Are you part of the Sandwich Generation? That’s the cohort of Americans who are taking care of their children and their parents. According to the Pew Research Center, more than one out of every 10 adults are shouldering this twofold responsibility. Unfortunately, it’s taking its toll, too: in addition to the stress that this situation causes, members of the Sandwich Generation get less sleep each day and have less time for paid work.
While you’d love to continue caring for your senior relatives either in their home or yours, there comes a point when this is no longer feasible. Whether because of space issues, time constraints, or concerns over safety, helping your loved ones move can be a beneficial decision for everyone involved. Read on for answers to the questions you may have about retirement and assisted living facilities, and what they can offer for your family.
What Options Are Available?
Several tiers of senior living are available, and which one suits your aging parent’s needs depends on many factors: their physical health and mobility, the level of care they need on a day-to-day basis (both medical and practical), and their interests and hobbies. Let’s take a closer look.
Retirement communities, also called senior communities, are a great option for people over the age of 55 or 60 who want to live among their peers and participate in social activities. Retirement facilities allow these folks to enjoy their golden years without having to worry about things like lawn or home maintenance or providing all of their own meals.
Independent living facilities are best for seniors who are active and in good health. They are able to take care of their own personal needs such as showering and dressing, and have little or no trouble maintaining an apartment and doing regular chores like cooking, cleaning, and laundry.
Assisted living facilities are for people who don’t require extensive medical care, but do need some help with tasks like running errands, maintaining their living space, taking medication, and the like. These folks also appreciate having their meals prepared by someone else and getting a helping hand when it comes to hygiene.
A senior who is disabled or living with a debilitating medical condition, and who needs round-the-clock supervision and care, should opt for a nursing home. In this scenario, they will receive help with nearly all facets of daily life. Those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia will benefit from the additional support offered by a memory care facility.
Lastly, there are continuing care facilities, which fulfill a wide range of residents’ needs. Continuing care facilities allow residents to transition easily from independent living to assisted living to memory care or nursing home care, with minimal disruption to their lives.
Starting Your Search
The services and amenities provided by assisted living communities run the gamut from basic care to a luxury lifestyle. Some places are designed to serve particular demographics, such as golfers, retired musicians, the LGBTQ community, artists, and even RVers. Given the number of Boomers who are reaching retirement age each year, it’s perhaps no surprise that specialized communities are, well, a booming business.
Even if Dad doesn’t want to live in a golf-centric community, it’s still important to consider culture fit when you’re choosing a new home for him. To that end, you will want to bring your loved one for a tour, early on in the process, so they can meet some of the current residents, check out the residential units and the common areas, sample the food, hear about the social programs and amenities, and generally get a sense of the place’s atmosphere and ambiance.
Cost Is a Factor
Most people will need to consider the cost of communities when making their decision. If money is no object, there are luxury assisted living facilities that offer concierge service, award-winning chefs on staff, private wine cellars, high-end furnishings and decor, and just about any other VIP perk that you can imagine.
For those who don’t have a spare $1 million (plus $5-7K monthly fees) lying around, there are many resources that can help make senior living affordable. Nevertheless, finances are one of the many reasons that seniors and their families delay moving to a retirement or assisted living facility as long as they can.
Social Activities and Programs
Many people think of these types of housing as places where old people sit around and knit, play dominos, or zone out to reruns of Matlock and Murder, She Wrote. But that’s far from the reality of many facilities. If your loved one is an extrovert or an active person who can’t stand the thought of sitting around all day, make sure to inquire about the leisure and social opportunities.
Look for facilities that offer game night, crafting classes, a book club, cookouts or other culinary events, day trips to nearby casinos or shopping centers, concerts and other performances, and dances. Any facility worth its salt will also provide plenty of health and wellness programs: an on-site gym, tennis or pickle-ball court, pool, and/or golf course. Regular group fitness classes — think yoga, tai chi, Zumba, etc. — offer residents a way to spend time with their friends while keeping fit, too.
Senior living facilities range in size from several dozen apartments to hundreds of residents. However, what matters most is not the size of the community, but its staff-to-resident ratio. This ratio will be different for independent living communities than it is for nursing homes or memory-care facilities, of course. Either way, there should be an adequate number of medical personnel on staff (and on-call), as well as aides, teachers, and other professionals to serve the needs of the community’s members.
What Type of Assisted Living Facilities Will You Choose?
Helping your relatives transition to senior housing of any variety is a big move — literally and figuratively. As this is likely the last place they’ll live, it’s essential to involve the future resident themselves in the decision making process. And doing your due diligence when it comes to researching and selecting the perfect assisted living facilities will not only make your parent’s final years the best they can be but will also give you peace of mind.
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