CHOOSING RETIREMENT HOUSING
You and your loved one have talked it over and decided to look into retirement housing. The goal is to find housing where your loved one's needs are met in a comfortable, quiet, and homelike setting. The first step is to make a list of needs, the list need to include both your loved one's needs and yours.
It's important to include your loved one in the decision-making process. If your loved one has the opportunity to participate in the shopping process he will be more inclined to like the facility if he is part of the selection, he won't blame or resent you for the decision, and neither of you need feel any guilt about the situation.
What to Look For
Activities and social opportunities are just as important as medical services and meals. The opportunity to participate in activities is a way to meet other residents and form a new life. Ask the admissions counselor about other residents, where they come from, average level of education and cognitive skills. Your Mom is more likely to make new friends if her social circle includes people who are similar to her.
Cost will be a factor in your decision as it may limit your options when you make a list of places to visit. Moving to an assisted living facility while adequate funds are available can be an investment in the future. Many facilities have some beds set aside for low-income residents. Because of the limited number, there is usually a wait list. These beds are usually paid for by Medicaid. The facility will help you with the paperwork to apply for Medicaid but it will take weeks to process it, so three months is a good rule of thumb for processing a Medicaid application and securing a funded bed.
How to Find Facilities
Finding facilities to visit takes time but you can do a lot of the research on the phone. It's best to make an appointment because some facilities do not have admissions representatives on duty 24/7 to show you around. If you do not like the way the admissions counselor talks to you over the phone, you probably will not like the facility. Trust your instincts but understand that you may have some prejudices if you do not feel positive about the move.
The family doctor is a good source of referral. The doctor may have a professional relationship with the facility. Churches are another excellent source of referral. Do not hesitate to consult a church-based organization as they are nonprofit organizations and most have a long tradition of serving people of all faiths. Local hospital social workers are another source for referrals although they may limit services to patients. The Human Resources Department at your employer may also have experience with residential facilities. Advertisements are an excellent source of ideas. The ads in local newspapers, particularly those directed toward seniors are a better resource than the phone book. Realtors often have lists of facilities where they refer clients when they decide to sell their homes. In addition, many cities have geriatric case managers who work like real estate agents. They can help you identify facilities and, depending on the service, will make phone calls and take you to see them.
What to Observe
After you've written down an initial list of facilities you researched, plan on field trips to at least two of them. Even if you are sure you've identified the right place, look at one or two others. The visits may help identify additional criteria to add to your list of needs. At the very least the visits will help you establish a minimum standard for acceptability.
Be sure to look for an environment offering security and happiness. I talk about retirement housing and avoid the term "retirement home." My mental image of a retirement home is a porch full of old folks sitting in rockers and wheelchairs dozing, sitting, and waiting. However, when you visit a facility you may find residents waiting in the lobby. Find out if they are waiting for an activity before you assume they have been abandoned. See if there are community activities. Check to make sure the dining area is clean and neat, and that the staff is well-groomed. Check to make sure that there are elevators and ramps in the facility -- and be sure to check the bathrooms and under the beds for cleanliness!
The search calls for a positive attitude. When you find the right combination of services, location and cost the staff will help to make your loved one feel comfortable. But you and your loved one are the only people who can convert a room at an assisted living facility into a home.