Tips for finding a senior living community.

Virtual VillageIf there are signs that alternative living arrangements may be needed for you or a loved one, it may be time to choose a retirement community. In most cases, families and seniors begin to consider senior living options when it becomes difficult for the senior to do daily living activities without support and assistance from other people.

Be prepared to ask the retirement community questions.

Senior adults can face different challenges as they age, including loss of vision, poor balance, memory loss, fatigue, loneliness, or dementia. In some cases, a physician may prescribe a move to a senior care facility or retirement community.

Whether you have immediate senior living needs or long-term needs, planning can seem overwhelming.

1. Focus on this important decision. It will take some time.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • What do I know about the different options for senior living care?
  • What do I need to know?
  • How do I get objective information I can trust?
  • Can I afford to live in a retirement community now, and in the future?
  • Do I understand the difference between price and value?

After asking these questions, you may realize that you know very little about long-term care options for senior. But you are not alone. Most seniors and their families start off the same way.

2. Making the best choice will involve three important factors:

  • Quality of life
  • Standards of care
  • Cost and value

3. Define your vision of high quality of life and target that vision.

Defining quality of life in a retirement community can be difficult. The factors most commonly mentioned by seniors and their families include:

  • Comfort and peace of mind
  • Affordability and financial security
  • Quality and value
  • Very high standards of care
  • Optimized independence
  • Socialization
  • Individual recognition
  • Intellectual stimulation
  • Self-expression and fulfillment

4. Prioritize high standards of care.

When reviewing and researching senior residences, pay attention to clinical procedures and technology used within the senior community. You also want to be sure that senior community is well-staffed. Family members should get answers to these questions:

  • How will you respond if my parent has a medical emergency?
  • How will you continuously monitor parent’s condition without an unusual invasion of privacy?
  • How will you monitor and deal with the possibility that my parent’s condition may change?
  • How would you describe how your community’s staff works over the 24-hour day to provide care for the Residents?
  • On average, about how many minutes of personalized attention per 24-hour day does a Resident like my parent receive directly?

5. Find a balance between affordability, price, and value.

Senior living communities are value-enhanced and service-enriched experiences. So while retirement communities may appear expensive, you will need to look at the overall value you receive. Retirement communities offer a variety of options for people with different budgets. Begin by putting costs in perspective with an objective evaluation of your or your loved one’s current cost of living compared with the anticipated cost of personal care.

6. Address the idea of price versus value.

You may have been conservative in making most of your purchase decisions over the years. If senior living is what you need, it will likely be the most important purchase you ever make. So should you look for the lowest price, buying only the basics? Or should you decide on a comfortable, higher-value retirement community? It’s important to consider both affordable value and your ideal living experience.

7. Balance the first impressions with reality.

When you visit a retirement community, take first impressions you receive seriously. However, you should balance those impressions with other factors. First impressions might include the overall neighborhood, such as the quality of the landscaping, the layout of retirement community campus, and the senior residence’s exterior. When you enter a senior residence, think about if it makes you feel comfortable. Explore the retirement community’s public areas and remember that they are a shared part of the private living space. Remember that you aren’t trying to replace the living area of your current home. Instead, you’re making a decision to exchange a relatively large home for a more appropriate living option that offers senior services specifically designed for this stage of your or your loved one’s life.

8. Get input from several objective people.

When reviewing different retirement communities, always get the opinions and perspectives of the staff, current residents, and the family members of the current residents. Ask about a typical day at the retirement community and how the staff is involved. Ask about opportunities for social interaction for residents in the retirement community. Most importantly, ask current residents and their families a few of these questions:

  • How do you currently feel about your decision to move to this retirement community?
  • How did you work through the complex decision-making process?
  • What were the biggest obstacles you overcame before you actually made the decision?
  • If you knew then what you know now, what would you do differently?

9. Consider what the future may hold for you.

As we all age, we will experience increasing levels of health issues. You need to understand how the retirement community will charge for the costs of increased care that may be needed. Consider the retirement community’s policies if it were to determine it could no longer provide the care for you or your loved one. Knowing the answers to these tough questions can provide long-term comfort for you and your family.