What to know about senior living options

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Whether you are thinking about joining a senior living community or are helping an aging parent make the move, it’s important to give yourself plenty of time to understand the options available.

Here is a brief overview of senior housing options, along with things to look for when making your decision.

Independent living

Independent living facilities take various forms. They can be freestanding homes, condominiums or apartments designed exclusively for older adults, typically 55 years or older. Residents are usually more active, and require little to no medical or nursing care. They live in their own residences, but are offered amenities such as housekeeping services, organized social outings, fitness facilities and on-site restaurants.

Assisted living

An assisted living facility provides lodging, housekeeping, laundry services and meals for those who are elderly or disabled. Facilities also offer activities of daily living (ADL) assistance to residents, which may include dressing, bathing, grooming, managing medications and wheelchair assistance, for an additional cost.

Memory care

Some assisted living centers may also offer accommodations dedicated to memory care for residents living with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or other types of cognitive issues.

“Assisted living centers that offer memory care have staff who are trained specifically to care for patients with cognitive impairments,” says Dan McNamara, program coordinator for the Senior Resource Center at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. “Memory care centers have secure areas and special training for staff to prevent wandering, as well as special programs and activities designed to address cognitive decline.”

What to ask when taking a tour

When touring senior living communities, Dan recommends talking with staff to educate yourself about the facility and the care available. He suggests the following questions to ask staff:

  • What is the caregiver-to-resident ratio?
  • How do you communicate with families when an accident happens?
  • Do you have a manager on duty for holidays, weekends or evenings?
  • What are your visiting hours?
  • How often do you review care?
  • How do you charge for care?
  • What would disqualify me from living in your facility? How will you notify my loved ones?
  • Can I have a blank copy of the contract or resident agreement for my review?

According to McNamara, the most important aspect to consider when selecting a senior living community is the care.

“The care is the most important aspect if that’s the primary need,” he says. “Everything else, such as amenities, is secondary. In addition to quality care, make note of whether the facility is clean and well-maintained; offers good, nutritional food; and fosters a healthy social environment where residents can enjoy quality time with visitors and with one another.”

McNamara also suggests starting your search well in advance.

“It’s important to give yourself some time to do some research before making your decision,” he says. “When doing your research and taking tours, it might be worthwhile to set up a couple of tours and let staff know that you are planning ahead. With careful planning, you will be better prepared in selecting an environment that is ideal for you or your loved one. Looking for a home usually takes time. This process is no different and helps reduce stress when a decision to move is needed.”

This article features experts from Sharp Grossmont Hospital. For more health stories visit www.sharp.com/news.