for daily activities, while also having access to things like enriching activities and fun social events. These seniors may also need additional support, like memory care or skilled care.

Independent Living

If your loved one is a sassy senior who doesn’t require active levels of assistance, independent living is ideal. Many seniors choose independent living because they’re tired of maintaining a home and want a life with fewer complications.

Supportive Living

Seniors who need supportive senior living have the same needs as those who need assisted living, but may need assistance with the cost. It’s not separate or different—supportive living is simply a cost-effective way to help seniors age in place.

Memory Care

It’s often difficult for families to know the right time for memory care. If you feel your loved one is no longer safe to live at home on their own because of memory-related issues like Alzheimer’s or dementia, memory care can make their life—and yours—easier.

Personal Care

Personal care actually empowers seniors to live more independent lives by helping them with medical support and any other support they need for daily activities. By making sure every need is met, seniors who get personal care enjoy a lower-stress life.

Skilled Care

Seniors who need skilled care have their medical needs met by skilled or licensed medical experts. This can include wound care, regular injections, and more.

This short guide breaks down details of the different senior living lifestyle  options to help you choose what's best. Get the guide now. >>

Ask questions to determine the senior living lifestyle your loved one needs

Now that you have a better idea of what types of lifestyles and care are available in senior living communities, think about which choices are best for your loved one. There are many signs that your loved one needs senior living, but determining what lifestyle will fit their needs may not be as clear. Start by asking yourself a few questions.

Is your loved one's chronic health issue getting worse? 

It bothers you to see it, but yes, your loved one’s condition is undeniably worse, and treatment is becoming more complicated. Your loved one may need personal care.

Can your loved one still take prescribed medications as instructed? 

Have they been missing doses or taking too much? If medication management has become an issue, look for an assisted living community that provides medication management (which is not to be confused with medication administration).

Are daily household maintenance tasks keeping your loved one from enjoying the things they love? 

If Mom is tired of cleaning a large house or Dad is done with mowing the lawn, independent living may be the right choice. Seniors who choose independent living just want a lower-maintenance lifestyle with opportunities for new experiences. 

Have you noticed your loved one repeatedly forgetting about what they were doing in the middle of a task? 

We’ve all had moments of walking into the kitchen and asking, “Now, why did I come here?” But if that happens to your loved one frequently, and they can’t answer their own question, memory care might be necessary. The day-to-day consequences of memory problems only get worse if you and your loved one try to deal with it alone. Make sure the assisted living senior community you choose has excellent memory care support.

Determine the community quality, from cleanliness to staff attentiveness

The bottom line of this process is finding a high-quality senior living community for your loved one. When you’re ready to tour communities, keep your eyes and ears open about important things to look for. 

Some things about community quality are obvious, like cleanliness. If the community isn’t visibly clean and/or passes the “smell test,” you can assume it extends to what you can’t see. But cleanliness is just part of the quality of care senior living communities provide. Here are other things you really need to look for:

Senior Living Community Staff

Are staff levels adequate to meet the needs of the residents? Is there a high acuity of care? Plainly explain your loved one’s needs and ask very specific questions about what staff will be there to meet them.   

Night Shifts

Not only is proper sleep crucial for seniors, so is proper overnight care. What duties will the overnight staff perform? Make sure that the answers leave you feeling good about your loved one’s overnight safety and sleep quality. 

Ongoing Staff Training

To stay up-to-date on best practices, senior living community staff needs ongoing professional training. Ask how often staff is trained and what type of onboarding training they receive. This will help you see if care will be consistently good, no matter who is working.

Memory Support Experts

Are there available experts with special training in care for residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia? If your loved one needs memory care, make sure the community you choose is set up to meet all of their current and future needs.

Staff Interaction

This is a biggie. Definitely ask specific questions about their approach to staff interactions, but mostly, keep your eyes peeled and note what you see. 

Positive, productive staff interactions are crucial to ensure happy senior community residents. Does there seem to be a genuine connection between the residents and the staff? Do you observe staff responding to residents in a timely way? Also, ask if your loved one needs an additional service such as a duty companion, what is the process?

Combine your observations, answers, and your gut feeling, and let that guide you—and other family members—to the right place for your loved one. 

Understand the amenities and their associated costs

Not all senior living community amenities are created equal. While there are some basic services most senior living communities offer, make sure you are clear on what a specific community offers. Amenities and services vary by senior living community, and they can come with associated costs.

It’s important to consider different options when looking for a place that’s right for your loved one. Most senior living communities include these basic services:

  • Pharmacy access
  • Diet and nutrition guidance
  • Physical, occupational, and speech therapy
  • ADLs (activities of daily living) assistance
  • Mental health services 
  • Safety and security
  • Dining with personalized options

Depending on the senior living community, there may be extra costs and fees for the following:

  • Maintenance, services, and special activities
  • Vehicle storage, such as a carport, garage, or parking space
  • À la carte services, like dry cleaning, meal delivery, haircuts, and massages
  • Pet rent and a pet deposit (pet policies vary, so ask the sales team about pricing and restrictions)

Don’t underestimate the importance of amenities and enriching activities.

Focusing on physical and medical needs is important, of course, but leisure activities are just as important. The impact of leisure activities on older adults’ cognitive function, physical function, and mental health is scientifically proven. However, we don’t really need science to tell us that human connection and fun are must-haves for happiness.

Today, senior activities have gotten, well, a little groovy, because baby boomers have completely reshaped our perception of which activities seniors enjoy. Look past the stereotypical shuffleboard and think yoga, meditation, arts, and sports. If your loved one loves yoga, make sure the community you choose gives them the opportunity to keep doing yoga.

In senior living communities, life-enriching activities that often come at no additional cost can include:

  • Social and family events
  • Happy hours
  • Book and walking clubs
  • Exercise, wellness, and fitness activities
  • Movies and live entertainment
  • Arts and crafts
  • Cooking
  • Guest lecturers
  • Religious services

Get help pinpointing the senior living community your loved one needs.

Now that you know what to ask and what to look for in a senior living community, get answers to your questions. Take a deeper dive into the nuances of each senior living community lifestyle and care type to pinpoint exactly what your loved one needs.

We’ve put together some guidelines to help you in your search for the right senior living community—begin with Where to Start: Choosing a Senior Living Community. In this guide, we dive deeper into:

  • What to expect from different senior living lifestyles
  • Who is the best fit for each lifestyle
  • Which amenities and services to look for
  • What type of support different communities offer

Get answers to your questions—check out the guide now!

Choosing a senior living community

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