Senior Living – when is the right time to consider your options?
According to the 2010 U.S. Census Report in 2011, the Baby Boom generation began to turn age 65. As the large Baby Boom generation ages, we are experiencing rapid growth in both the number of the population aged 65 and older and their share of the total population. This means that you or one of your loved ones is now approaching the time to begin considering senior living options.
Paula Carder, an associate professor at the Institute on Aging at Portland State University and co-author of “Inside Assisted Living: The Search for Home” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009) says that “The best time to look is six months to a year before your parent will need to make the move.” Waiting until you or your loved one is being discharged from a hospital or rehab center means you will have fewer choices of the best living choices possible.
What are senior living facilities?
Independent Living is a housing arrangement designed exclusively for seniors, generally those aged 55 and over. In general, the housing is friendlier to older adults, often being more compact, with easier navigation and no maintenance or yard work to worry about. While residents live independently, most communities offer amenities, activities, and services. Often, recreational centers or clubhouses are available on site to give seniors the opportunity to connect with peers and participate in community activities, such as arts and crafts, holiday gatherings, continuing education classes, or movie nights.
Assisted Living facilities are residential units that sometimes include a kitchen, housekeeping, meals, transportation to doctors and activities, and various levels of personal assistance.
Long-term Care support facilities are for when a person requires someone else to help residents with their physical or emotional needs over an extended period of time.
Short-term care, such as Skilled Nursing or Rehabilitation facilities are for rehabilitation needs and include expert therapists, nurses, attending physicians and skilled staff.
The National Care Planning Council states that, “at least 60% of all individuals will need extended help in one or more areas during their lifetime.” Currently, more than 900,000 Americans now live in about 39,500 assisted-living facilities, including residential care and retirement residences.
Which one is right for you or your loved one?
Is assisted living appropriate? Your first step is to make an honest appraisal of whether you or your relative can continue to live at home. If he or she needs only a minimum of help and dislikes the idea of moving, home care might be a better choice. But for gregarious people who have lost a partner and feel isolated, or are beginning to experience a decline in function, independent or assisted living can be a good option.
For help assessing your relative’s physical, mental, and financial situation, consider consulting a geriatric-care manager, who should be knowledgeable about the assisted-living options in your area. Once you have a list of locations, call each one and arrange a tour for you and your loved one.
What to look for in an assisted living facility.
Every assisted living facility is different, but there are some things you can look for across the board. Be mindful of these items as they can make the difference between living, and living well.
Observe cleanliness and odor.
Be sure to ask about the schedule of cleaning for individual rooms. Get full details on maintenance response times and what services are offered for laundry. Also, follow your nose. Does the overall facility have a pleasant smell? If a strong odor emanates from one location it will likely be the result of a single incidence, but an overall unpleasant odor can be indicative of a cleanliness problem.
Visit during activity time.
Ask to see a schedule of activities for the community and make sure there are activities which you or your loved ones enjoy. Be sure to also ask about religious observance outings if applicable. While on tour, see how widely attended the ongoing activity is. Are the residences enjoying themselves? Is the staff enjoying the participation? This last question leads to the next crucial observation point.
Observe staff friendliness.
Request to meet the management team available during your tour so you can learn firsthand the goals of the property. The friendliness of management and that observed between staff and residents is of upmost importance in choosing a place to live. The staff can be a literal lifeline for you or your loved one, and you want to ensure that eye-contact is made and interactions are positive.
Ask security and safety questions.
Safety and security features are very important for the senior and offer peace of mind for the caregiver. Make sure that bathrooms are accessible and have grab bars in convenient locations. Ask how residents contact staff if they have an emergency in their living area. Make sure you find out about staffing patterns to determine who is on-site at all times to assist residents. How do staffing patterns differ at night? How does the community assist or manage residents’ medication needs? Always ask specific questions for you or your loved one’s medical needs.
Eat a meal on property.
Dining is a big concern for most of us. Be sure to ask about entrée options, how dietary restrictions are handled, and what happens if a resident doesn’t make it to the dining hall. Be sure that you and your loved one sample a meal while on tour. Is there a variety of offerings? Is the food handled in an appropriate manner? Dining on-site not only gives first-hand evidence of what to expect, but also allows opportunities to interact with current residents.
Ask questions about personal care.
As you go through the tour process make sure you ask a lot of questions about personal care. Discuss bathing options and bathing preferences. It’s a great idea to observe the current residents while visiting communities. Are they clean shaven with well-groomed hair and nails? Are the residents dressed appropriately? Make sure to take into consideration in what activities they are involved, which may affect what they are wearing at the time (i.e. dirty clothes from gardening).
Get feedback from residents and families.
Ask residents and families, past and present, for their honest opinions about the community. Many communities have a resident council that will be happy to answer any of your questions.
Review the rules and admission contract.
Be sure to ask for a copy of the admission contract and residence rules. The facility’s contract outlines fees, services provided, and residents’ rights, and explains who will handle the administration of medications, when reassessments of a resident’s condition take place, and when a resident might be asked to transfer to a property with more care options because he or she needs more services than the current facility provides.
Go back again.
Be sure to visit your top choices more than once, at different times of the day. This will show you how things are managed during quiet and at busy times.
Is this the place?
As you are touring make sure you think about yourself or your loved one actually living at the community. Do you imagine you or your loved one being comfortable? Do you feel at ease? Are the staff and residents open, inviting and friendly? Always follow your instincts!
Remember, it is never too early to start your research into finding the best assisted living facility for you or your loved one.
Marrinson Group offers a place for every stage of care, and to suit every personalized need for independent or assisted living. We welcome your call at (954) 566-8353 or email to book your personal tour today.
(credit sources: A Place for Mom, Family Caregiver Alliance, National Care Planning Council)