Ask Charlotte: What Should I Look for in an Assisted Living Community?

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“What should I look for when I tour assisted living communities? There seem to be a lot of new places around my neighborhood.”

—Ingrid

 

Dear Ingrid,

I bought an anniversary card today that encouraged the couple to “dream about the future.” That is good advice for those of us who have entered an assisted living community or are thinking of doing so. It makes us think about what is important to us.

This may be one of the most important decisions you make, so it’s good you are thinking of it now and don’t have to make a quick decision. Choosing a community is somewhat like choosing a home because it will become a home for you.

I visited six different communities before I chose The Birches. One large, modern facility had walls lined with beautiful artwork. I hadn’t realized how important that was to me. (I didn’t end up there, however, because it was much too expensive and the apartment I was shown had a view of a wall of the building.)

What are the things that have been important to you during your life? Is decor important to you? Do you like bright colors or dark, subdued colors? My daughter and I visited a community where the furniture was a dark mahogany and the walls were painted brown. As we left, she said to me, “Mom, that place makes me feel old!” I did not move there!

Do you want to be able to enjoy the outdoors? A terrace or patio will be important. Do you like to garden? Ask if there are opportunities to do that. What other activities are important to you? At this point, you will want to meet some of the staff. Do they seem friendly? do they seem happy? Do they seem enthusiastic about their jobs? Do they know residents’ names as you tour the hallways? Do the residents seem happy? Depending on your own physical needs, you may also want to meet the nursing staff. Ask if there is a doctor or podiatrist on call. How important is physical therapy and exercising to you? Ask about it.

Of course, you will also have to decide about other needs. Does the size of the apartment work for you? It will probably seem small—and it will most likely be smaller than the home you are leaving. You will need to really scale down. That’s hard. I did it before I moved in and have continued to do so. It can be fun, though, if you approach it as you did your first home (or second or third). I ended up getting rid of my old furniture, including my bed, and bought new pieces. It’s like a new beginning.

Of course, there are practical considerations too. How much is it going to cost? What will this include? Will there be extra charges? Will your finances be able to meet this obligation? For how long? Are there provisions for a special diet if you need it? If you use a wheelchair, who will help with your daily needs?

Write your questions down and take them with you as you begin to visit places. Strangely enough, I hadn’t realized how important the lobby or entry was until I came here. It was wonderful to just feel the warmth and welcoming spirit as I entered, and I know my friends and family have felt that way too. I felt like I was walking into someone’s lovely home. I still feel that way, except now I can also call it my home.

Good luck with your search. I hope you find your new home soon.

—Charlotte

 

If you or someone you know would like to submit a question about assisted living to Charlotte, email it to mbeatty@birches.net or mail it to Attn: Bloggers at Birches, 215 55th St, Clarendon Hills, IL 60514. To follow The Birches’ blog and see Charlotte’s blog posts as they’re published, click “follow” at the top of this post.