Often senior citizens and their loved ones wrestle with the decision of whether or not to move out of the family home into an assisted living community. While at first glance this move might seem counterintuitive, assisted living communities offer seniors the chance to maintain and even regain some of their independence, while at the same time relieving themselves of the major stresses of trying to take care of their own home.
Increased social interaction is one of the most important aspects of moving into an assisted living community. If a senior is living alone in their own home, there are few opportunities to make connections with others; a critical piece of our well-being. Many seniors gain back some physical mobility after moving into a community; the result of moving around the community to meals and activities, not just moving around in their home from the kitchen to the bedroom.
Determining everything to consider when choosing an assisted living community can often become quite overwhelming for any family.
Comparing prices, evaluating care costs, examining amenities and deciding on an apartment size or style is enough to make any caregiver want to call off the search all together at times. While these tasks are all important in their own right, there are some factors that are worth giving a bit more time and energy to consider before choosing the right senior living community.
Many times the most important, or “deciding” factors in a community can be overlooked by all the shiny features. To avoid missing out on what is most important, here are some essential things to consider when choosing an assisted living community:
For a prospective resident and their family, there is no news more comforting than to hear that an organization has longevity amongst their staff. Staff longevity within any organization speaks volumes to a prospective resident, family member, or staff member. It shows that they are experienced, dedicated professionals who enjoy the work that they do each day, beyond, simply, the responsibilities of their job description. Committed staff have invested in the community over their many years of service and the entire organization benefits from the many ways they have learned and grown.
Staff longevity creates a more stable working environment for both residents and staff. In a field where staff work closely with an aging population, stability and consistency of care is so important. Longevity means less turnover and less training of new staff, allowing residents to feel safe and secure because they are cared for by familiar faces who know how to meet their needs and answer their questions. Staff and residents cultivate relationships with one another that are strengthened over their years of working together, building trust and establishing a sense of community.
A strong mission statement and a commitment to that mission can set an ordinary senior living community apart from all the rest! Family members, residents, staff, and guests should be able to experience the difference this mission makes simply by taking a tour of the community. Do the staff truly believe in the mission of the organization or company and take pride in what they do each and every day, bringing maturity and compassion into their work? What motivates the staff to go above and beyond? Does the community emphasize the value of taking the time to know those for whom they care? Is there a feeling of community, or family, that encourages a sense of belonging? Is there a commitment to supporting the health, independence, and dignity of the residents, while offering family members the resources they need as caregivers?
Residents and families can see this commitment in action and feel the difference it makes in the environment around them. When touring a community, look around. Is the mission statement posted anywhere? If so, do the staff reflect that mission? Are actions taken and decisions made based upon a commitment to that mission? Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open when exploring senior living options and be aware of those special details.
The mission of an organization is often supported by core values that make it easy to identify whether or not the staff believe in the mission. These values should be evident in the community each day and family members and prospective residents should notice them in action. Whether you recognize these values by name or not, you probably know them when you see them or feel them; that special “something”... that lets you know that “this community is different”. For adult children, potential residents or their friends, they are waiting for this feeling when they tour assisted living communities.
Making a move is such an important decision that they need “something” to reassure them that they are making the right choice. It could be the way the Executive Director touches your mother’s hand during a conversation, or the way the staff you meet greet you with a smile and eye contact. Perhaps it’s the resident your father had lunch with and all the connections they made, or it could be the way the person giving you the tour asks how YOU are doing and genuinely wants to know the answer.
One of the biggest considerations when selecting an assisted living community for yourself or a loved one hinges on the feeling you get from the staff and the residents. These are the people who will be supporting you and your loved one during times of potentially changing care needs. Make sure you have a comfort level and rapport with the staff and don’t be afraid to ask about the values the staff uphold in the community. Look for displays of these values in action to determine whether or not the community’s commitment to caring is “the real deal”.
Studies have shown that 33 percent of seniors who live in their own homes have a major fall at least once a year. For the elderly, a fall can be life threatening or debilitating. In Connecticut, the snowy and icy winter months pose increased risks for seniors who live on their own as they are forced to navigate walkways and driveways that are slippery due to ice and snow. Additionally, exposure to the cold can be dangerous to the elderly as they are less able to regulate their body temperature, thus are subjected to hypothermia.
