Choosing Senior Living for Your Parents
Finding the right senior living community that aligns with your parent’s needs, lifestyle, and budget is no easy feat.
At first glance, senior living communities may appear to be the same, but there are numerous differences between them to consider. To streamline the decision-making process, it’s important to define your parent’s priorities and ask the right questions of potential care communities.
Use our guide below, including our checklist of key considerations, to find the right senior living community.
- Getting Started With Senior Living
- Senior Living Evaluation Checklist
- Choosing a Senior Living Community as a Family
- Preparing for the Transition to Senior Living
Getting Started With Senior Living
As you get started with the decision-making process, step back and understand your parent’s needs first. Here are three steps to get a clear idea of your parent’s senior living vision.
Step 1: Determine What Your Parents Can Afford
Your parents’ finances will determine what senior housing is available to them. Sit down and look over their finances to determine what they can afford on a monthly basis. Then consider the options they have based on this budget.
It’s possible that your parents have long-term care insurance or savings that will help them pay for senior living. Others will need to pull together their resources, such as Social Security benefits, VA benefits, life insurance policies, and a family home to pay for longer term care.
When you have an idea of what your parents can afford each month, be sure you have a true comparison for reference. Some communities have attractive pricing but this only includes the room and meals. Others have higher pricing but are all-inclusive.
Step 2: Have a Conversation with Your Parents
The next step is to have a conversation with your parents about their transition into senior living. Sometimes this conversation goes very well. Other times it does not. Remember to be patient during this process and keep the lines of communication open. Have regular discussions about your parents’ preferences and the features and amenities they hope to see in their new home.
We find that aging adults are more open to moving when they are included in the process. However, if your parents are still in denial about their care, you may have to enlist help from a sibling, doctor, therapist, or senior living consultant.
Step 3: Visit or Virtually Tour Retirement Communities
You’ll spend plenty of time looking at websites, brochures, floor plans, and videos of senior living communities. But there is no substitute for an in-person or virtual tour of the community. These tours not only allow you to see what the community looks like in person, but they also help your parents envision themselves living there.
If possible, schedule a time when you and your parents can sample a meal. Spend time talking to the staff and residents to get an overall feel for the culture and community. We also recommend looking at a map or driving around the local area. Many active seniors prefer central locations where there are restaurants, pharmacies, and shopping a short drive away.
Senior Living Evaluation Checklist
To start, you should check the qualifications of potential care communities. Every senior living facility must have a senior care license from the NCAL, according to that state’s specific regulations. The community’s license history is also important, so be sure to ask if the license has ever been revoked and if any inspection reports are available for review.
After confirming the facility’s legal qualifications, you should look into real residents’ experiences there. You may be able to find reviews and ratings online, including resident testimonials. Care communities with excellent reputations may also showcase awards or extra credentials on their website.
Additional Qualifications to Ask About
In addition to legal qualifications, the best care communities will have internal rules and processes. To understand a community’s quality standards, you should ask about:
- References from current residents
- Staff-to-resident ratio
- Staff training
- Residents’ bill of rights
- Complaints process
- Financial records
2. Social Environment
- How comfortable and happy do residents seem on a regular day?
- What social events and activities does the community offer?
- How do the staff treat residents?
At any senior living community, residents should feel comfortable and supported. Ideally, they’ll also enjoy the companionship of their fellow neighbors. Some ways that care communities build an open, friendly atmosphere is through regular social events, onsite activities, and positive staff-resident relationships.
3. Physical Environment
- How does the community create home-like spaces?
- Does the community incorporate senior-friendly designs and floor plans?
- What outdoor spaces are available for walking or relaxing?
- Does the community appear clean and hygienic?
- Is the community accessible and accommodating to mobility devices?
Senior living communities are often designed specifically for seniors. Be on the lookout for senior-friendly designs, flexible floor plans, outdoor spaces, cleanliness, and more.
4. Health Services
- What care levels are available onsite?
- Can residents switch care levels in the future?
- Is specialized care available as needed?
- Who provides care (onsite staff or a third-party provider)?
- Is medication management provided?
Getting health support as needed is a deal-breaker for many families. Ask about the care levels available, as well as how switching to a new level is handled. It’s especially important to plan ahead for potential future health care needs.
- What services and amenities are available?
- Are services personalized for residents?
- Are amenities available 24/7?
- What utilities and maintenance services are included?
Every care community has a different suite of amenities available. At Varenita™, you can get access to resort-style amenities that enhance the body, mind, and spirit. Enjoy everything from fitness programs and game rooms to housekeeping and community-wide WiFi.
- How does the community promote a high-quality lifestyle?
- How does the community support residents’ retirement goals?
- Are residents active in the community?
Ideally, a care community will support every resident’s lifestyle vision. In addition to the available amenities, it’s important to consider how the community can customize offerings and promote residents’ overall well-being.
- What apartment sizes and floor plans are available?
- Does available housing accommodate couples?
- What living features, such as a kitchen or furnishings, are available?
Some communities have more flexible living options than others. All Varenita™ communities have several different floor plans.
- Is anytime dining available?
- Are there multiple dining venues for residents to choose from?
- Are meals planned with nutrition in mind?
- What accommodations are given for special diets?
For many residents, having flexible dining options and hours is a must-have. Check what type of dining venues are available and whether anytime dining is allowed. If your parent has a special diet or nutritional needs, you’ll also want to ask about custom-prepared meals.
