How To: Choose a Senior Living Facility

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June 2014
By Mary Shapiro

Before choosing a senior living facility, decide whether you’re ready to make that life change, advises Cleo Anderson, 91, who lives at the Crown Center for Senior Living in University City. Once you decide you’re ready, ask friends, co-workers or church members who’ve already made the move for their evaluation “and see how satisfied they are” with the facility they chose, she said.

“And it was important to me to visit the facility,” Anderson said. “My son spent a whole day with me, looking at the environment around the facility. And I was concerned about what they had to offer inside, such as the accessibility for laundry. I also wanted to observe how the building was being kept inside and what activities they provide.” Another key factor for Anderson was the availability of help after hours.

Aging nation
43.1 million = 65+ U.S. population in 2012
83.7 million = Projected 65+ U.S. population in 2050

Anderson said she also wanted to know if prospective senior living facilities allowed residents to do their own cooking or if meals, as well as transportation, were provided “and if so, whether there was a fee.” Be realistic about what you can afford to pay, she said.

Kit Whittington, a registered nurse, founder and president of Seniors Home Care in Webster Groves, which provides in-home care for seniors, said to find a senior living facility through a personal referral from someone who’s had a positive experience there. Look for specific amenities you might need.

In addition to visiting by appointment, drop-in visits are a good way to check out a facility. “Check to see whether residents are mobile and lively. Do they seem happy? Or are they sedentary or depressed or yelling?” she said.

Consider location. “It’s nice if the senior going to the facility is familiar with the neighborhood,” she said. “You want the facility close for family visiting. And the more a family visits, the better quality care the person will get and the better input the facility gets.”

And while some people are drawn to newer construction or decor, “make sure the building is kept up, even if it’s older,” she said.

When looking for a senior living facility, start with a discussion about costs and what kind of facility is required and affordable, said Mary Schaefer, executive director of the Mid-East Area Agency on Aging.

“When looking for assisted living – where someone may need help with personal care or medications beyond simply housing – it’s good for a senior to visit with family members,” she said. For seniors who don’t need that assistance but want to downsize, “There are completely independent apartments and condos and villas for those aged 55 and older, where the cost varies depending on amenities like swimming pools and tennis courts,” she said.

You might also consider a continuing care retirement community, “where seniors can start off in independent living but can go to assisted living or into a nursing home (in that community),” she said.

“You want to check all these facilities out with friends who’ve gone there or with other current residents,” she said.