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Research Is Key To Selecting A Senior Living Community

Making the move to a senior living community can be one of the biggest life changes for an older adult, and one that warrants careful research throughout the decision-making process.

Eldercare referral services can be an important resource, says Jennifer Prell president and of Elderwerks (www.elderwerks.com) a free network based in Schaumburg with offices throughout the state of Illinois.  “Our staff is experienced in the full range of senior housing and care options, including retirement communities, independent living, assisted living, memory care, supportive living and skilled nursing,” she said. “We work with dozens of older adults and their families each month to help each find a senior living community that meets their specific needs.”

Prell advises clients that as a good first step, the senior and any friends or family involved in the process make a list of the services and amenities they are seeking, along with any questions or concerns. “Use the list to compare and contrast as you visit potential new homes,” she says.
Elderwerks recommends that seniors consider only fully licensed facilities. “Licensed facilities work according to the law of the state. They do background checks, provide training, and are held accountable for all that they do,” explains Prell.
 
Licensed facilities also require signed contracts. “All contracts are different, and each building has its own unique set of rules, which can vary regarding such issues as deposit refunds, contract termination, and even personal property insurance.  Make sure everything is in writing, and that you understand it all. Having an elderlaw attorney review the contract is important,” she advises.
 
Perhaps more than ever, cost is a consideration in selecting a senior living community. “For each property being considered, find out exactly what’s included, versus what you pay extra for. You will typically pay an additional fee for services such as hair care, special trips, classes, or extra personal care,” says Prell, whose staff also helps clients identify overlooked sources such as Veterans and Social Security benefits that can help pay for care. 
 
While a lot of research can be done via phone and online, nothing can replace a first-hand visit to a potential new home. “Take a few moments to look around. Chat with residents about what they like and dislike about living there. Ask them and the staff as many questions as possible, so there are no surprises if you decide to move in,” says Prell.  

She suggests other things to observe when visiting a potential new home:

  • Is it clean and well maintained?  
  • Is there a warm, friendly atmosphere?   
  • How do the units look?
  • Does the food in the dining room look and taste good, and are meals well balanced?   
  • Does the facility have activities in place that will interest the senior?

An on-site visit is also a good chance to meet the staff. “Because they will be responsible for the daily care of your loved ones, everyone should be completely comfortable with them, and the services they provide,” says Prell.

When evaluating the staff, she recommends considering the following: 

  • Is everyone friendly, caring, and attentive?   
  • Do they assist with medication taking, storage, and reminders?
  • Do they provide an initial assessment of a potential resident’s needs? And once someone moves in, are the resident’s needs periodically reassessed?
  • Are medical care providers available to residents?   
  • How does the community keep families informed of care?

Today’s wide range of eldercare options has literally something for everyone in terms of care levels and cost. After a careful analysis of what’s needed and research on what’s available, an older adult can look forward to enjoying the next chapter of their life in a senior living community that perfectly suits their needs,” says Prell.  

About Elderwerks
 
Elderwerks is a free senior housing and care resource and referral service operating throughout the Chicago area for seniors, their families and professionals who help older adults. Its consultants are experts in senior housing and care options, including retirement communities, independent living, assisted living, memory care, supportive living, skilled nursing, and in-home care. Learn more at www.elderwerks.com or by calling 855-462-0100.