As you begin to compare senior living communities, it helps to have a checklist of things you’re looking for. This checklist can be divided into two categories: things you need to have and things that would be nice to have.
In order for you to even consider a senior living community, it must tick all the “need to have” boxes. Any communities that make it past this “first cut” can then be compared based on how well they check the “nice to have” boxes.
Of course, an overriding consideration is cost. A senior living community won’t make it to your short list unless you can afford it, no matter how many boxes it checks. But before ruling out any community solely on the basis of cost, be certain you’ve done an apples-to-apples comparison with current living expenses. Our handy cost calculator can help you do that.
Also be sure to explore various funding options. Our post on the topic may alert you to some sources of money you may not have considered.
How to draw up a checklist
What’s considered a “need to have” often depends on who’s drawing up the checklist.
If you have an aging parent who’s considering a move to a senior living community, you may be most concerned about their safety. As a result, here are some of the things that may appear among your “need to haves”:
- Medication monitoring and management
- A meal plan that accommodates their tastes and dietary needs
- Personal care and homemaking services
- Security access to the property
- Around-the-clock staffing
- Programming that will keep them socially engaged
- Properly trained staff, especially if your parent has dementia
But if you’re a senior, your priority may be around maintaining your autonomy and finding a place that feels welcoming and helps you maintain an active lifestyle. And so, you may list “need to haves” that are something like this:
- A comfortable apartment that can be decorated according to your tastes
- The freedom to set your own schedule when you want to rather than follow a strict schedule
- Opportunities to go on outings, either arranged through the community or not
- The ability to welcome family and friends
- Tasty meals that give you interesting choices (you’re able to indulge once in a while)
The important thing to realize is that both sets of “need to haves” are important. And they’re not mutually exclusive.
A good senior living community should be able to meet all these criteria – in other words, balance safety and autonomy.
The trick is to generate the list together whenever possible.
If you’re not sure where to start or you want to make sure you don’t forget to include important items on your checklist, check out our post “Questions to Ask When You Tour a Senior Living Community”. You can use it to generate a checklist that’s specific to whatever type of senior living you’re considering, whether that’s independent living, assisted living, or memory care.
For more on this topic, check out our Choosing The Right Community guide.