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Making the best choice

Know what to look for when choosing a retirement community

It’s difficult to pick the best retirement facility for yourself or a loved one. In fact, the decision can be overwhelming. It’s a huge responsibility that carries a lot of emotion.

Whether you’re considering independent living, assisted living, memory care or nursing care, these tips can help you in the selection process.

There seem to be so many senior communities — what's the difference?

Before you tour senior communities, it’s a good idea to know your budget as well as some of the services you need and amenities you want.

  • Independent living: A retirement community that is designed to be easier and safer for older adults to navigate, offering transportation services, social networks and a supportive environment.
  • Assisted living: A supportive environment for people who are still able to live somewhat independently. Services are usually intermittent and task-specific, such as helping bathe or taking medications.
  • Memory care facility: Memory care is for those struggling with dementia or who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Skilled nursing home: The highest level of care for older adults outside the hospital setting. There are two basic types of care — short-term, rehabilitative care and long-term care for chronic conditions.

Where should I begin looking?

Location is the starting point, and the most important consideration. When evaluating, here are some questions to ask: 

  • Is it easily accessible to the prospective resident’s family and friends?
  • Is a hospital offering emergency services reasonably close?
  • Most important, is it agreeable to the person who will be living there?

What’s the first thing I should look for when I visit a facility? 

The nose knows. Cleanliness is important as is attention to detail. What you smell as you go through the building is important. Does it smell clean or dirty? It also is important to visit with the folks who already live in the building, visit with their family members and visit with staff on the floor. They can give you a better picture of what the facility or ministry is really like. The compassionate, professional care that is provided is the most important part of your decision.

What are some things to be aware of when selecting skilled nursing?

Visit the facility at different times of the day to see how the residents appear and gauge interactions between residents and staff. Are the residents treated with dignity and respect? Do they genuinely like the staff? Are staff members friendly? These are important questions. We like to celebrate life at Via Christi Villages. We like to have residents stay involved in activities they enjoy. The only thing that should change is their address.

What should someone look for in an independent living apartment or facility? 

Look at the small things, the things that most people would take for granted. If staff take care of the small things, they will take care of your loved one as well. Residents should be happy and well adjusted. They should enjoy living in the facility. Is their hair combed? Are they clean and well taken care of? When they ask for help are they getting the help they need? 

When should a memory care facility be considered? 

Memory care is usually diagnosis driven, so behavior along the lines of dementia is important when considering a facility. You might notice some confusion with your loved one. Difficulty finding their way around town or caring for themselves are signs. Safety is the highest concern with your loved one. If you feel they aren’t safe, it’s time to look for care.