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:
Safety is the most important aspect when it comes to memory care. 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
Bringing services into your home is another option. This can help while you are waiting for a spot in a community to become available or determining what community is best for your loved one.
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: Under the wishes of the patient and family members, pain management through nursing care, case management, social work, and chaplain support
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.
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 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: