Independent living residences, frequently known as retirement communities, are for seniors who are generally in good health and do not need professional assistance or supervision of their daily activities. Residents usually live in apartments and are responsible for themselves, although private pay assistance is available. Older adults are free to come and go as often they wish; however, many choose to take advantage of the amenities, activities and sense of community offered.
Accommodations in these communities are smaller and easier to maintain, which allows active older adults to spend less time on chores and more time pursuing recreational, social and other activities.
Older adults who are looking to maximize their leisure time will enjoy the convenience an independent living community can provide. Some communities have on-site hair salons, libraries and dining facilities. Transportation to local attractions and shopping centers is often provided and organized outings are frequently scheduled. Residents are expected to visit their doctors for routine visits and on-going care.
Consider the community’s affordability:
There is a price range in communities based on location, amenities, corporate ownership, and services provided. Assessing income and assets over a life-span in addition to possible outside supplemental funds such as a state funded or VA programs is important to determine affordability of a community. A community with affluent residents is not always an indicator of highest quality.
Decision making with your loved one:
Older Adults may experience cognitive declines and may be resistant to change. You and your loved one are considering a life altering change transitioning from total control of their lifestyle to a situation with schedules and possibly smaller space. Most people prefer to age in place. Trying to comprehend their needs, desires, and values in this process is paramount. Easing the transition by giving them time and insuring a comfort level with the change is most important.
Individual routines and preferences need to be accommodated. Some people may prefer eating alone or reading rather than being involved in all activities and a community should value these and other preferences.
Visit the community and take a tour:
Tour the community with the marketing representative at a set appointment time. Familiarize yourself and your loved one with the services, amenities, cost, available apartment or room, activity schedule, nursing and personal care staff. Try to schedule a meal during the tour since your loved one will want to approve the quality of the food.
Tour unannounced after hours when administrative staff has left for the day and/or on weekends. Talk to the residents about their positive and negative comments of the community. Observe meal time. See what activities are available on “off hours or days” and judge how well the residents are engaged in those activities. Assess the cleanliness in the rooms, common areas, and outside grounds when maintenance staff is limited to make sure they meet yours and your loved one’s standards.
If the residents provide positive feedback and you and your loved one are satisfied with your observations, the community is probably is a good fit for your loved one.
The community has to “feel right”
Your loved one may feel like their move is a loss of independence since they are leaving their home. You do not want your loved one to think they are moving into an institution. Your loved one will be emotional about the move and needs to feel like the environment is friendly, welcoming, and homey to them. The staff needs to communicate their empathy, caring, and understanding of this transition. Many times, you and your loved one will visit a facility and it will just “feel right”.
Your loved one may need time to process this decision unless this is a crisis situation. Give them the time to process this transition as much as possible so the decision is theirs. This will make the adjustment much easier.