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Contemplating A Move To A Senior Living Community

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Posted on May 25, 2010 | Share this post: Like Us on Facebook Join Us on Google Follow Us on Twitter

Life changes.  The house is too big. The yard work is overwhelming.  Health challenges may be looming, and simpler living becomes more appealing.  If you are contemplating a move to a community that caters to older residents, here are a few things to look for as you begin your search:

Explore the options before you have to move.  A crisis may necessitate a quick move, and a decision made under stress may not be a good match for you.  Plan on visiting different communities at your leisure.  Most places welcome potential residents for meals, or even short-term stays in furnished guest apartments.

The quality of the food is a top priority, and seems to be a topic of conversation for many residents. Meeting nutritional needs in a tantalizing and tasteful way is an important part of maintaining health as we age.  Be certain the food is fresh, appetizing, and suits your needs.  Many places offer several choices for all meals, and usually the menu plan for the month is readily available for visitors.

As you walk into the front lobby, most elder care communities are warm, welcoming, and well appointed.  Look beyond your first impressions to notice details that reflect the nature of the community.  Are people out and about in public spaces?  Do you hear the buzz of conversation at meal times and leisure gatherings?  What type of social opportunities are available on the campus?  Many places offer exercise, movie nights, happy hours, guest speakers and performers, walking and nature clubs. Ask to see the schedule of activities and plan your visit to observe classes of interest.

Are staff members highly visible?  Are they interacting with residents and calling them by name?  Good, consistent staff is vital for good, consistent care.  People who are happy in their work and treated well by their employers tend to stay in their positions.  You will benefit from this by building relationships with people who understand your needs because they know you.

What are the transportation options?  Some communities offer scheduled shopping trips as well as individual transportation for personal appointments.  Inquire whether there is a charge for transportation, or if it is provided as a free service to residents.  Clarify the scheduling flexibility to be certain it will meet your needs.

What happens if your needs change?  Will the facility allow you to “age in place” with support services coming to you, or will you be required to move?  Many senior communities offer a continuum of care from independent living, to assisted, to secured living, and residents can move within the system as the need arises over time.  Usually as need becomes greater, the cost of care also increases.

That leads to an unavoidable question:  Cost.  In addition to determining the base cost, ask what is included in that base price, and what is considered an “add on”.  When needs change in some communities, the add-ons may actually double the initial baseline cost.  That can be a cost-effective method of maintaining a lower cost for those residents with minimal care needs, but you have to understand the additions to price as care increases.  One type of economic arrangement are Continuing Care Retirement Communities, which require a significant “buy-in” when you first move, and will then provide any care needed at a set price.  As always, understanding the details is critical, and in those arrangements, you should research the financial stability of the enterprise, and how much of the facilities are already built.

Trust your intuition.  If it appears the community truly will enhance your life and relieve many burdens, ask some questions, gather some knowledge, and prepare well for a new journey.