What to Remember When Searching for a Senior Living Center

senior citizen giving two thumbs up

Picking out a senior living center for your parent can seem like a difficult process. If you stop looking at the homes with your eyes, and start looking at them through the eyes of your loved one, the process becomes a lot easier. However, there are several things that you will want to take into consideration.

Location Is a Key Factor

Leaving their home and moving into a facility is a major transition for a senior, and you want to make it as smooth of an adjustment as possible. Choosing a home that is in a location that is easy for friends and family members to visit will help keep your loved one’s social life active.

Don’t Base Your Decision on a Brochure

You have to think past the pretty brochures with the flowery writing. Pick up the phone and call around to the homes. Talk to the administrator and the director of care, and get a feel for their attitude. Pay attention to how they react toward you. If they are hurrying you off the phone, it could indicate how they treat residents in the home.

Research Each Facility

Do your homework and find out what the homes on your list are really like. You won’t get that information from any Administrator or DOC. Ask friends who have a loved one or know someone with a loved one in the facility you’re considering, and read online reviews.

Visit Your Choices

Before you place your loved one anywhere, you want to know exactly what it’s like to live there and what it’s like to visit. After narrowing down your options, arrange to visit the homes that are still on your list. You’ll get a better idea of whether you’re comfortable having your loved one living there.

Go on a guided tour the first time, but don’t let that be your only visit. Staff usually make sure everything is perfect during the guided tour. Make a couple of unexpected visits, preferably one during the day shift, and one during the night shift. It will give you an idea of what their staffing ratios are like, and what life in the home is really like.

The State of the Facility

Look past the furniture and the décor and pay attention to any odors. Pay close attention to corners, baseboards, windows, and ceilings for cleanliness, and signs of water damage or mold. Ask about the cleaning staff and how often they clean the rooms.

The General Atmosphere Among the Staff

Look in the rooms as you walk by and listen to conversations. Make a mental note of whether they enjoy working with the residents and treat them with dignity. If they don’t know the residents by name, or don’t respond to bells or listen to residents calling for them, it’s a red flag.

The General Atmosphere Among the Residents

Observe the residents in the facility and pay attention to whether they are clean and well-groomed. If you notice stains on their clothing or inappropriate clothing, it’s a sign that the nursing staff isn’t engaged enough with their patients. If you can, talk to the residents and ask them questions about their experiences in the home, and their likes and dislikes.

Find Out What Can Stay the Same

If your loved one can bring some personal belongings with them, it will make the transition easier. But, not all facilities allow that. You should also ask whether their current doctor can continue to care for them, or if they have to switch to a doctor used by the facility.

If they have a beloved pet, find out if you will be able to bring the pet in for visits. If not, you need to think about whether your loved one will be able to adjust to not seeing their pet, or if it would devastate them.

Be a Dining Critic

See if the homes will let you sit in and take part in a meal. Check for the quality of the food and whether they accommodate for special diets. You should also watch the residents interacting with each other. All of the residents come together at mealtime so pay attention to whether the dining room atmosphere is a happy and enjoyable one.

Ask about the Levels of Support They Offer

Maybe your loved one is mobile now, but at a certain point that could change. You need to know if the home will still be able to accommodate them when the time comes. If your loved one has a medical condition you want to know that they have supports in place for that, and can continue to accommodate your loved one going forward if their condition deteriorates.

Inquire about the Medical Staffing Situation

While the facility might be fully staffed, you will want to know how many staff members are nurses, and whether there is an actual nurse on staff at all times. Ask if there is always a doctor on call, and what happens when your loved one takes ill. You should also find out how well trained the staff are in dealing with any medical conditions your loved one might have.

Weigh the Costs

While we all want to believe that when it comes to our parents, money is no object, often our wallets can’t accommodate that. Find out the costs for ward, semi-private, and private rooms, and what your budget can afford. You should also inquire about other potential costs like bathing or medication assistance, if it’s not a nursing home.

Making a Decision and Signing a Contract

Once you decide on the facility that you think would be the perfect fit for your loved one and are ready to sign a contract, always take it to a lawyer. It may seem straightforward, but your lawyer can help you decipher the legal fine print regarding additional fees, your right to sue if something happens, or any other clauses that might be in there.

Finding the right senior living center is not a decision that should be taken any more lightly than the decision to place your loved one in one. Take your time so that when you finally make a decision, you’ve made the perfect one for your aging parent.