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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Depending on the senior living community, there may be extra costs and fees for the following:
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:
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:
Get answers to your questions—check out the guide now!