Details You’ll Want to Consider

It is almost inevitable that one day you will hunt for a home to live out your years or help a senior relative to do so. Senior living communities or retirement communities provide three types of residential care – independent living, assisted living and memory care. To select the setting that best fits you or your relative, visit five or six if you can.

This guide provides details to consider as you make your visits. Taking notes about your visit with these categories in mind will
assist you as you make that very important
decision.

Location
Often you can walk into a building and feel or sense if it is right or wrong for you. If it feels wrong, it’s not the long-term home for you or your senior relative, When thinking about location, consider whether the campus is located within easy reach of shopping and medical facilities. If your relative no longer drives, discuss with management how he or she can get to such places.

Fire safety
Keeping fire safety firmly in mind for all visits is important. Frequently in the media there are stories about fires in apartment buildings, always with property loss and often with lives lost. Talk with management at length about fire safety. Look for posted “evacuation” signs or other helpful information. Is the evacuation plan feasible for your senior relative’s physical condition? Newer buildings use fire-retardant materials in addition to an array of smoke alarms, sprinklers and emergency lighting. That does not mean the structure is fireproof, only that it is as close to “fireproof” as the facility can get. Some may ensure elevators receive power in a crisis. All should have an emergency-situation warning system and an “all clear.” Lives may depend on knowing these details.

Outdoor facilities
Look around the entire campus, preferably with a staff member. Notice whether the principal buildings are a good distance from routine traffic and its noise. Take pictures and notes.

Attributes to consider when reviewing the outdoor facilities:
Independent and assisted living in separate buildings
Year built Wood/brick construction Well-maintained grounds
Club house Nearest fire hydrant(s) Tennis court
Fitness room Auxiliary generator Covered parking
Loading dock Plenty of walks and pathways Ramps and stairs
Fencing Covered main entryway Electric outlets in parking areas Swimming pool Putting green Equipment for de-icing walkways

Indoor facilities
Remember that if your relative moves to a facility, it is their home. Trying to somehow match all the physical features of your senior’s present home can be daunting, but the following details are ones to consider. Tour the building with the facility’s marketing representative and ask lots of questions. Speak to residents if you meet any.

Does this place look and feel like it was built with you or your senior relative in mind, or was it modified from some former purpose?

Apartments and cottages
You will be shown the various sizes and styles of living quarters. Here is where details really count. This tickler list will serve as reminders to look for the small things that make this building a home for your senior.

Attributes to consider when reviewing the INDOOR facilities:
Hallways carpeted Laundry room(s) Convenient elevators Stairways not too steep Dining room ambiance Movie theater
Room for private parties A 24-hour coffee room Fitness room Library Beauty salon/barbershop Inviting main lobby
Storage bin per apartment Accessibility of wheelchairs/walkers
Mailboxes Trash room(s) Fire escape plan Resident bulletin board Wi-Fi throughout

QUESTIONS ABOUT SOME OF THE FEATURES BELOW CAN OFTEN BE
ANSWERED BEST BY RESIDENTS:

Apartment doors self-locking Reasonably soundproof
Direction of afternoon sun in rooms Adequate closets/pantries/ lighted
Adequate room size Adequate grab bars in bathrooms
Shower stall/tub Refrigerator/dishwasher/microwave
Smoke alarms in every room Intercom to front desk
Fire sprinklers Wall safe
Garage Reachable cupboards/shelves
Washer/dryer hookups Oven (electric or gas)
Fire alarm signal in apartment Garbage disposal
Your own thermostat Lighting
Carpeted Adequate counter space
Adequate and reachable shelving Shower curtain(s)
Wireless Internet Water heater and air-conditioner
Cable TV hookup Electric heaters permitted
Phone jacks Furnishings/window treatments
Ceiling fans Venetian blinds
Emergency pull cords Emergency lights Firearms permitted

Transportation
The facility may have one or more vehicles for transporting residents to and from various places/events. Such trips usually are scheduled and announced in advance so that all residents are aware of the trips and may participate. As a general rule, these vehicles are usually not used as an impromptu taxi service on or off campus.

Activities
The offering or discontinuing of transportation to community events and activities is at the discretion of the facility’s management. Only management can schedule rooms, vehicles, etc. and staff time. Usually at senior care facilities, an array of appropriate and diverse events is offered. Residents are under no obligation to attend any of them.

Ask about these items related to communicating planned activities:
Monthly activity calendar Newsletter
Trips to various places and events Scheduled fitness/arts programs

Contracts/Agreements
Consider these factors when reviewing a
contract/agreement before making a
commitment to a facility:

• Read agreements carefully and
ask questions
• Housekeeping service/details
• Subletting terms • “Independent” defined
• Reselling terms • “Assisted Living” defined
• Rental/buy-in/lease • Maintenance staff 24/7
• Eviction causes • Payment methodSeniorCareGiving
• Meal plan(s) • Covered parking/fee • Assigned parking/lighted
• Total population • Pets allowed
• Fire safety • On-call nurse/doctor
• EMS nearby • Moving company suggestions
• Guest units visitors can rent
• Scaled drawings of units available
for one or two nights

A helpful clincher
If the place or places you like will permit, ask if you can rent one of their units for two nights and live the life of that community. You will meet and chat with some residents, of course, and best of all, you will see and feel a bit of its reality.

By Jim Douglas