A transition to a senior living community often begins at the urging of an adult child. When we are first starting to help families explore senior care options for an aging parent one question that routinely comes is whether they should take their loved one with them on the first visits to assisted living communities. Another one is how to determine what community is the “best one.” There really are no easy answers to either of those questions. It depends on each family’s unique situation.
If your parent is eager to start this new chapter in their life, they might want to visit each community that is a potential option for them. They can talk with current residents themselves, participate in activities, and stay for dinner. If they are making this move only at your insistence, it might be better if you visit a variety of communities without them the first time. Once you’ve seen them all and have a better idea of what might be a good fit for your parent, you can return with them for another visit.
We also like to help families put together a “wish list” of what their ideal assisted living community would offer. Then we work together to prioritize which of those items are must-haves and which are less important. That will help you evaluate each community you visit with your loved one or on their behalf. Here are a few conversation starters to help you develop your wish list:
1. If you and your parent live more than a few miles apart, decide where they want to live. Do they want to find an assisted living community closer to you or remain in their own neighborhood?
2. How much space will they realistically need? This can be a tough one if they are coming from a private home they have lived in for decades. It usually means parting with some of their belongings. Start by asking them which of their possessions (family heirlooms, crafts, hobby supplies, etc.) they will want to take with them. That can help you determine what size apartment they will need.
3. What is most important to them in making this move? Are they looking for more social opportunities? Do they have an illness that they know will become progressively worse and require medical support? For some seniors, finding a community with an attached nursing care community will be a priority while others may be looking for a new home that offers a wide variety of life enrichment activities.
4. What setting are they most comfortable in each day? Does your mother prefer to have dinner in more formal dress and her favorite pearls or does she favor jeans and sneakers most days? Is a peaceful country setting her idea of home or would she rather be surrounded by the bustling noises of the city?
5. If they no longer drive or will soon be hanging up the keys. Will family be available to take them places or will they need to rely on the community’s transportation services?
We hope this gives you a few ideas as you begin your search for care. Remember to call a care manager in your community if you need help. They are skilled professionals who offer unbiased support and guidance to families.