There are so many things to consider when selecting an assisted living community. The best plan is to take your time, research several homes, and get input from both your senior and other family members before jumping into a decision.
There was a time when children grew up and raised their families in the same hometown or area. Now, adult children are spread across the country. So when an assisted living community seems like the best choice one of the first questions is: Where? Does a senior want to stay close to their hometown and old friends or move closer to an adult child (and grandchildren!)? If a senior is thinking of a community near an adult child consider the advantages and disadvantages:
Moving into an assisted living community shouldn’t mean a senior gives up all the hobbies and activities they enjoy. On the contrary, they should be better able to enjoy these activities with help from the community and the company of similar-minded residents. Not only will these activities make new living arrangements more palatable but they can improve mental, emotional, and physical health. Find out what types of activities and events are offered at the community and if they’re open to new clubs or events. Are their rules against your senior bringing the “tools of their trade” such as woodworking equipment or gardening supplies to their new home? And don’t forget to ask the senior in your life what types of activities are desirable to them. A weekly sing-a-long isn’t a plus if he is interested in painting and drawing. A book club won’t help her make friends if she really wants someone to play bridge with.
The quality and range of care services offered by the community can greatly affect your senior’s life. Will there be housekeeping, food service, medication oversight, transportation to apointments? But assisted living shouldn’t force a senior to relinquish all their independence. How much flexibility will your senior have in choosing their lifestyle? For example, can they cook their own meals one day and eat in the community dining room another day or are they locked into a meal plan? Also look to future needs. Your senior may still be driving but, if they need transportation in the future, will the community be able to step in?
Assisted living communities come in all shapes and types. Some big, some small. Some have the feeling of an apartment complex with each resident living their own life, while other actively work to bring residents together in group activities. Some coddle, others encourage residents to try new things. What would best suit your senior?
Nothing replaces an actual visit to a community. Anyone can look good on paper (or a website) but reality is revealed when you visit. Actually, at least two visits would be best. One for adult children so they can get all the information and ask all the questions they need and another with adult children and the senior. On the second trip, the senior can ask their questions while adult children can spend their time gauging their parent’s feelings about a community, pointing out positives a senior may overlook, and getting that all important second look.
Assisted living community administrators only want to show you the community’s best face. It’s their job to convince people to move into the community. You’ll never hear anything negative from them. So how do you get the true picture? Hone your chatting skills because casual conversations will help you learn all you need to know. Who should you talk to?
Don’t rely on “official introductions” provided by community administrators. Instead during a casual tour chat with employees, residents, and families you run into. What to ask? What’s important to you and your senior? Cleanliness? Food variety? Activities? Attitude of caregivers? Administrators will tell you they are all top-notch. Unofficial conversations will give you a more realistic picture.