Assisted living residents don’t have those same worries! Outdoor chores, such as grocery shopping and clearing snowy walkways are part of the services offered to residents of assisted living in CT. Moreover, if a senior does fall, emergency assistance is available for them 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
One of the challenges facing seniors is taking care of all of their medical needs. Assisted living facilities offer assistance with bathing, dressing, escorts and medication management services that help make sure the senior takes his or her medication on time and ensures that prescriptions stay filled. Additionally, the assisted living community offers transportation to medical appointments.
When a senior moves into assisted living community, they begin living among their peers with whom they can enjoy meals, outings to the theatre or park or just spend time talking about shared interests. This helps break the social isolation many seniors experience living in their home. In addition, the social contact helps them feel younger and more invigorated since age is not as much of a factor. Forming positive relationships is an important part of healthy aging.
At UMH communities, we practice a relationship-centered approach. What this means is that our staff take the time to get to know our residents and their families and work to make connections with others. Making a decision to move into assisted living may not be easy but our staff is here to help guide you and provide for a successful transition to community living.
Now that you know if you should consider moving to an assisted living community in Connecticut it's important to make sure your loved one is comfortable.
Moving a loved one from their home into an assisted living community can be a tricky transition for any family. Sometimes unexpected circumstances dictate the decision of when to move a loved one. For example, a caregiver who is sick and no longer able to provide care or who may be under financial strain may need to consider a senior living community to best meet their loved one’s needs.
Other times, a bad fall, a surgical procedure, or a long rehab stay can awaken a family to the reality that their loved one can no longer live at home alone safely. And then there are families who are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to consider all the options over time and come to an agreement that a life spent in community with others, rather than in isolation alone at home, is the best choice.
If mom or dad can receive quality and affordable care, maintenance free-living and opportunities for social engagement, the option of moving to an assisted living community can provide families with a great deal of peace of mind . But accompanying that decision can be a bit of emotional conflict, feelings of guilt, and a whole lot of stress. Instead of pretending that these feelings don’t exist, consider these three simple steps to help you manage these emotions.
Don’t make milestone family decisions on your own; call in “the troops” to participate. It will take a load off your shoulders when the decision is a joint one. Involve other family members in the process from start to finish….invite them to research the options that are available and tour the communities you are considering together. This allows family members to share their thoughts, opinions, and impressions of the community’s staff, residents, and overall feel of the building.
Part of coming together as a family is discovering what options are available, the type of care your loved one might need, and the costs involved for each lifestyle. Collectively you’ll be able to consider all of the options and make the decision objectively, based on your loved one’s needs and wishes.
Caregivers’ associations and forums are plentiful on the Internet. These groups are like-minded people who understand the challenges of caring for a loved one and working through some of the same decision processes. Allow them to rally around you in support.
You can often get valuable tips and some of the best coping strategies from caregiver support groups as well. These groups are held directly at many different senior living communities or local senior centers, as well as hospitals and sometimes even churches. Assisted living communities often host monthly groups that focus on specific issues that relate to caregivers and the challenges of helping a loved one through a time of transition. These groups also feature presentations from speakers such as attorneys, real estate agents, physicians, and psychologists who can speak directly to many of your questions. Check out the website of a senior living community in your area for more information about these programs.
If you are worried about moving your loved one into a new home in an assisted living community, one of the easiest things you can do to help ease the transition is to visit them! If you can’t visit every week, schedule regular calls during the week, but try to stay in touch, especially during the first few weeks. Consider mailing them their favorite newspaper, periodical, or a family portrait or memoir to let your loved one know you’re thinking of them.
Community activities programs are designed to help support families through the moving and transition process, so don’t be afraid to encourage your loved one to get involved right away. Family members are always welcome to participate in special events and activities with their loved ones. Attend a book club with your loved one, enjoy a weekly entertainment series together, or plan to have lunch in the community dining room and introduce yourself to their new friends. Quite often family members find that after being surrounded by new neighbors and lots of available activities, their loved one is able to transition wonderfully from their “home” to their “new home.”
While family members will never be able to control the circumstances surrounding the transition of moving, you can take these simple steps to be prepared throughout the process. Rather than allowing yourself to be filled with guilt or overcome by stress, be encouraged and know that when moving a loved one into a senior living community, there is a whole community of staff and residents waiting to help you and your loved one through the process!