Is it time to make senior living arrangements for a friend, relative, or loved one? There can be many reasons to make this particular decision. Perhaps the senior needs help with day-to-day activities such as cooking or bathing. Or maybe they've decided that the old house they've called home for so many years is simply too big for them to manage and maintain.
In any case, there a lot of factors to consider before make a firm decision about senior living arrangements. You probably already know about the different types of senior living-in-home care, independent living retirement communities, assisted living communities, and nursing homes, to name a few. However, you might not immediately think of some of the other factors that will (and should) influence your decision.
If the senior living arrangement you are considering involves relocating your elderly loved one from their current home, then location needs to be one of your biggest considerations. Moving a senior out of their home and into an assisted living community might be a good choice if the senior is struggling with mobility or other issues, but there are situations where the simple change in location can actually make matters worse.
Think about it: does the senior you are making arrangements for have an established group of friends near their old home? Family? Children? Grandchildren? Regular activities? A church they attend? Doctors they've seen for years? Moving a loved one far away from their support system and hobbies, simply with the goal of getting them in a great retirement community or assisted living home, can backfire. It removes everything they value in life and can lead to a major decline in happiness and contentment.
To make matters worse, moving seniors out of familiar environments can also exacerbate memory loss problems. Bottom line, finding senior living arrangements close to home should be a top priority.
2. Other Residents
As a rule of thumb, you aren't ready to start making senior living arrangements after a single positive tour of a facility. Even if you are highly impressed with a retirement community or assisted living community after your first visit, you still need to come back multiple times to truly get a sense of whether or not a facility is the right place for your loved one.
In particular, taking the time to meet and chat with residents who currently call the community home is a great way to determine a number of things. First off, you want to know if your older loved one will fit in and feel at home in the community or facility. If able, seniors should join in for all tours and visits, with the priority of interacting with existing residents. If a senior hits it off with a few other residents right away, that's a good indication that he or she could build a good network of friends there.
Talking with other residents is also a good way to get a clearer picture of a senior living community. Guided tours are a great way to "see the sights" and learn the stats of a facility, but you need to remember that staff at these types of communities are always going to try to put their best foot forward when visitors are around. Visiting the facility or community unannounced and just walking around to talk to residents can give a clearer picture of what life is actually like there. Plus, you can get insight from other residents on the overall quality of life, the caliber of meals and events, the kindliness of staff members, and more.
3. Waiting Lists
Often, the best independent living communities, assisted living communities, or nursing homes are full at all times, with a lengthy waiting list of seniors who are interested in becoming residents. In other words, don't just assume that you will be able to make senior living arrangements one week and move in the next. On the contrary, most experts advise seniors and their families to start looking at senior living communities years in advance of when they will want or need to move. If you need something more urgent, though, make sure that waiting lists are one of your top topics of conversation when you visit different facilities. You need to know, accurately, whether the wait for an apartment, room, or bed at the facility will be weeks, months, or years.
Also, don't assume that every established senior care facility with existing residents is properly licensed. While it's unlikely that you will uncover a fraudulent or unlicensed care facility during your search, it's still important to do your homework. Do some Google searching to find the licensing and regulation agency for long-term senior care facilities in your state. For instance, in Michigan, the Long Term Care Division of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is the office to call. Pennsylvania, as another example, has a Division of Nursing Care Facilities in its Department of Health. After finding the appropriate board, just give them a call to check the licensing information of the long-term care facility you are considering.
5. Internet Chatter
In addition to checking licensing information, it's not a bad idea to do a Google search on the name of your target facility as well. It's possible you could find mentions of the facility on review sites such as the Yellow Pages or Better Business Bureau, or on senior care message boards. If the chatter and reviews are positive, that's obviously a good sign. If the chatter is negative, on the other hand, then you should have misgivings about that facility. For instance, if the BBB lists complaints about billing or service, those are indicators that you might want to look elsewhere for a reputable senior care facility.
The process of finding a long-term senior living facility is long and complicated, involving a lot of different factors and moving parts. Of course, probably the biggest factor is the senior's current health, both mentally and physically. You will have to consider these aspects of the equation-and perhaps even consult a doctor-to determine what type of senior living arrangement is best. However, once you know whether you are looking for an independent retirement community or a nursing home, the five factors listed above should all be at or near the forefront of your mind.