Certain situations may indicate it’s time to consider alternative living arrangements for you or your loved one. Generally, families begin to consider alternatives when carrying on important activities of daily living without significant support or assistance from others becomes difficult. Some challenges that aging adults may face include loss of vision, poor balance, fatigue, memory loss or forgetfulness, dementia, loneliness, or physician-prescribed supervision and care.
Whether your needs are immediate of long-term, planning for senior living arrangements and finding the right fit can be exhausting. For this reason, the Assisted Living Federation of America has developed a Nine Point Program to assist in your search for the right senior living community.
1. Sharpen Your Focus On This Important Decision
Ask yourself these key questions before starting your search:
- What do I really know about the different senior living care options?
- What do I still need to learn?
- What’s the best way to get accurate, objective information?
- How would I like to describe my personal successful outcomes a year after move-in?
- What can I afford, both now and in the future?
- Can I make the important distinction between price and value?
You may find that you still know very little about what long-term care options are available to you and your family. Don’t fret – that’s normal. That’s also why we strive to be a resource for seniors and their families. Most seniors and their families are in the same boat early in their living decision process.
2. Making the Right Choice Involves Focusing On Three Important Issues:
- Quality of life
- Standards of care
- Cost and value
3. Define and Pursue a High Quality of Life
It’s difficult to define quality of life as we age and how that quality of life might be fulfilled in a senior living community. Outcomes that seniors and their families generally favor include:
- Comfort and peace of mind
- Affordability and financial security
- Quality and value
- Very high standards of care
- Optimized independence
- Experience, Adventures or Nostalgia
- Individual recognition
- Intellectual stimulation
- Self-expression and fulfillment
Set your own goals and expectations as you search for a senior living community.
4. Prioritize High Standards of Care
Pay close attention to clinical procedures and technological innovations that are used daily in any community that you tour. You may also want to be sure the staffing levels are consistent with high standards. Family members should get answers to the following questions:
- How will you respond if my loved one has a medical emergency?
- How will you continuously monitor my loved one’s condition without an unusual invasion of privacy?
- How will you monitor and deal with the possibility that my loved one’s condition may change?
- How would you describe how you staff the community 24/7 to provide the kind of care my loved one will need?
- On average, about how many minutes per 24-hour day does a resident like my loved one receive direct, hands-on assistance?
5. Strike a Delicate Balance Between Affordability, Price, and Value
Senior living is a value-enhanced and service-enriched offering – and as such, it may appear expensive. But with the variety of options available and a careful look at true living expenses, you may be less sensitive to price. Put costs in perspective by first objectively evaluating your or your loved one’s current cost of living. You may be surprised to find that the assisted living option is less expensive than your current cost of living. This can be especially true when you consider expenses like real estate taxes, home maintenance, and insurance, along with the comprehensive services that are all provided by a senior living residence.
6. Address the Price vs. Value Dilemma
Throughout your life, you’ve probably been conservative in making most of your purchase decisions. If senior living is the right fit, it will likely be the most important purchase you ever make. So should you seek the lowest price – buying a commodity – or decide on a comfortable, high-value community of choice? It’s important to both consider affordable value and optimum life satisfaction.
7. Balance First Impressions with Reality
Take first impressions of a community seriously, but balance those initial impressions with other factors. Some first impressions might include the overall neighborhood setting – the quality of the landscaping, the campus layout, and the residence’s exterior. When you enter a residence, think about your comfort level. Check out the public spaces and remember they are a shared extension of the private living space. Remember that you aren’t trying to replace the total living area of your current home. You’re making an informed trade-off between a relatively large home with a more appropriate sheltered living that offers an extensive array of services specifically designed for this stage of your or your loved one’s life.
8. Get Several Detailed, Objective Inputs
Always get a balanced perspective about life in a community you’re considering by talking to the professional staff, current residents’ family members, and the residents themselves. Ask about a typical day and how staff are involved. Ask about opportunities for social interaction. Most importantly, ask current residents and their families:
- How do you currently feel about your earlier move-in decision?
- How did you work through the complex decision-making process?
- What were the biggest hurdles you overcame before you actually made the decision?
- If you knew then what you know now, what would you do differently?
- Getting inside the minds of residents and their families will help you decide whether the particular community is a good fit.
9. Carefully Consider What the Future May Hold
As we all age, all of us will experience increasing levels of frailty and other health complications. You need to understand how the community will justify and charge for the costs of increased services that may be needed. Also, consider the community’s policies if it were to determine it could no longer care for you or your loved one. It may seem like an uncomfortable dialogue, but knowing the answers to these questions can provide long-term comfort for you and your family.
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