Help with Your Decision

Aging at home works best for people who are still relatively young and healthy enough to maintain their independence. For many, those years of aging in place can last for decades. But for others, those years can be cut short, by an accident, an illness, or a condition that deteriorates to the point of needing supportive care. It can also happen for external reasons, such as a child moving away, a change in access to transportation, a financial setback, or an emergency weather situation.

The decision to move to a retirement community is often a difficult one for older adults and family members alike. Personal circumstances determine this decision, but being proactive and making a move before a crisis occurs can make the challenge less stressful. When it is time to discuss issues around moving to a viable living alternative, such as a senior housing option, it is helpful to have support and guidance in your decision making process.

The names of the different types of housing options can sometimes be confusing, as the terminology varies and is not often well-defined. There are many differences in types of retirement communities including levels of care they offer, costs, amenities, lifestyle programs and supportive services. Some main differences are the amount of care provided for activities of daily living and whether medical care is provided on-site. When researching your options, there are several trained professionals and referral sources that can support your decision making process.



Consult Professionals

Many individuals facing long-term care issues turn to professional service providers for advice. A qualified Elder Law attorney in your state will have the knowledge to walk you through all of your long-term care options. Elder law attorneys specialize in areas of law that involve representing, counseling, and assisting older adults and their families on a variety of legal issues, from estate planning to long term care issues. The primary emphasis is on promoting the highest quality of life for the individuals. In addition, wills, living wills, durable powers of attorney for property and health and insurance coverage are issues that seniors should discuss with Elder Law attorneys.

It is important to consult with your family physician to discuss your thoughts about providing for your future health care needs. In most cases, this person will remain your primary care provider so their input can be valuable. If you are seeing any additional specialist, consider having them be part of the discussion. You may want to consider making an appointment with a geriatrician. They specialize in health conditions that commonly affect older adults such as osteoporosis, falls, dementia and frailty. In addition to being board certified and completing a residency in internal medicine or family medicine, geriatricians also complete a separate geriatrics fellowship that includes one to two years of additional training in geriatric medicine.

A Geriatric Care Manager is a health care professional who provides a thorough assessment of an older adult’s diverse needs and assists families in developing a comprehensive and manageable plan of care. They have extensive knowledge of the medical, psychological, cognitive, social and physical challenges of aging and possess specialized expertise to implement an appropriate care plan, balancing your needs, values and wishes with what is both realistic and possible. Families can rely on a Geriatric Care Manager to help navigate complex systems and gain access to public and private resources, while providing support and advocacy. They can be especially helpful when there is a change in circumstances such as change in location, a change in medical or cognitive status or the loss of a spouse.

Visiting Communities

When you are ready to take the next step -- visiting retirement communities -- there are several key factors to consider in the decision making process. Prospective residents should draft their own list of criteria. While many communities look similar on the surface, there are important differences between senior living communities. Creating a list of questions will enable you to fully understand what the community has to offer you and if it can meet your needs.

Take a few minutes to write down your “hot button” issues. What levels of care do they provide? Some types of communities include independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing care and memory care? What are you looking for? What is your most important priority? What is less than perfect in your current living situation? Could the community you are visiting solve those problems?

Most retirement communities offer dining services, housekeeping, maintenance services, educational programs and unlimited opportunities to engage in social activities. During a tour of the community you will see and hear about many of these wonderful amenities. Selecting a retirement community can’t be done over the phone. You will want to visit and compare at least a couple of similar places. Meeting face-to-face with a community associate is the best way to get a feel for the place and have all your questions answered. 

Ask every community you visit the same questions. Compare the answers, and then determine which community best fits your needs and interests. 

Ask More Questions

If you are looking for a partner to help you think through this process and discuss your senior housing options, Brookdale can help. We are here to listen, understand, and partner with you to help you find a personalized solution to your specific situation. Contact a Brookdale national senior living advisor at the number listed above for help.