How to Help Your Parents Choose a Senior Living Community
* This post is sponsored by Brookdale Senior Living. The information and opinions presented here are all my own.
After my mom turned 65, I started talking to her about moving her home to Virginia and finding a seniors community closer to me in Delaware. Originally from New York, she owned and operated a popular tavern on Long Island for almost 20 years. After selling her business, she moved to Virginia to enjoy a much less stressful and affordable lifestyle. My wife and I also moved to Virginia for a few years, but we eventually decided that Delaware was closer and halfway between our two families.
Although my mother is now retired, she is still very active. Even after TWO hip replacements, she still mows her own lawn, gardens, and walks her Labradoodle, Marley, several times a day. Her house is always clean and she always prepares all of her famous and delicious meals. She also keeps tabs on the neighborhood feral cats by involving them in the local spay / neuter program and also adopted her favorite, Mr. Kitt. He has 2 eyes of different colors.Needless to say, a pet-friendly ‘independent’ senior citizen community is a must. Marley is also aging and we know that many senior communities do not accept large dogs. So, she’ll definitely wait until Marley crosses the Rainbow Bridge before making the move. And we completely agree. But, it is also important to start the discussion about the lives of older people as early as possible. Sometimes there are waiting lists or financial issues, so it’s best to get the ball rolling when considering moving.
At first, the conversation about moving to a senior community was a bit difficult. In Virginia, she has a great support system with many friends, her own home, and her pets. But, she lives alone and now that COVID is a concern, she also wants to be closer to us and her family in New York City. She is also tired of maintaining her home and would like to enjoy more free time and convenience. Now she is looking forward to her next adventure. COVID really made the process of finding a senior community more difficult, so my wife and I did most of the research online and took local tours. We provide my mother with all the details so that she can make her own decision. We searched Delaware, Maryland, and parts of New Jersey. We live in a convenient part of Delaware which has many communities in all of these states and is within an hour’s drive. I am happy to say that we are currently considering 3 communities.
Now that I’m over a year into this process, here are my top 5 tips from personal experience on how to help your parents find the right senior community.
- Decide on the most appropriate type of senior citizen community for your parents’ needs.
Since my mom is always very active and just wants more convenience and free time, it was clear that independent living was the right choice for her. But depending on the lifestyle of your parents or loved ones, the most common types are:
Independent living – Independent living is perfect for those who still enjoy an active lifestyle and want more freedom to pursue their passions. Residents don’t have to worry about things like home ownership, maintenance, and landscaping. They’ll spend more time doing the things they love in a place that’s designed to feel and function like home.
Aid to life– Assisted living is a great option for people who need help with daily activities such as managing medication, dressing, bathing, cleaning, and eating. It offers peace of mind and allows you to spend more quality time with your loved ones.
Memory care – Memory Care Services provide quality care and support for older people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. With gentle guidance and visual reminders, these programs provide a safe and secure space with activities that meet a resident’s skill level and allow them to thrive even with advanced expressions of illness.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities – A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CPAB) offers multiple levels of care on one campus, meaning you don’t have to relocate even if your healthcare needs change in the future. They offer a full range of personalized assistance and care options to suit your lifestyle.
- Start with the right senior conversation starters.
Getting the discussion started can often be the hardest part. Try one of these conversation starters.
- If you didn’t have to maintain your home, what would you like to do with that extra free time?
- Have you felt lonely lately? How would you like to meet new people your age?
- Do you still like to live alone? Do you have any fears or concerns about your safety? (Feel free to discuss specific safety concerns such as difficulties in the kitchen or bathroom, managing finances or medication, and falls or mobility difficulties. Loneliness, crime and the pandemic can cause them anxiety too, so answer that as well.)
- Have you been having trouble meeting your bills or managing your money lately?
- Have you ever thought about hiring someone to help you with your household?
- Are you worried about traveling or driving your car? What if you don’t have to worry about your transport anymore?
- Discuss the lifestyle that is important to your parents and set a budget.
All seniors’ communities have a wide variety of amenities, features, and services that appeal to different types of individuals. Some are like living in a seaside resort. Create a wishlist based on your parents’ needs, budget, and preferences. Knowing what your parents can pay each month for living expenses will be extremely important when considering a community. Start your search online and you’ll find a wealth of information on the different communities that match their criteria. For example, Brookdale Senior Living offers 740 different senior citizen communities in 45 states. Limit your choices to the first three that you think are the perfect fit and plan a visit.
- Plan visits to each community and ask lots of questions.
Planning a visit to a senior community is easy and can be done online or over the phone. I would suggest doing no more than two a day and making each visit very thorough. If possible, take the time to visit the communities with your parents. Bring a list of their concerns and questions, so that you can get a general idea of each community. Were the staff welcoming and friendly? Do residents look happy? Are all areas in the community clean and well maintained? Don’t hesitate to ask to participate in any of their programs or activities, or even to try the food in their dining areas. Visiting is an opportunity to collect many personal ideas from staff and residents. Do not be shy. Ask them what it is like to live and work there.
- Leave the final decision to your parents.
Help them every step of the way and offer them constructive advice. But the final decision of which community they choose should be entirely theirs. After all, they will be the ones who will live there. After visiting each community, ask your parents lots of questions. Such as:
- What was your first impression of the community?
- Did you enjoy the food and the lifestyle there?
- Did you enjoy meeting specific staff members or residents?
- Is it a community where you would feel at home?
Your role is to support them in their life-changing decisions.
Want to know more about the seniors communities?
Brookdale Senior Living has other helpful tips and guidelines to help you get started on your path to senior living. Visit them now to get all the information you need to make the best decision for you or your loved one.
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