Choosing to move into a senior community is only half the battle. After a family has discussed their options, the next challenge lies in getting acclimated to a completely new lifestyle after being living independently for decades.
According to Schonda Grays, executive director at Rose Senior Living in Beachwood; Chanin McElroy, corporate vice president of marketing at Danbury Assisted Living in North Canton; and Melinda Smith, senior living specialist at The Fountains Assisted Living in Lyndhurst, families should approach that transition with care and consideration.
“As the need or interest occurs, it is important to understand what is most important to your loved one in deciding to move into a senior living community,” McElroy said. “We encourage detailed communication on knowing what your wants and needs are. As a family member, your thoughts on what is important may be different than your loved one. So, asking what is important is the first step.”
When starting this transition, Grays said families should be aware of the many misconceptions that come along with moving into a senior community. Going into a move uneducated will maximize those worries when most times they are not a real representation of what can happen.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about senior communities, and we encourage people to stop by and take a look for themselves,” she explained. “Most of our visitors tell us it is not at all what they expected. Every person is different, but it makes sense for everyone to take stock based on individual needs.”
McElroy said families should also be aware of the associated costs that come with moving into a senior community, as well as how their day to day life may change as their health does.
“Understanding all of the associated costs are important for seniors to consider, so we can review their current expenses as well as the expenses they would incur while residing at a community,” she said. “We can also offer support to seniors and their families to understand as their healthcare needs change, what care services are offered and provided at our communities. In addition to understanding the financial details and technicalities of transitioning, we make sure that each resident’s move is as easy as possible emotionally and mentally.”
After considering one’s care goals, Smith said choosing the community that aligns with that can pave the way for a smooth transition.
“You have to look at locations that work for you,” she noted. “Do you want them in the same area they lived in or closer to where you are? You should also consider their care needs and financial needs. Those are the three big things. In my perspective, if someone calls me, I’m going to listen to your needs and see if we can make that match. If it doesn’t work, we can refer you to somewhere else even if we wish to be the answer for everyone.”
Unique to the pandemic, Smith explained the transition to senior living might be even harder because of visiting restrictions and health concerns. Making that move now can worry the senior that they either will never see their family again or they’ll get sick, or that they feel much safer at home, she said.
“But (this move) is to keep your loved ones healthy and safe,” Smith said. “If you can explain and discuss that as a family, that can help their transition. And when moving them in, find out what is the best fit for your family. That helps the transition knowing they are happy where they are.”
Preparing for this transition during the pandemic also poses a unique question for many families – being confident that a senior community is the safest place for your loved one. If you don’t believe they’ll be safe, happy and taken care of, no one is going to be comfortable with the move. Use those concerns to inform your questions, Grays suggested.
“This is a lifestyle decision, so do lots of research about what is out there,” she said. “Keep in mind what’s important to you and ask questions relevant to those items when speaking with various communities.”