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As loved ones grow older and families begin to discuss assisted living or nursing home options, the most difficult step is often getting everyone on the same page to coordinate what types of services are needed and where to go for them.

That’s why residential facilities and assistance programs take steps to ensure patients retain their independence.

According to Kelly Rose Stallard, corporate director of business development at Danbury Senior Living Communities in North Canton, and Leslie Fulford, director of community outreach for Wexner Heritage Village in Columbus, many older adults are hesitant to relocate because they feel like they’re surrendering their sovereignty in exchange for assistance.

“Some people fear a loss of independence and a lot of ability to continue making their own decisions,” Fulford explained. “Their fears are based on the unknown, which is very understandable. But long-term care residents have autonomy and the rights to make their own decisions. We make sure every resident is treated with respect and dignity and has a voice to make their own choices, if they are able to do so.”

In addition to the health and safety that residential care offers their loved ones, Stallard said families can rest assured knowing their relatives are getting living experiences that are tailored to them.

“We meet with the family and discover what’s important to the resident, what they’ve done in their life, so we can create a meaningful interaction for them, so they feel that they have some successes for their day,” she said. “One of the things we emphasize with people coming into our community is they can enjoy the things they enjoy doing, so we’ll take care of the transportation, we help schedule appointments, we make sure to build in a great active social life.”

Fulford said a major component of helping residents reach their best potential health at Wexner Heritage Village is by preserving their autonomy through socialization with staff and peers, which isn’t something they always have access to as they grow older at home.

“The socialization they get is a big positive, especially if they were homebound or unable to see many people while living at home,” she said. “At Wexner Heritage Village, our activities team is very positive, proactive and involved with our residents. It’s so important – especially during a time like this when residents are unable to see their families as much as they used to.”

To help residents pass the time and keep homebound patients entertained and healthy during the pandemic, Danbury has started a YouTube channel called The Danbury Difference, where staff regularly post videos of group activities like crafts, workouts or recipes. Stallard said they’re also using technology to make admissions easier, offering 360-degree tours of facilities via its website.

Another positive for undecided families to consider is the sheer variety of senior living providers offer options with different levels of care available at different intensities, depending on the company. For example, Danbury Senior Living offers both home health care services and what’s termed memory care neighborhoods. These self-contained areas are designed with residents who suffer from conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in mind.

“Danbury does not make you move to a different part of the community for different levels of care,” Stallard said. “That’s a really nice amenity that a lot of residents at Danbury like because they don’t have to keep moving. Instead of them having to relocate, we just increase our services right to their apartment.”

So, when it does come time to broach the subject of moving a loved one into a residential nursing facility, both Stallard and Fulford agree that families can be comfortable knowing care teams are open and helpful, working directly with residents before and during their stay.

“Many people don’t want to leave their home,” Stallard said, “but once they come and see the amenities in the community, they start making friends, they start going to a lot of their different offerings. They get a lot of their social life back.”

Danbury Senior Living has 18 locations throughout Ohio that focus on providing both independent and assisted living services as well as memory care.

Wexner Heritage Village offers health care and residential living options from its facilities in Central Ohio.

Collin Cunningham is a freelance writer from Cleveland.

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