Convenience drives many housing decisions, such as proximity to a school, favorite grocer, or place of work. But when it comes to choosing the best senior living community for your parents or older loved ones, it’s time to consider what really matters: reputation, longevity of staff, and quality of care.
Choosing the best senior living community: Use the right criteria
When considering a specific senior living community, be sure your decision is about more than what seems to make a community an easy and convenient choice:
“It will just be a short drive away.”
It’s human nature to take the easiest path to change, whether it’s your life that is changing or you are helping older loved ones decide about their future. And it can be quite tempting to limit the search for the best senior living community to those located within close proximity of where you or other family members live or work.
“It’s cheaper than the others.”
Understanding the costs and the value of senior living calls for doing your homework about all available options. One community might seem to be “cheaper,” but on further inspection, it may not offer all the levels of care you are looking for, which could mean another move in the future if needs change. Really understand how the care model works, is it all-inclusive or ala carte? Sometimes the entry price is lower, but ala carte costs do add up when care needs grow and might cause your loved one to avoid care needs to limit costs. Or the community might not offer the type of wellness programs and dedication to healthy aging that you want for your loved one.
The best senior living community is one that is centered on the health and vitality of each resident, with the programs, services and amenities that enhance their quality of life.
“It’s close to where Mom and Dad used to live.”
Familiarity can be comforting, but it may not be the wisest way to choose the best senior living community. That’s because neighborhoods change and what used to feel comfortable may no longer be as safe as it once was. Old friends move away. Favorite shops or restaurants might have closed. It’s often better to enjoy fond memories, but also consider a new chapter.
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Choosing the best senior living community: The right reasons
Now that we’ve gone through some of the easy and convenient reasons for choosing a senior living community, here are some of the right reasons that will help you make the best choice:
As you research your choices, check out the online reviews on both the community’s website and on independent rating sites. Ask professionals in your area about their opinion and chat with friends who have gone through this experience. Talk to the staff and ask them about the results of the most recent state inspection. You want a senior living community that is well respected among residents, families, and professionals in aging.
A quality, well-run senior living community is a place where residents want to live and staff members want to work as well. Get a sense of the average tenure is for both the care staff as well as the administration. In addition, ask if there have been any ownership changes in the last several years. Have conversations with staff across different roles as you tour and get a feel for how they view the community.
It’s important to learn about the level of training required for staff, as well as what type of ongoing training is available. Do staff participate in these programs? Does the community stay fully staffed? What percent of the nursing and caregiving staff are community employees or outsourced through staffing agencies? Is the community run by an operations management company or the owners? As you interact with employees in marketing, sales, dining, and other areas of the community, do they seem positive and passionate about what they are doing?
Quality of life
Searching for the right senior living community is a complex process that takes time, thought, and homework. Visiting more than one community is the best way to experience the lifestyle, sample the food, tour the amenities, meet staff, inspect the grounds and just get an overall impression of what life is like every day. How do you feel when you are in the community? Does it feel like a place you could see yourself enjoying spending time? Are the people welcoming and genuinely interested in helping you achieve your hopes and desires for this next chapter?
Stay open to the possibility of expanding your search so that you and your family can make the right choice together. Remind yourself that this is about giving your loved ones the best possible quality of life.
At Heritage, you’ll discover a home and lifestyle that lets you define living better on your terms…because we believe that retirement living really should bring more to your life, or to the life of someone you love. We’d love to tell you more.