What to Look For in a Senior Living Community

Jan 19, 2021 | Senior Living

Choosing to move to a senior community is a big life decision. Your individual needs and desires must be factored into your search, and it can be difficult to know where to begin. Here are four important factors to consider when looking for a senior living community.

1. The Right Level of Care

Some communities offer more than one level of care, while others (like assisted living or skilled nursing facilities) focus on one type of care. Before you begin making a list of senior living options, it’s helpful to think about what level of care you need right now or may need in the future. Are you able to live alone without needing assistance with daily tasks? Then independent living may be right for you. Or, do you need some assistance when getting ready for the day or help with household tasks? If so, then assisted living might be a better option. Here’s a brief overview of the major levels of senior care:

  • Independent living usually features apartment-style or condo-style homes with utilities, maintenance, landscaping, and other services included in one monthly fee. Homes are usually equipped with kitchens and washers/dryers, although meals and laundry services may also be available on the campus. Residents are free to come and go as they please and do not usually receive extra help with activities of daily living (ADLs).
  • Assisted living also features apartment-style living, but with more help available to residents. Meals, laundry, medication reminders, and help with daily tasks like dressing and personal grooming are typical. Assisted living communities usually have a full activity calendar with plenty of opportunities for residents to socialize and be involved in the community.
  • Skilled nursing usually takes place in a residential facility where nursing is administered around the clock. Skilled nursing can be long-term or short-term for rehabilitation after an illness or injury. All costs are usually included in one monthly fee.
  • Memory care features all the aspects of assisted living or skilled nursing, but in an environment dedicated to people with memory challenges. The space is secure, staff are specially trained, and activities are specifically geared towards memory and cognitive loss.

2. Community Type

Senior living communities may be classified according to the type of care they offer. Some are dedicated assisted living communities or skilled nursing facilities. There are also independent living communities that do not include any extra services, amenities, or healthcare options. Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) or “Life Plan” communities take a different approach by offering multiple levels of care within the same network. The goal of continuing care communities is to give residents access to a full continuum of care and allow them to “age in place” without the need to move to a different facility when their needs change. With this built-in support system of healthcare services, residents can live confidently without worrying about where they will find care when a need arises.

The majority of senior living communities in the U.S. are for-profit organizations. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 69% of nursing homes are for-profit and 81% of residential care communities are for-profit. While there’s nothing about for-profits or nonprofits to make one better than the other, it may affect the general culture of the organization. Nonprofits can be faith-based or owned by an association. They are typically run by a board of directors and do not have one specific owner. At the end of the year, any profit is invested back into the building, staff, care, or programming. For-profit organizations may also do this, but they also have financial obligations to owners and stakeholders.

3. Licensure & Ratings

Before seriously considering any senior living community, you should confirm they are properly licensed. Assisted living facilities are optionally licensed and regulated by the state as a “Home for the Aged” or “Adult Foster Care”. Skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation services, and long-term care are also licensed and regulated by the state. Some financial aspects of continuing care communities may be regulated, but it varies from state to state. Don’t be afraid to ask a community about their licensure. In addition, you should also look at reviews and ratings online. Reviews on Google or Facebook are easy to access, as well as reviews on senior living directories like Caring.com. If you are able to take a tour, take time to observe the staff and residents. Talk with a few of the residents and ask about their experiences.

4. Facilities, Amenities, & Services

If possible, schedule a tour of the community. Keep in mind, communities may have visitor limitations or social distancing requirements. Pay attention to the atmosphere within the community and try to picture yourself walking the halls and participating in various activities. Ask about the facility’s amenities (some communities have libraries, pools, movie theaters, salons, dining venues, fitness centers, and more) and about the activities schedule. Talk with the admissions counselor about the included services, pricing, and the levels of care available. Come prepared with specific questions.

About Sunset Senior Communities

As one of the largest Christian-based nonprofit organizations in West Michigan, Sunset provides trusted, high quality senior care and living facilities. We welcome everyone into a family-like living environment and provide care and services that focus on residents’ total well-being. As a Life Plan Community, we offer multiple levels of care across our four communities. With options for independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care, in-home care, and rehabilitation, our continuum of care is designed to minister to each resident’s unique needs. Please contact us with any questions about senior living. We’d love to talk with you about our services.