There are more senior living options available than ever for those over 55. Learn what your options are and how to find the best senior living near you.
Whether you’re looking for the best senior living solution for a loved one or you’re considering the next step for yourself, when you do a quick Internet search for “senior living near me,” you’ll probably be overwhelmed by the results that come back. Senior living facilities have become big business as the United States population has continued to age in the last few decades. There are more options than there has ever been in the past, with a greater variety of ways to customize living arrangements, amenities, and levels of care.
Choosing the right living arrangements for yourself or a loved one in their senior years is a complex challenge. There are many issues to consider, including the cost of housing, how independent you or your loved ones are, what amenities you or your loved ones expect, the location and size of the accommodation, whether medical or nursing assisting is needed, and more. How do you determine what the appropriate choice is?
Steps for Choosing the Best Senior Living Near You
You’ve probably already taken the first few steps toward finding new living arrangements for yourself or your loved ones if you’ve read this far, but here’s a list to make the process easier:
- Decide which type of senior or 55+ housing is best for you or your loved one.
- Search using the phrase “senior housing near me.”
- Narrow down your list to the ones that fit the category of housing you’re interested in.
- Check out online reviews for these senior living facilities on your list.
- Check with your state’s licensing agency (often the Department of Health or Department of Public Welfare) for any necessary licensing. If you aren’t sure what to look for, your state’s office on aging can guide you to the appropriate state office.
- Narrow down your list to several facilities you are interested in and tour each facility with your loved ones, asking questions along the way.
- Ask for referrals from current residents.
- Read the contract carefully and have it reviewed by an elder law attorney if possible.
What Are the Various Kinds of Senior Living Near Me?
With so many options, the first step toward choosing your new living arrangements should be understanding what your options are. You’ll come across several different terms defining the type of housing offered and what services are included. Knowing what to expect from each of these is crucial, as there are very different levels of care with each one.
These are apartment complexes that are age-restricted. Generally, they are for 55 and older, but sometimes they can be for 62 and older. You will find some luxury apartments, but the majority are quite affordable, and some are set aside for lower-income seniors. These apartments are also referred to as active adult apartments or senior apartments. You can usually find one and two-bedroom apartments. Three bedroom apartments are more difficult to find.
These apartments offer amenities such as walking paths, handicap friendly apartments, elevators, swimming pools, planned activities, salons and barbershops, security, emergency call systems, social areas, and transportation services. Senior apartments are usually located near public transportation, cultural activities, and medical centers.
Independent Living Communities
These communities are generally for those who are still capable of caring for themselves on a daily basis without assistance from others but who may want some amenities to make life easier. Independent living offers meals served in a dining area, much like a restaurant, housekeeping services, transportation to doctors’ appointments, local stores, and other services, and various social and wellness programs. There is no medical care included, but many chores are handled to make life more pleasant.
Independent living covers a broad spectrum of housing options. You can find apartments much like 55+ apartments, but they will run the gamut from basic to luxurious depending on the price point. You can also find independent living communities that offer townhouses, carriage houses, and condominium homes in addition to one, two, and three-bedroom apartments.
Assisted living is the next step up in care from independent living. If you are no longer able to handle some of the daily tasks of self-care, assisted living may be the senior living arrangement you’re looking for. If you or your loved one needs help with laundry, personal hygiene, taking medications, dressing, and other daily aspects of living, look into assisted living. For many seniors, it provides the extra care needed when independent living is no longer feasible, but 24-hour nursing home care isn’t needed.
A nursing home provides residents with custodial care of varying degrees for those who can no longer care for daily needs related to hygiene and daily living tasks. The staff at nursing homes provide meals, help with self-care, do chores such as laundry and cleaning, dispense medications, assist with activities, and frequently check each resident each day to make sure they are safe and well. The staff are usually trained nursing aids. They typically have a registered nurse present at least eight hours a day and an LPN at all times.
Skilled Nursing Facility
A skilled nursing facility provides all the non-medical care of a nursing home with the addition of daily required medical care. The medical services offered are the main difference between a nursing home and a skilled nursing facility. The skilled nursing facilities staff often includes registered nurses, doctors, nurse practitioners, physical and occupational therapists, and speech therapists.
In some situations, an individual’s stay at a skilled nursing facility may be short-term after an illness or injury due to the need for additional care and rehabilitation. Some examples in which this might be the case include recovering from a stroke, rehabilitation after hip replacement, or recovering from a chronic wound. In these cases, seniors may move from a skilled nursing facility to a nursing home or assisted living facility after sufficient rehabilitation. However, for some seniors with chronic health issues or disabilities, a skilled nursing facility may be the right solution for around-the-clock care.
