5 Tips to Finding the Right Senior Living Community

Soon-to-be seniors searching for retirement homes may have trouble knowing where to start. Though many communities promote the fun side of senior living—game nights, shopping trips and, in some cases, on-site spas—there are serious considerations to make when choosing where to spend your retirement years, or when helping a parent decide where to spend theirs.

With so much to think about, planning for senior living early can be beneficial in the long run. According to the National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information, about 70 percent of adults over 65 require some form of long-term care services. Seeing as people’s need for care increases with age, it’s important to start thinking about retirement living even a few years before retirement.

Use these tips to help you find a senior living community that suits your (or your parents’) future needs:

1. Choose Your Standard of Care

Visiting a variety of retirement homes can help you picture your ideal community—and which ones you’d like to avoid. When touring a facility, take note of the interactions around you and look for signs of elder abuse: Are on-staff nurses or visiting practitioners available when you need them? Is the facility clean, well maintained and lined with handrails? Do caregivers interact well with residents?

It’s also important to consider the level of assistance the community provides. While independent living is important in the early stages of retirement, you may find yourself seeking additional help as the years pass.

Continuing care retirement communities, which combine independent living, assisted living and nursing home facilities, can make this transition a bit easier. These communities allow residents to prepare for their future and receive proper treatment for health issues later on—without having to change homes a number of times. Assessing your health prior to choosing a facility can help you avoid expensive health fees not included in basic retirement care

2. Seek Third-Party Information

Even if your facility tour is pleasant, it’s important to take a deeper look. If time allows, sit down with a resident and discuss his or her experience. Have a meal in the cafeteria. Ask questions about the facility and get a feel for daily life there.

Aside from first-hand impressions, consult resources like the Better Business Bureau® and Eldercare Locator, which offer great planning and searching tips, and link to records of complaints or legal actions made against specific facilities. Medicare also offers an online system, complete with details on quality ratings, health inspections and comparisons of different nursing homes in your area.

3. Consider Safety Essential

Feeling secure is just as important in a retirement home as in any other residence. Make sure to ask whether facilities offer 24-hour security personnel and surveillance of surrounding areas. Check for locks on windows and doors and see if safety deposit boxes for valuables are located on-site.

4. Make Sure Your Money’s Secure

Moving into a retirement home is a major financial investment. According to the latest Assisted Living Facility Profile, published by the National Center for Assisted Living, the average cost of a private unit is $3,022 per month, which adds up to $36,264 per year. See what measures are in place to protect your finances while in residence—and ask what would happen should your funds run dry.

5. Take a Second Look

Don’t forget to double-check documents that need to be signed before moving in. A number of elder care attorneys offer services to help new residents navigate legal documents. Not all contracts are the same, so it’s important to understand the basic costs, along with what residents are expected to pay for additional services and health care.