9. Billing & Financing
- What type of care plans are available?
- Is pricing all-inclusive?
- Does the community accept certain types of health insurance?
- What financing options are available?
- Do billing policies seem fair and reasonable?
The cost of senior living is a key part of choosing a care community. Talk with the financial team so that you have a clear understanding of the monthly care options and what’s included in the cost. Depending on your parent’s insurance and finances, you should also confirm what type of financing is available.
- What are the staff’s qualifications?
- Is staff specialized and/or do they have extra training credentials?
- How do staff build relationships with residents?
- Do staff know residents on a first-name basis?
- Is staff trained on preventing elder abuse and neglect?
Community staff will interact with your parent on a daily basis, so it’s essential to know about their qualifications and credentials. In addition, great staff-resident relationships are key to achieving compassionate-driven care.
- What safety features are present in rooms and common areas (handrails, lighting, etc.)?
- Is there an emergency response system in apartments?
- How are health emergencies handled?
- What extra security precautions are in place for memory care residents?
- Does the community have safety essentials (such as fire sprinkler systems and clearly marked exits)?
Safety is top of mind for families. Ask about what safety features are available in apartments and common areas. Varenita™ communities offer advanced state-of-the-art technology designed to increase residents’ safety and well-being, as well as 24-hour staffing coverage.
12. Relationship With Families
- What activities or events are planned to facilitate family relationships?
- What technology is available to build resident-family relationships?
- Is there a formal family outreach program and coordinator?
A good working relationship with families is essential. You should ask about their family outreach program, including types of events, technologies, and more that you can expect.
13. The Greater Area
- What opportunities for sightseeing, entertainment, exercise, experiences, and more are available nearby?
- Is the community close to key amenities, such as healthcare?
- What type of transportation does the community provide?
- Is the community located near family?
Though your parent will likely spend the most time in the community, the location may still be a determining factor. Consider the opportunities for entertainment and experiences in the greater area, as well as the convenience of the location, the type of transportation available to residents, and whether it’s close to you or other family members.
- What is the pet policy?
- How does the community support pet ownership?
Pets are members of the family, too. If your parent has a pet, you’ll want to look into the community’s pet policy and find out whether furry friends are welcome.
- What type of wellness programs are available?
- Are there personalized wellness packages?
- What activities are planned to enhance the body, mind, and spirit?
The overall well-being of residents is a cornerstone of any care community. You should research what types of wellness programs or packages are available, as well as how the community serves the emotional, social, and spiritual needs of residents.
16. Community Philosophy
- What is the community’s philosophy of care?
- Is the community a non-profit or does it have a clear mission?
A community’s philosophy drives every aspect of how care is provided. Find out whether the community has a philosophy. Communities with clearly defined missions or philosophies may offer more compassionate care.
Choosing a Senior Living Community As a Family
By looking at these key considerations above, you will have a better sense of what your family’s priorities are. From there, your family can decide on the right senior living community for your parent. This process may be challenging, as every family member has different concerns.
Here are some tips for getting everybody on the same page:
- Prioritize your parent’s vision whenever possible. Ideally, your parent should have the first say. Listen to your parent’s wishes and try to prioritize them whenever possible.
- Consider family concerns and define deal-breakers. Family dynamics can get tricky once all adult siblings start to weigh in. Work to define deal-breakers together (i.e., access to onsite healthcare) and compromise on other concerns that come up. Ultimately, the family member with power of attorney will have the final say, though it’s best to agree on the essentials.
- Accept that location plays a role. The proximity to family (especially an adult child or grandkids) may be a key factor in choosing a care community. It’s ok to prioritize this, as long as it doesn’t decrease your parent’s quality of life or isolate him/her from support.
Preparing for the Transition to Senior Living
Once you and your parents have chosen the right retirement community, you can start preparing for the transition. Try not to delay the move, as you don’t want to procrastinate when Mom or Dad needs care. Delays can lead to accidents and medical problems that can make it more difficult for a parent to make a successful transition.
Some of the steps you’ll need to take include:
- Consolidate possessions. Most people need to downsize before they move into senior living. Help your parents sort through their belongings. Choose what is being passed down to others in the family, what is going to be donated and what is going to go with your parents.
- Plan for the move. Enlist help for moving day or hire a moving company to do the work. Keep in mind that some senior living communities have several floors, which means you’ll need to carry things up and down using the stairs or elevator.
- Gather all legal documents. Locate all necessary documents, including medical documents, tax returns, and other important paperwork. Keep these documents in a safe place so they don’t get lost during the move.
- Set up technology. Does your parent need a cable package? Are they connected to WiFi? Varenita™ offers all residents basic cable television and community-wide WiFi. We even have charging ports throughout our community!
- Spend extra time with your parent. When your parents are all moved in, we recommend spending some extra time with them to help them get settled. It won’t be long before they’re making new friends, finding activities they enjoy, and building their new life.
Senior Living Communities
Finding the right senior living community for your parent can take time, so be patient as you carefully evaluate facilities, research key aspects and prioritize your parent’s preferences. Our checklist for senior living above is a great starting point for finding the ideal future home for your parent.
At Varenita™, we offer exceptional health support and amenities that create optimal senior living experiences. To schedule a tour of a Varenita™ community, contact us today.