If you’re helping a family member or loved one choose a senior living community, there can be a lot of uncertainty around making a decision. Here are some things to consider, with important questions to ask and things to look for to determine if a family member or loved one needs a higher level of assistance.
“Moving here almost doubled our social lives.” – Resident
How to find the right fit.
- Reach out to people you can trust to be unbiased: friends, family or a physician. Ask for their candid advice and recommendations.
- Once you have a list of 3 to 5 options, visit your state’s senior housing commission (in Georgia, check with the Division of Aging Services).
- You can also check online reviews, but because personal reviews can be very subjective, it’s important to weigh them against other information you’ve already collected.
- As you narrow down your list, start scheduling visits to your top communities. As you’re doing this, consider other little details, such as how they answer the phone, the time it takes for them to return messages and their overall helpfulness and friendliness.
What to look for.
During your community visits, take note of the following:
- What are your first impressions of the place?
- Does it look clean and feel comfortable?
- Does the staff smile and greet residents by name?
- Do the residents seem engaged and happy?
- Could you imagine your loved one living here?
Questions to ask.
If you’re satisfied with your first look, here are some questions you’ll want to ask:
- Is there an entrance fee? If so, how much is it?
- What’s the monthly fee?
- What’s covered by the monthly fee? What’s not covered?
- How much say do residents have in the community?
- Do you have a calendar of resident activities?
- Try the food. How is it?
- What is the dining arrangement? Do residents eat in a dining room or in their rooms? Is it cafeteria-style or table-side service?
- What security safeguards are in place?
- What happens if a resident runs out of money?
- What is the staff-to-resident ratio?
- How does the community help residents navigate their potential health care needs as their situation changes?
How much help do they need?
Deciding if a loved one needs more help around the house than they can get from an independent living community can be emotionally challenging. But a move to a community with specialized programs and care options could make a world of difference to your loved one’s overall health and happiness. To help you know what level of help is needed, be on the lookout for the following:
- Grooming and personal care: Infrequent showering or bathing, unkempt hair, untrimmed nails, lack of oral care, wearing stained or dirty clothes.
- Neglected household chores: Extreme clutter, unopened mail, piles of dirty laundry, stains on carpets or furniture, neglected pet or house plants.
- Changes in mood: Sleeping most of the day or sudden mood swings from happiness to anger or anxiety.
- Changes in eating habits: unexplained weight loss, lack of fresh food, stale or spoiled food, skipping meals, gaining or losing weight.
- Forgetfulness: Inability to properly manage their medication, neglecting to turn off the oven/stove, forgetting they’ve eaten and eating again.
- Problems with mobility: Difficulty walking or maintaining balance, trouble getting up from a seated position, struggling to go up and down stairs.
- Driving issues: Traffic tickets, unexplained dents or scratches in their car, driving well under the speed limit, difficulty driving to familiar places.
- Financial problems: Unpaid bills, overdrawn bank accounts, calls from creditors, poor financial judgment (ex: falling for scams or sales pitches, giving away money).
- Changes in health: Seems more frail, recent falls, slow recovery from illness, worsening of a chronic health condition.
- Social isolation: Withdrawing from friends, hobbies and activities; staying home for days on end.
- Your and your family’s stress level: Caring for someone in their home can be exhausting. If you, your spouse or children are feeling the emotional strain, it may be time to consider other options.
You can also talk with your loved one’s neighbors and close friends about these 11 indicators. If you want a second opinion, consider asking your doctor, a social worker or professional senior living care manager to perform an informal evaluation.