When you are considering a transition to senior living, there are plenty of options to consider, and initial steps to take in the process. You may want to ask a loved one or friend to go on this information quest with you - there is a lot to learn! And it is fun to have someone with as you go exploring. One of the first things you'll want to do is tour the communities that you are interested in. If you’re not sure what to expect, or what questions you should be prepared with, here is a short list of considerations.
1. Senior Living is Not One Size Fits All – Tour All the Options
Staff at a senior living community should ask you some qualifying questions when you call to schedule a tour to determine the type of living option you seek. Communities offer living arrangements and amenities to appeal to a wide array of older adults. Varying levels of care, dynamic culinary options, access to specialized programs, and robust social programming are all considerations when choosing senior living. Inquire upon scheduling your tour if you can expect to see different living options – like assisted living, independent living, and if memory care is a part of the continuum.
2. Culture Matters – Getting a Feel for Neighbors, Residents, and Staff
The people living and working in the senior living community are important. On the tour, do people – including Residents, staff, volunteers, and even visitors – look happy and engaged? Is there a natural and open socialization occurring between individuals? Do you notice programs happening and event notices around the community? Are staff members warm, personable, and memorable? The community is more than the walls and physical aspects of the space; the human connection is critical to feeling at home and being supported.
3. Assess Safety and Security
Just as you do now with your own personal care, safety, and well being, you’ll want to confirm the safety and security options at the senior living communities you visit. Are bathrooms and other living areas accessible? What is the contact plan if Residents have an emergency or immediate need for care? Is there medication assistance available should you need it now, or in the future? What about overall security of the physical location? Are the living arrangements situated in safe, accommodating neighborhoods or areas?
4. This is a Big Decision, Not a Sales Pitch
The community you choose should feel like home when you arrive. So, the tour guide or staff member directing you on your visit should welcome you and treat you in a manner that represents home. The transition to senior living is not about a sale or filling a quota; rather it’s a milestone that should feel natural and anything but forced or coerced. If you are just beginning the senior living conversation, taking a tour of a community is a great first step in the process. And, it’s just that – a step. A community’s tour guide should treat you with respect and kindness and be patient as you navigate new territory, both physically and emotionally.