See if We Have Top-Rated
Senior Care Facilities in Your Area
If you are over 55 and are wondering whether a move to a senior community center is the right choice now or in the future, the best research tool you have is the on-site visit. Armed with the right questions, and on the lookout for some key indications, you'll be more apt to distinguish the good from the bad, as well as determine which types of senior community services will best fit your lifestyle.
Senior community services and centers generally fall into one of three categories. Independent living is best suited for active seniors with very few health problems who enjoy the outdoors, sports, or other physically engaging activities, and who put a premium on maintaining or improving mind and body. Assisted living facilities are for seniors who are still active and independent, but need some assistance with activities of daily living like dressing, bathing, housekeeping and meal preparation. Nursing homes are designed to provide comprehensive medical and skilled nursing care to seniors who are recovering from a major health issue like surgery, illness or a stroke, and also for seniors dealing with long-term challenges due to declining physical or mental independence.
Regardless of the level of care you prefer, there are common guidelines, questions and criteria that can inform your search.
First Impressions of a Senior Community Service
Foremost in your mind should be the idea that you are not going to be happy in a place that doesn't feel like home. Do the living spaces seem like somewhere you'd be comfortable spending a large amount of time for the next year, five years, or 10 years?
Are all the activities you currently take pleasure in, whether skiing or socializing or scrabble, available to you in ways that will continue to engage you mentally and physically? Are the people in the community 'my kind of people'? Don't fall victim to stereotypes or snobbery (because, after all you don't really know anyone yet) but do be honest with yourself and open to thoughts about whether you'd enjoy spending time with the people you see or meet.
Think Like an Anthropologist
What are the group dynamics? Are the residents happy and cheerful? Are they welcoming to visitors? Are they engaged in the activities that the senior community center advertises? The marketing professionals at companies in the senior care industry are notoriously aggressive; don't let the enthusiasm of your tour-guide get in the way of what you actually observe as you take the tour. Is the interaction between staff and residents cheerful and warm in both directions? Or is it dismissive or disinterested? Do the executives and administrators know the residents by name? Are the residents on a first name basis with the staff? Do you see or hear people asking for assistance? Do they seem comfortable doing so? Do they get an appropriate and timely response? Do the residents look well-groomed and well-fed? Confident? Comfortable? Content?
Trust Your Senses When Evaluating Senior Communities
Are there any particularly pleasant or unpleasant smells? Outside? In the bedrooms, bathrooms, dining rooms or common spaces? Do any surfaces in the rooms, hallways, kitchen or dining area feel sticky, gritty or dusty? Do you hear any yelling, calls for help, panicked staff or emergency sirens? Calls for help and emergency alarms can be good or bad, depending on the response from staff. But yelling and panicked staff are probably not a good sign. If you are visiting during mealtime, are you shown the dining areas? Does the food look and smell good? Are you offered samples and encouraged to taste? Are the staff patient and accommodating of menu requests? Are they assisting residents who need help eating? Are the rooms or apartments in the senior community furnished and decorated to reflect the individual style and requirements of the residents? Is it obvious that the residents are allowed to add their own personal touches, or does it seem antiseptic and cold?
What to Ask Senior Community Services & Centers
Take their answers with a healthy dose of skepticism, but ask these questions and ask them to clarify if necessary. Are staff members permanently assigned to residents? How long has the top person in charge been working for the senior community/facility? Are transportation services available? Does the community allow cars? Do parking spaces cost extra? What kind fitness facilities are offered? Is there an on-site physical therapist, personal trainer, spa center or masseuse? What happens if a resident has a complaint or problem? Are staff/resident conferences available to work out a solution? Are there different size or layout options for apartments or rooms? Under what circumstances might a resident be transferred to another unit or room. What are the procedures and criteria for resident discharge or expulsion from the senior community? Is the resident able to refuse or appeal? (Get a copy of an actual contract to read carefully in regards to discharge. Again, the marketers are often aggressively adept at fast talk and half-answers with this topic
Get Feedback from the Residents
If during your tour of any senior community service or center, you get the sense that the staff is steering you away from any meaningful interaction with the residents, warning bells should go off. Make sure you get to talk to a few of the residents without intimidation or spin from a staff member bent on controlling the exchange. Get as many personal perspectives as time allows, and find out a few of the following things: Does the staff respect residents' autonomy and independence? Is there a community curfew? What would the resident change if they could? Are the apartments built to last? Is the food any good? Are there bans on smoking or alcohol consumption? If the facility offers health aides, are they knowledgeable and always happy to help? Do they stick around or is there constant firing and hiring? Has the resident had anything go missing from their apartment?
Does this senior community center really feel like a community, or are there cliques and unresolved conflicts that detract from the social atmosphere. Has the resident made lasting friendships? Does the resident know everyone in the community by name? What is the single best thing about this senior community? What's the one thing the resident would warn you about before you join?