As an adult with older parents, you may find yourself helping them select the perfect senior living community. Many questions will need to be answered: What type of senior living community do they want? Where can they get the best possible care into the future? Will they be able to afford the community throughout their lives?
These are the types of questions you will need to ask. although it may not be easy. It may be difficult to talk to your parents or loved ones about delicate topics such as finances, health, home costs, home values, income, and medical records.
But without these answers, you won't be able to adequately assist them with making good choices for their future. It's best to sit down and have frank discussions with your parents, and it's important to address these subjects before you start your search.
Top Questions to Ask Before You Search for a Senior Living Community
Here are some questions to consider before you begin your search:
1. What is the current state of their health?
Are your parents or loved ones remaining safe living independently, without any assistance from others? Are they able to perform the everyday tasks of daily living? Activities of daily living (ADLs) are essential functions that must be accomplished every day for an individual to thrive.
Generally, ADLs can be broken down into the following categories:
- Bathing: Bathing your face and body adequately in the bath or shower
- Toileting: Getting to the bathroom and managing toileting needs on your own
- Dressing/Grooming: Selecting appropriate clothes, putting them on, and managing your appearance
- Eating: Feeding yourself without assistance
- Ambulating/Transferring: Getting around independently and also moving from one position to another (bed to a chair or sitting to a standing position)
If your parents or loved ones can live independently, this will help guide you to the appropriate level of care in a senior living community. Start by looking at communities that have independent living options. If your parents need more assistance, including assistance with ADLs, you'll want to search for communities that offer higher levels of care.
2. What type of community makes sense?
There are many types of senior living communities. There are communities that offer full continuums of care called Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), also referred to as Life Plan Communities.
These continuing care communities typically offer independent living, assisted living, memory support, and skilled nursing care. This ensures residents can access every level of care within the same community when they need it.
There are other communities that may only have independent living and assisted living options, but not skilled nursing care. And some communities may only have one level of care such as independent living, assisted living, or memory care. The type of community you choose may be determined by the level of care your parents or loved ones currently need or anticipate needing in the future.
One of the main advantages of a CCRC is that residents can make one move with the assurance that more care or assistance is an option at the same community with familiar surroundings, residents, and staff. They'll experience peace of mind knowing services are available if they need them, and they won't have to start their search all over again.
3. Will they be able to afford the community they want?
After identifying an appropriate level of care for your parents or loved ones, the next step is to determine if they can afford it. This question will often take the most time and energy to work through.
Here are some suggested questions to ask:
- What is their current financial situation?
- What type of assets do they have?
- What is their current housing situation?
- Do they live in a home that they solely own?
- If so, what is their home’s value?
- Will they have to sell this home to move into the new community?
- How are they currently paying for costs now?
- What is their monthly income?
- Have they already started to plan for their long-term medical care costs with a long-term health care policy?
- If they have a long-term health care policy, what are its terms and payouts?
When looking at types of communities, make sure you understand the entrance requirements. Sometimes a one-time entrance fee is required to join the community. Thereafter, a monthly fee is paid for amenities the community offers such as dining plans, utilities, and transportation.
The community could also include amenities such as a fitness center, a pool, or an activity center. Some may include health care benefits or priority status for higher levels of care. It's important to find out what future health care costs are covered.
Some senior living campuses are considered rental communities, in which there is no one-time entrance fee. Usually, residents pay only a monthly fee for a set number of amenities. Often, this does not include any health care coverage.
All senior living communities are different, and most offer various amenities and add-ons. It's essential to gather all the details when you do your research so you can make an informed decision based on expected costs.
4. Have you visited senior living communities?
The most important step in finding the right home for your loved ones is to spend time visiting senior living communities. As mentioned above, there are many different types of communities that offer various levels of care. Where will they be most comfortable? What amenities are important to them?
Take your parents or loved ones with you on visits, tour communities, and sit down with the community’s counselors to find out the specifics. If they prefer to move into independent living, make sure you start your search sooner rather than later. It's important not to wait until health issues arise. If you wait, your search could be more stressful due to timing and waiting lists.
Where to Begin in Your Search
Senior living communities are a wonderful option for people to enjoy an active lifestyle with new friends and opportunities. However, finding the right one takes time and patience. Here at Otterbein SeniorLife, we've curated some helpful resources as you begin your search for senior living.