If you think someone in your family might benefit from a move to a senior living community, one of the first steps you’re likely to take is to research potential communities online. The trouble is that there are lots of choices out there and wading through website after website can be overwhelming.
How can you make sense of it all? Well, it helps to understand some basics before you begin.
Here are 5 pointers you might find useful.
1) Senior living community. Retirement home. What’s the correct term to use?
Both are correct. You’ll likely find “senior living community” being used on most websites nowadays. It’s the more current term. The change in terminology reflects a greater emphasis on nurturing a sense of community among residents and offering them opportunities to continue leading active, purposeful lives. In other words, it’s not only about providing care for their health needs.
2) What types of care do retirement homes / senior living communities provide?
Senior living communities may include one or more of the following living arrangements:
- Independent living is for active seniors who need little or no help managing their health. They’ve grown tired of the hassles of keeping up a house and they like that they can choose to have various chores done for them like laundry and property maintenance. They enjoy the social aspects of living in a seniors’ community, including programmed activities. Residents may live in a townhouse or apartment with its own kitchen.
- Assisted living is for seniors who require some help managing their health or looking after themselves. Meals are often provided. Medication management is usually included. Help with personal care (e.g. dressing, bathing, grooming) is also available as needed as well as things like laundry services. Most assisted living also features programmed activities. Residents generally live in their own private apartments.
- Memory care is for seniors with dementia for require supervision. Memory care floors often have secure access, which controls the risk of residents – who may be disoriented – leaving the property and becoming lost. There’s usually a higher level of support from staff on these floors as well. Some senior living communities have special expertise in providing memory care.
Some senior living communities span all these categories, offering what’s sometimes referred to as a continuum of living or continuum of care, the idea being that if your needs change in the future, you won’t necessarily have to move to a new place where people don’t know you.
The main thing to realize is that there are a wide variety of options out there. Senior living communities aren’t all the same.
Keep in mind that you can save yourself a lot of online research time by first of all getting clear on whether you’re looking for independent living, assisted living, memory care, or a nursing home.
3) Is there a difference between retirement homes and nursing homes?
Yes, there is. The purpose of assisted living and memory care is to provide nonmedical supervision and support, not 24/7 nursing care.
Nursing homes are licensed healthcare residences that are staffed with skilled nursing staff including registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) who are available to provide 24-hour medical attention and assistance with personal care. Residents generally live in private or shared rooms as opposed to their own apartments.
4) Will I be able to compare the costs of different senior living communities online?
Possibly. Once you begin your research, you’ll discover that some senior living communities don’t list their fees on their websites. Others show a “starting at” price. Still others offer all-inclusive packages of services, while others charge on an à-la-carte basis, making it difficult to get a true apples-to-apples comparison.
In some cases, the price you pay may depend on the specific types of services you’re looking for. For instance, if you need extra help with personal care in assisted living, your cost may be different from someone who, say, only needs help with medication management.
It’s perfectly reasonable to ask for that information when you first call the communities that look most promising. After all, affordability will be an important factor in helping you decide whether they make your short list.
5) Will comparing websites give me enough information to select the right senior living community?
Probably not. Even after you narrow things down to a short list of senior living communities, you’ll want to pay each a visit and get a look and feel for each place. Most people wouldn’t buy a home sight unseen; the same applies here. But beyond that, you’ll want to get a sense for the people who live there as well as the staff.
For more on this topic, check out our Choosing The Right Community guide.