By Tracy Walter | Monte Vista Village
The senior community design is as important as the resident mix and assisted living is not always appropriate for those who need memory support. Let’s look at levels of living separately.
- Community design: Is a hotel-style design preferred with everything inside a building or do you prefer an apartment-style design where you exit your front door to the outside?
- Resident mix: Do you prefer to interact with only independent residents or is it ok to have a mix of assisted living and memory care residents? This mixture would not be unusual in a hotel-style designed property.
- Remember, if you are an adult child shopping for a family member, you are not living there – they are. I often receive phone calls from seniors whose family has moved them into a very expensive community because they can afford it and the family thinks they deserve it. However, the senior is used to a much simpler lifestyle without all the bells and whistles and are quite uncomfortable in the upscale environment.
- Bells and whistles: The offerings of salt water pools, massage therapy and a full gym show well – but does it fit your family member? Many times the simpler things, such as personal staff and resident interaction, are far more important.
- Is the independent living section of the community licensed? This can be important if you have long-term care insurance and require some light support. Also, a licensed community will have care staff on the premises, but you will have to hire in if the community is not licensed.
- Hallways: How long is too long? Keep in mind if it is too difficult to get from the apartment to activities or dining your family member will not go as often.
- If the community is a multi-story building and there is a fire or earthquake, how do they get the resident to safety? How many staff members are available?
- Will the resident have easy access to staff 24 hours a day? In many multi-story buildings residents have to wait a long time for help and won’t see staff except for when they are receiving services.
- If there is memory issues, at what point do you have to find a community that supports memory care?
- What health or care issues are beyond the scope of the community?
- Size of the building and physical layout can be very important. Can your family member navigate hallways or will they stay in their room and wait for someone to come and escort them? Single story plans are often the best. And a pod lay-out where dining and common area are close at hand can be a nice option
- Is a secure community needed?
- What kind of training does the staff have and how often do they receive added training?
- Remember, when you take your family member out of their familiar environment, they will become more confused.
- Be honest with your family member’s condition. Pay attention to any changes that you see happening and if you notice a continuing decrease in memory. If you think it’s just age related memory loss and it truly is dementia, even with no diagnosis and you’re not honest about the situation, it could lead to an inappropriate placement.
- Assisted living is not memory care! Memory care requires caregivers with specialized training, and activities in assisted living are not designed for memory care residents.
- Does the community offer a long-term skilled nursing option if the resident needs that level of care?
- If so, are skilled nursing residents able to enjoy the grounds and activities that are part of the community life?
- Is the skilled environment small and homey or large and clinical?
- Is 24-hour nursing care – including feeding tube and catheter care – available if needed
Like buying a car, there are many preferences to consider and everyone is unique in what suits them. One thing senior living shopping should NOT have in common with car buying, however, is high pressure sales tactics! Never let a community representative push you into something you are not comfortable with or can’t afford. Instead, ask plenty of questions and ask for more resources if you need them. We’re always happy to help with the process here at Monte Vista Village.