For About and By Caregivers
Moving on: Tips for Selecting a Senior Living Community

By  Patricia OíDea-Evans, MS, RN, LCPC, CCM


Making the move to a senior living community can be one of the biggest life changes for an older adult.  Thankfully, todayís wide range of eldercare options means that there is literally something for everyone in terms of care levels and cost.

The key to finding the perfect senior housing solution involves a careful analysis of whatís needed and research on whatís available. Here are some tips for success.

Getting Started

A good first step is to get the senior and any friends or family involved in the process to make a list of preferred services and amenities, along with any questions or concerns.   The list can then be used to compare and contrast when visiting potential new homes.

Like most professionals, we recommend that clients consider only those facilities that are licensed by the state in which they are located.  Licensing ensures that employees have undergone background checks, that they are fully trained and are held accountable for all that they do.

Licensed facilities also require signed contracts prior to move-in.   All contracts are different, and each building has its own unique set of rules, which can vary regarding such issues as deposit refunds, contract termination, and even personal property insurance. We advise clients to make sure that everything is in writing, and that they understand it all.  We also recommend having an elder law attorney review the contract.

Recent downturns in our nationís economy mean that perhaps more than ever, cost is a consideration in selecting a senior living community. For each property being considered, itís important to find out exactly whatís included, versus what costs extra (usually services such as hair care, special trips, classes, or extra personal care).

Of course, paying for care is frequently a concern.  Veteransí and Social Security benefits tend to be overlooked, but can help with eldercare costs for eligible seniors.

Looking Around

Although a lot of research can be done over the phone and online, nothing can replace a first-hand visit to a potential new home. On-site visits are great opportunities to not only look around, but to also chat with residents about what they like (and donít like) about living there.  Seniors and their loved ones should ask current residents and staff as many questions as possible, so there are no surprises if the older adult, in fact, decides to move in.

When visiting a potential new home, here are some specific things to observe:

  •  Is it clean and well maintained?   
  • Is the atmosphere warm and friendly? 
  • Are the units attractive?
  • Does the food in the dining room look and taste good, and are meals well balanced?   
  • Are activities scheduled that will interest the senior?

An on-site visit is also a good chance to meet the staff.  Because they are responsible for residentsí daily care, everyone should be completely comfortable with them, and the services they provide. When evaluating the staff, consider this:

  • Is everyone friendly, caring, and attentive?   
  • Do they assist with medication taking, storage, and reminders?
  • Do they provide an initial assessment of a potential residentís needs?
  • Once someone moves in, are the residentís needs periodically reassessed?
  • Are medical care providers available to residents?   
  • How does the community keep families informed about care?

Final Thoughts

Like everyone, older adults are sometimes fearful of change, and may be unsure about making a major lifestyle decision, such as moving to senior housing.  Luckily, many facilities offer short-term (called respite) stays that can last for a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months.  The goal is to allow potential residents to ďtry outĒ the community to see if itís a good fit.  We find that respite stays can also help convince older adults of the benefits of actually making a commitment to move.

When seeking senior housing, eldercare referral services such as A Silver Connection ( can be an important resource.  Employees are generally experienced in the full range of senior housing and care options, including retirement communities, independent living, assisted living, memory care, supportive living and skilled nursing.  A busy referral service will typically work with literally dozens of older adults and their families each month to help each find a senior living community that meets their specific needs.
With just a bit of up-front work, an older adult can look forward to enjoying the next chapter of their life in a senior living community that perfectly suits his or her needs.

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