Families often search for “senior living near me” when they want to find senior living close by for a parent or loved one who has dementia or Alzheimer’s. They want the best possible memory care for their loved one, but they want it to be close by so they can continue to visit and maintain a relationship. If their loved one is suffering from a memory problem, it is essential to find a facility that offers memory care.
Memory care is designed to offer varying levels of care similar to assisted living facilities with added services to compensate for memory loss and cognitive impairments. These added services and the overall design of memory care residences add to the resident seniors’ safety, security, and quality of life. The key to the comfort of those living in memory care is reducing stress levels. Design elements may include natural lighting, community meeting spaces, bright colors, memory boxes, security alarms, circular community designs, and reassuring schedules.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities, or CCRCs, are planned retirement communities that provide independent living and increasingly more comprehensive services and living arrangements. CCRCs allow seniors to age in communities and move from independent living to assisted living, then on to nursing care or memory care without leaving behind their community and friends.
The various levels of care can be offered in different wings of the same apartment complex, in other buildings, or different areas of a campus, depending on the CCRC’s size. There are several types of contracts available for living in continuing care retirement communities designed to protect elderly residents by ensuring they can continue to live in the community and benefit from the availability of increasing levels of care as needed. As care needs increase, the cost increases, but CCRCs offer a variety of payment plans to potential residents to mitigate costs over time.
Finding Reviews and Narrowing Your Search
This can be one of the most confusing parts of finding the right senior living solution. Even if you narrow it down to just assisted living facilities or only nursing homes, you may end up with a long list of possibilities. Be sure to look at online reviews and compare those from across a variety of sites. Be sure the reviews are recent and verifiable.
As an alternative, you can use a professional service such as A Place for Mom, which helps you sort senior housing solutions by type of housing, location, and other criteria. A Place for Mom also has senior living advisors available to guide you through the process of finding the right fit for you or your loved ones. They do all the research for you, including checking into accreditations, licensing, reviews, and reputations.
What to Look For & What Questions to Ask When Touring Senior Living Facilities
Touring senior living apartments, condos, or homes is one of the most critical steps to take before deciding for yourself of a loved one. Know what to look for, watch how staff and residents act, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.
Questions about the staff are critical. For instance, what is the staff-to-resident ratio? If there is one staff member for every six residents, that is much better than one staff member for every 15 residents. Also, ask about what the expectations are for staff response to residents. For instance, if a residence uses the call bell because they need assistance in the bathroom, how quickly is a staff member expected to respond?
Questions about routines are essential as well. Is there a personal hygiene routine in the nursing home or assisted living facility? Who will help you or your loved one with bathing, shaving, and dressing, and how often will they be able to do these activities? Are there restrictions on when they can do certain activities?
Be sure to enquire about the level of services provided and compare them to those offered at comparable facilities. Ask about cleaning services, transportation, and personal services such as barbers or hairdressers, what types of exercises and entertainments are available, and any other services you or your loved one are interested in.
Any time you tour senior living communities, you should be shown a sample residential apartment, condo, or home and all common areas, the various amenities, and the dining facilities. While all these will be helpful, always ask if you can visit a resident in their apartment as well. This will give you a better idea of what life is like for actual residents who live there. Is the apartment clean and fresh? Is there plenty of lighting?
Get a Feel for Residents’ Daily Lives
Interaction between the staff and residents is critical. Do the staff members treat the residents with warmth and respect? When they talk to them, do they call them by name? Do the residents respond the same way? These relationships can reveal a great deal about the level of respect and dignity experienced by residents.
Also, take notice of whether the residents socialize with each other at meal and in common areas. Do they take advantage of the various amenities and activities offered? Is there evidence of friendships and meaningful interactions? Feeling fulfilled and having the benefit of companionship is essential to a healthy and happy senior life.
Watch for Red Flags
If you’re looking at assisted living facilities or more advanced care communities such as nursing homes, there are certain red flags you should look for when you visit. If you spot these signs, be wary:
- Residents in wheelchairs who are left unattended in hallways
- Slow response to residents’ request for assistance
- Neglected common areas (dying plants, dusty windowsills, cluttered tables)
- Dining or refreshment areas that aren’t properly maintained
- Staff members not following proper sanitation guidelines.
- Staff members who don’t know the residents by name
- Unpleasant odors or dirty rooms
As you move through the process of finding the right senior living arrangements near you, don’t be afraid to ask questions at any step during the process. Whether you’re curious about a service offered or concerned about how your loved one’s care will be managed in an emergency, speak up. If your concerns aren’t addressed satisfactorily, ask to talk to the director of the facility directly. If you still aren’t satisfied, it may be time to look for another senior living solution that better meets your needs.