How to Choose the Right Senior Living Community for a Loved One
Today’s older adults are fortunate to have a wide variety of options when it comes to senior housing. But the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming, especially for families who haven’t been through this process before.
Families sometimes say that not knowing what to look for and how to start their search keeps them from doing anything at all. Then, when a crisis occurs, they are forced to find a solution quickly under high stress.
To help you and your family start your search in a thoughtful and methodical manner, we’ve assembled a few tips.
7 Tips to Help in the Search for a Senior Living Community
- Type of care: The first step is to decide what type of care your senior loved one requires. How much care and support do they need each day? Are they a candidate for an independent living apartment or villa, or does your family elder need the added support that caregivers in an assisted living community provide? Has your loved one recently been diagnosed with some form of dementia? While assisted living might be a good short-term solution, you might want to consider a senior living community that offers both assisted living and memory care. If you aren’t sure what type of care your senior family member needs, take a few minutes to complete the Sunrise Care Questionnaire. In fewer than five minutes, you will have a better idea about what type of senior housing your loved one likely requires.
- Staff training and longevity: When you talk with the staff at each community, make a point to ask about caregiver training and turnover. Having a well-trained, experienced team of caregivers is vital to resident health and happiness. A tenured staff also promotes continuity of care, which allows residents and caregivers to build meaningful relationships.
- Style of community: Each senior living community has its own unique personality. Some are formal, while others are more relaxed. Which one is your loved one most comfortable with? Is having an opportunity to dress up for dinner each night exciting to them, or would they prefer a more casual community where jeans at dinner are standard? As you tour communities, take notes about each one’s environment and culture and if you could see your family member living happily there.
- Surveys, reviews, and awards: Take time to search for and read reviews from other families. You can find them on a variety of different websites. Also check to see how unbiased organizations like J.D. Power rate the company that manages any community you are considering. Finally, ask the community for a copy of their state survey results. Many keep them in a binder in their reception area or executive director’s office. This will help you better understand how well the community performs on site visits by state regulators. Depending on the state in which you live, some of these results are also published online.
- Enrichment opportunities: One primary reason older adults chose to move to a senior living community is the opportunity to socialize and participate in daily life enrichment activities. When you visit each community, take time to join or observe an ongoing activity. Also review the community’s weekly or monthly calendar to see what kinds of programs are scheduled. As you tour, pay attention to whether or not there are informal groups of residents enjoying a cup of coffee, a card game, a movie, or another type of socializing. This is an essential part of everyday life in a senior community.
- Changing needs: It’s important to know how the community handles changing needs. It might be that a senior has been hospitalized for an illness or surgery and needs a little extra assistance to recover once they are home. Sometimes, however, a senior has a change in health that requires more permanent help. Is the community able to handle those changes, or will your loved one be forced to move again? One additional question to ask is what conditions, if any, would require a senior to move? An example might be if the senior develops Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.
- Understand the commitment: Be sure to ask for a copy of any contracts and documents you will have to sign so that you understand what kind of commitment is required. Does the contract require a long-term commitment, or is it a month-to-month lease? What happens if your family member doesn’t like it there and wants to move? Are deposits or entrance fees refundable?
If you’d like to learn more about finding the right senior living community, this podcast with Sunrise expert Kelly Myers will help. Kelly answers some of the most commonly asked questions families have about senior living and shares insight about what to expect during your search.