The search for the perfect residence can be stressful and overwhelming. Like any important decision, it takes time, research and preparation to make the best choice in choosing the right retirement residence. Start by learning more about retirement living and how it differentiates from other senior housing options. It’s easier to make a decision when you or your loved one is not in a crisis. Thinking ahead will allow you to make the lifestyle transition less stressful. When it comes time to consider retirement living, consider all the options and help make the choice while the choice is still yours to make. Too often, many seniors wait until they experience difficulties with daily activities before they consider their retirement options. This can greatly reduce their choices. Here are 10 important questions you should ask when looking for a retirement residence:
- What level of care will I need?
When looking to move into a retirement residence, it is vital to do the research and find out what services it provides. Each retirement residence provides a certain level of service. It can range from independent living, assisted living and memory care. The level of service depends on each residence or community. Once a person’s needs outgrow the residence’s ability to provide proper care and service, it can ask the person to move out even if they’ve signed a contract.
- How is their reputation?
Check whether the retirement residence is certified and accredited. It is also important for potential residents to get input from trusted family members or friends about their decision to find a senior community. When visiting a potential residence, retirees should come ready with lots of questions. People should check for a clean environment, respectful staff and nutritious food, among other things. It is recommended to have a checklist prepared to know what to ask when touring a senior residence. Those considering a new senior community should check a company’s reputation by chatting with present customers.
- Who are the residents? Ask about the average age, male-female ratio and percentage of couples versus singles in the community. You want to find a place where you can make friends and stay engaged in social events with people that have similar interests, so collecting this information is vital.
- What is the cost for services that are included and what will cost extra?
Do not shy away from financial questions. You need to know exactly how much services cost, how you can terminate a lease and what financial penalties may apply after ending a contract early. Some communities charge a flat monthly rent for a variety of services and others provide more services à la carte. While some include utilities in the rent, others require you to set up your own accounts for electricity, cable TV and Internet. It is important to do the research and find out what you will pay for out of pocket and what will be covered in your rent before committing to a community.
- Is the residence close to family and amenities?
Some people choose a community near their long-time home so they can stay in touch with friends and family and continue their favorite pursuits. Others decide to move closer to adult children. Some independent living chains allow residents to spend part of the year in one city and part in another. As you age, your mobility will become more difficult. This is why it is important to consider these factors ahead of time as part of your overall decision making.
- What meals are provided and when?
Most independent living communities provide one or two meals a day, with kitchens available in their suites for those who cook. More meals can typically be chosen à la carte. Other communities will provide three meals a day, particularly those that do not have appliances in their suites. Ask about the meal hours, whether seats are assigned, what options are available outside meal hours and how the community accommodates people with any dietary restrictions you may have. Once you narrow down your choice to a few communities, don’t be afraid to ask for a complimentary lunch as many residences offer this option. This will provide you with a better idea about the quality of the food as well as the social environment in their dining area.
- What are the types of activities that are provided?
It is important to ask what types of activities that are provided and whether they are during weekdays or weekends. At the same time, ask whether there are any excursions as well as transportation provided, if required. Most senior communities have an impressive looking calendar of activities, but some events turn out to be poorly attended. At the same time, the activities may not suit your interests. It is important to spend some time at the residence, participate in some of the activities and get to know some of the people who are living there so that you can see whether you see yourself living there.
- How is the community managed? Find out the staff to resident ratio. This will tell you how much time and attention they can provide. Timely healthcare is essential. If a physician or nurse is not on site regularly, then residents may have to be transferred off site for healthcare services. Another important aspect is what safety and security features are available. This will offer peace of mind for the resident as well as their family and caregivers.
- What are the details in the contract? Before signing a contract, ensure everything the residence promised verbally is included in the fine print. Make sure the contract separates payment details for housing needs and care needs, like meals or housekeeping. Be very clear as to what costs are included and what costs are not included. Inquire about departure notice terms should you wish to leave the senior community. Also inquire about the physical, cognitive or medical conditions that would be required for the retirement residence to determine that you are no longer able to stay there.
- Is there a referral agency or counselor that can guide you through the process? Referral agencies or housing counselors, such as Lianas Services, can be a tremendous source of support and guidance. Very often, their services are provided for free to families as their fees can be covered by sponsored senior communities. Their experienced advisors can help navigate the many challenges of transitioning into a senior residence and they can help ask the tough questions when narrowing down the search for the perfect senior community.
Making the decision to change the way you or a loved one lives takes considerable thought and planning. If you are an adult child concerned about your parent(s), the subject should be brought up delicately over time with consideration, love and sensitivity in mind. Take the opportunity to ask friends or relatives who have gone through the experience. Talk to an advisor from a referral agency. Their experience may help guide and assist you in making some of those difficult decisions and help relieve some of the questions and stress that you may have. Don’t try to pick a place that works for you today. Try to imagine what it will be like as you or your loved one ages. As your loved one enters a new phase in their life, it is important to be sensitive to their needs and understand that this is not easy for them. As a family member, it is our job to support them and to help them live their lives with the utmost integrity and respect that we can provide.