Senior Living Resources Lutheran Senior Services
Options in Senior Living – What’s Available and What Questions to Ask

Options in Senior Living – What’s Available and What Questions to Ask

By Valerie Cooper, MA, LHNA, Vice President of Operations and Executive Director

When looking at senior living communities, it can be overwhelming. There are different levels of living – assisted living, long term care, independent living, rehabilitation –  to consider and things to look for at each level when deciding on a senior living community. Life Plan Communities have all levels of living on one campus, giving residents access to more assistance and care if needs change. Residents can enter a Life Plan Community at any level – assisted living, long term care, independent living, or rehabilitation – based on their needs.

Here’s a look at different levels and tips on what to consider at each:

Memory Care

Safety is the most important aspect when it comes to memory care centers. If you believe your loved one has memory impairment, get a diagnosis early on. This allows your loved one to be involved in the decision-making process.

Questions you should ask a community about memory care:

  • Is it secured? How? What does this mean?
  • What training does your staff receive related to dementia care, agitation, etc.?
  • Is there lifestyle enrichment to help cognitive functions and keep my loved one active?

Home and Community Based Services

Home health solutions for families in St. Louis are another option.

There are a few different types of these services:

  • Home Health: skilled nursing care and physical, speech, or occupational therapy
  • Private Duty: a range of in-home solutions to support families with aging parents or spouses who want to stay together at home
  • Hospice and Palliative Care: Under the wishes of the patient and family members, pain management through nursing care, case management, social work, and chaplain support

Independent Living

Joining a community when your loved one has control of the situation gives them to opportunity to plan for themselves if their needs change. Independent living options range from patio homes to apartment homes with community amenities and conveniences nearby. While medical oversight is not provided, those in independent living to have priority access to levels of living with more assistance and care such as assisted living and long term care. When considering independent living, let your loved one do the talking.

Assisted Living

If your loved one needs help with daily activities of living, assisted living offers that extra assistance balanced with maintaining independence.

When considering assisted living, there are questions you can ask to make sure your loved one is getting the care they need:

  • Ask about what kind of staff they are using, not just how many.
  • Is it on-site Registered Nurse (RN) care or on-call RN care?

Long Term Care

Around-the-clock care is provided in long term care or care centers, sometimes referred to as skilled nursing facilities or nursing homes. Like with all levels of living there are regulations, if you ask to see a community’s ranking be sure to ask for an explanation too. If your loved one is in long term care, work to build a relationship with the direct care staff, make sure they know who they who your loved one is as a person and who they were before coming here.

Short Stay Rehabilitation

A short-stay rehabilitation visit could be a first experience in a Life Plan Community. But rehabilitation is very different from actually living in a community. In short-stay rehabilitation, therapists work with guests on physical, occupational, and speech therapy to get them home as soon as possible. However, this is still a good opportunity to look around and ask questions.



The important thing to remember when considering a move to a senior living community for your loved one or ways of making the most of assisted living in St. Louis is to start the process early. There are a lot of considerations to keep in mind when deciding on a community and many communities have waitlists. You don’t want your family to be in a crisis and you want to have time to make this decision wisely.


This blog is part of a four-part series on helping your loved one navigate their aging journey. Click to read other blogs, including:

Signs to Watch for to Help Your Aging Loved One

Tips for Difficult Conversations about Aging

Helping Your Aging Loved One get Legal Affairs in Order


Author Bio

As the Vice President of Operations, Ms. Cooper leads the Executive Directors across Lutheran Senior Services communities. Additionally, she serves as Executive Director of Laclede Groves and Richmond Terrace. Ms. Cooper has been a licensed nursing home administrator since 1997, with experience providing services ranging from short-term rehab, skilled nursing, memory care, and assisted living. She joined LSS in 2002 and prior to that worked in both for-profit and not-for-profit senior living communities.
Ms. Cooper has 25 years of experience in the senior living industry in multiple operations roles as well as marketing, social services, and administrative capacities. She holds a BS degree in Human Environmental Studies from Southeast Missouri State University and MA in Gerontology from Webster University in St. Louis.


Back ToTop