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When I was caregiving for my parents, a few years ago now, we started the search for an ideal senior home.  A few of my siblings and I helped mom and dad on their quest and needless to say, we found many different types of housing.  Some were too expensive.  In some cases, the location wasn’t ideal, there wasn’t enough space, activities were minimal or weren’t interesting enough for them.  At another, the food plan was insufficient.  All the homes were unique and different but what was going to be a good fit for them was the question.  Where should they go?

These queries will crop up when the time for living at home is not an option.  There are basically three levels of housing:  Independent, Assisted Living and Private or Government Subsidized Residential Care Homes.  Services certainly vary. The “where” may depend on health issues, spousal death or any manner of circumstances.  The “when” to start looking is now.

Even though there is an array of housing options available to all people, research is a must!  Go to the home you are interested in several times, at several times of the day and talk to several different staff and residents.  Stay for lunch, check out the facility and ask lots of questions.  Be an investigator.  There will be different staff on during different shifts and you will meet different people each time or sometimes meet the same ones.   But let’s back up a step.

Predictions for 2051 are that the number of senior housing options will quadruple.  Navigating the vast array of options can be daunting and complex; therefore, the need for preplanning becomes important so that families can make well-informed, confident choices ahead of time.  So, what to do?

Let’s start with making a list of the various homes you are interested in.  Then when you go for a “tour”, you can ask the same questions and gather as much information as possible before making any decision.  Even though the homes may have websites and pamphlets, real conversations and visits enable you to pose questions that arise and need to be addressed face to face.  It reminds me of going on that vacation that didn’t even come close to the descriptors or images!  I recall one home where the brochure showed lots of lighting, open spaces, and smiling seniors; but when we visited, we couldn’t help but notice the drab, unkept carpet, poor lighting and the unfriendly, disgruntled residents.  Personal experience speaks volumes!

When your decision has been made, then it’s time to cover the checkpoint questions.  Here are a few of them:

  • Is the location of the building accessible to the bank, grocery store or other amenities?
  • Are the building grounds well kept and maintained?
  • Is the space tidy, clean and spacious with any security features?
  • Are the residents friendly, content or dissatisfied?
  • Is the staff kind and welcoming and interested in the “lives” of the residents?
  • What services are offered in terms of daily events, housekeeping, exercise or common area space activities?
  • What is the dining room experience like?  (BTW (By the way) many homes offer complimentary lunch or supper if you book ahead, although this may have changed with COVID regulations)
  • Are snacks provided?
  • Is there a dietician on site and what are some of the meal choices?
  • Are the nurse practitioners, nurses’ aids and LPN’s (Licensed Nurse Practitioner) qualified?
  • Is there a care plan in place for all residents?
  • Is the facility an L1, L2 or L3?  (reference to level of care from independent living to memory care)
  • Do the suites have ample supports such as wall rails in the bathroom?
  • Is there room for a wheelchair or a walker?
  • Are there fitness or wellness classes or spaces available?
  • Are there various positive incentives besides just BINGO?
  • What kind of classes or courses are offered, such as yoga or painting?
  • Is there a “fun coordinator” on site?
  • Does the residence provide outside opportunities in the wider community?
  • What are the monthly costs?
  • Is low-cost housing for seniors available? (check government agencies)

*I devote an entire chapter to the topic of housing in my book, entitled “A Different Home”

So, meet with the management of the various homes, have those conversations with siblings and family and research and compare the different options before you make the final decision.

Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!    1 Samuel 25:6

Lorrie Morales is a published author of the best selling book   We Can Do This! Adult Children & Aging Parents: Planning for Success. She writes a weekly column for LCCMedia Foundation.

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