Selecting a senior living community for a parent is a difficult decision to make and a critical one to get right. Most older people wish to live as independently as possible and the concept of institutionalized care can be perceived as a threat. Finding that community that feels like home is a challenge, but also an opportunity to ensure your parent lives their final years somewhere they'll enjoy and be happy. Here's how you can find that special place for your parent.
Selecting a Community
First of all, you'll need to establish what kind of senior community you are looking for. Some specialize in dementia, others offer a lot of nursing care, and there are lots of places where residents live independent lives with minimal support. Assessing the level of support needed is critical for shortlisting the communities you want to look at in depth.
This sounds harsh, but it is critical to be proactive and start looking at appropriate communities for a parent before a small problem escalates into a crisis. Senior living communities have a finite number of spots. When you find a place your parent will like, you'll need to plan ahead. Waiting until your parent becomes unable to live in their home may result in your chosen community not having availability when you need it the most.
First Impressions Count
One of the most important things to do when choosing a senior living community for your parent is to personally visit the home. Researching online is just part of the process, but you must go in person to see the community for yourself. As you look around, just ask yourself one thing: Is this some place you would like to live?
When you visit a community, you need to use all your senses to look at the environment in addition to what you are being told. What does the place smell like? Does it feel institutionalized or is there a relaxed atmosphere? Can you see people interacting or are they sitting in chairs in one room? This all tells you something more about the community you won't find on a website.
Check Out the Facilities
When you visit a senior living community it is vital to check out the facilities available to residents. Does the hairdresser call, is there a garden -- and is there access to regular activities and visits to places of interest? All these things help keep people independent for longer and ensure this is a lively and cohesive community.
Sometimes facilities are available during the daytime only, so it is vital to check what is there on a 24-hour basis for the residents. Things like access to catering, nursing and medical support, and supervision are important. Make sure you find out what is available and when.
Look for Available Support
One of the most important things to check in a senior living community is the ratio of staff to residents. If there are not many staff available to help with the needs of the residents, problems can and do occur, particularly where there are people who require nursing care or have memory problems.
The community will have access to support such as laundry and housekeeping, but you need to check out what is included in the fees you pay. Some places have access to transportation and local houses of worship, which helps foster a sense of community and independence.
Sometimes people need some additional care as they become more frail. Others find they are no longer able to be looked after in a community. When you look at a senior living community, check out what happens if someone gets sick and needs to move up a level so your parent doesn't need to keep moving to other places. In particular, ask what happens if someone has a fall as this gives insight into safety.
Those Little Extras Mean a Lot
When you visit a senior living community, look for the little extras that make a place welcoming and special. This might be a visit to the theater or celebrations in the community itself. These will give your parent things to look forward to and help them bond with the staff and residents.
If you can, spend time talking to some of the residents about their community. What do they have to say about the food, their daily activities and the surroundings? This can give you significant insight into what it is like to be there on a permanent basis. Don't forget to look at how staff speak to residents and whether this is done respectfully.
Finally, take some time to think through what you have seen and heard on your visit. If you are having second thoughts, this probably isn't the place for your parent. But if you think your parent will enjoy the surroundings and be cared for in that senior living community, go with your gut feeling and take that all-important next step. If you feel ready to start looking for a senior living community for your parent, make that contact today and request a visit.