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Checklist for Helping Find the Right Senior Community

If your parents are retired or approaching that milestone, they may be ready to downsize out of the family home. A senior community is probably the most logical next step for them.

Since there are so many senior living options out there, your folks will almost certainly welcome any help you can give them as they shop for their new home.

So here are some valuable tips that will make your search for the best possible place smarter and easier.

The Basics: Even before we get into fine details of shopping for a senior community, there are two overall rules:

First don’t sign up for the first place you visit – look at several communities so you have a “baseline”idea of what your loved one wants, what’s out there and what different places generally cost. Once you’ve seen several communities, you can compare and choose with more confidence. Second,always remember that you’re looking for the ideal home for your parents, not for yourself. So, keep their needs and preferences top-of-mind.

The Retirement Budget

Money is always an important consideration when people are determining where and how to live after retirement. Some may have saved diligently for this phase of their lives. Others may have purchased long-term care insurance to help cover costs. You should talk with your parents about their budget, or set up an appointment with a financial planner, unless they’ve been working with one all along. The point: before you and your loved ones start shopping for a retirement community, you should have a realistic idea of what they can afford and what choices are available. Then that can become part of the conversation as you’re shopping.

Deciding what kind of community meets one’s needs

Once you’ve defined your loved ones’ needs, it’s easier to decide which of the many senior living options would be best for them. The following are ranked in order of the level of independence they offer.

  • Housing for active adults, senior apartments or independent living communities– For those who are fairly active and self-sufficient.
  • Assisted living residences– Residents are still relatively active and in good health, but may need assistance with basic tasks: housekeeping, meals, transportation. Staff is available to help.
  • Nursing homes – For people whose independence is limited, and who require a higher level of care.
  • Continuing care retirement communities – These feature the spectrum of care, from independent living to assisted living, as well as nursing care. Advantage: all can be available in a single community, so there’s not a big move involved each time residents go from one level to another.
  • Home care (non-medical)– Similar to assisted living – help is available for whatever tasks are needed, but you can stay in your home.
  • Home health care– This is a level up from non-medical home care in that a health careprofessional is available with help for medications and additional physical/medical assistance if needed.

How to make your checklist work harder for you

Most of the communities you’ll visit will have most (if not all) of the basic features on the “What services do you need?” list above.But you can go one step further to personalize and refine the basic list and compare senior living communities according to your priorities. Assign a number value that gives more or less “weight” to the features most important to you. Here’s the simple numbering system:0. Not available (N/A) 1 They have it, but I can live without it. 2 This feature is important to me, 3 This feature is essential.

As you compare communities head to head, you can easily make your list work a little harder. Just see the worksheet below, which uses a partial list.

  • Location: is it near my friends and loved ones?
  • Continuing care available
  • Housekeeping/laundry services
  • Transportation services
  • Health/medical services
  • Staff available to help with eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, etc.
  • Alzheimer’s, dementia and memory care
  • Staff available to provide care
  • Twenty-four-hour safety/security
  • Emergency call systems in every residence/room
  • Health and wellness programs
  • Medication management services
  • Recreational/social activities
Feature Community#1 Community#2
Twenty four hour safety and security 3 3
Emergency call systems in every residence/room 3 3
Health and Wellness Program 1 1
Medication management services 2 2
Recreational/social activities 3 N/A
Adult day care N/A N/A
Totals 12 9