Independent Living Facilities: Choosing the Best for Your Loved One

Finding a new home for an elderly family member can be trying to say the least; however, if you are equipped with the right tools, finding the best independent living facility doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Below is a list that you can print and take with you during this hefty transition.

Step 1: Decide How Much Help Your Parent Needs

Seniors taking yoga at an independent living facilityIndependent living facilities are geared towards the more autonomous senior who might just need some simple help with activities of daily living such as bathing, errands and medication dispersion. Independent living communities are quite different than skilled nursing care.

A skilled nursing facility caters towards people who may have late-stage Alzheimer’s disease or need more continuous and observant care. Discuss this with your family doctor prior to going to the facility so the staff doesn’t try and push unnecessary and often costly additional services on your monthly bill.

Step 2: Include Your Elderly Family Member In The Process

People often mistake the elderly for incompetent, but that is far from the case. Include them in this process and value their opinion; after all this is their new home and the transition can be difficult for them. Understand to their needs, values, and preferences and truly empower them to help make the decision.

For example, not all people are active in the later stage of life. If they prefer reading a book more than participating in social programs, listen to what they say and find a community that values people’s different perspectives.

Step 3: Decide What You Can Afford

Independent living facilities range in price from state to state and the types of communities. You need to decide what you and your loved one can afford and pick the best option. Remember, just because an independent living facility may cater to the affluent, it doesn’t mean it is the best.

Step 4: Tour the Facility

Take a tour after hours when the marketing staff is gone and the rest of the employees are not expecting guests. Go at dinner time or on a Sunday and watch how the staff interacts with the clients. Also, talk to some of the residents and get a feel of how much they like, or dislike, the community. This is probably one of the most telling signs.

If you get positive feedback from the residents, you know this is a caring place for your loved one. Also, check the kitchen, the rooms, and the grounds and make certain they are up to standard.

Step 5: Go For The “Community” Feel

The last thing you want is for your loved one to feel institutionalized; instead you want to have them feel as if they are moving into a welcoming and inviting new home. As stated before, this is a difficult transition for them. They are leaving their home behind and often times they equate this to a loss of independence.

Search for an independent living facility that employs staff with degrees (i.e., social workers, gerontologists, etc.) who understand the feelings of your family member at this stage in life. As with everything, there is the good and the bad, and during this delicate time, you need to weed out the bad apples and find the best solution for your aging family member.

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Written by gerontologist Melissa Schulz.