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Your Senior Living Guide

senior living guide

YOUR STEP-BY-STEP SENIOR LIVING GUIDE TO CHOOSING THE RIGHT COMMUNITY 

When faced with the task of searching for independent senior living, assisted living, or memory care, most people don’t even know where to start. Beginning the process, and then deciding on the right option, can be daunting and cumbersome. Transitioning to senior living is an important life decision. That’s why we created this comprehensive step-by-step guide, so you can feel confident as you embark on this journey. Thoroughly researching senior living options will make the process less stressful, and allow for you or your loved one to make an educated decision. As you begin your research, you may have questions such as:

  • How do I pay?
  • What are the differences in the senior living communities in my area?
  • What should I look for in a community?
  • What are the different levels of care?

This guide offers tips and information needed to navigate through these questions and more. It’s never too early to start evaluating your senior living options. We hope this guide simplifies the steps needed for a stress-free decision and smooth transition to an exciting new chapter in your life. 

Download your Complimentary Senior Living Guide

This Guide Will Cover the Following:

  1. DEFINING SENIOR LIVING
  2. BEGINNING YOUR SEARCH
  3. EVALUATING SENIOR LIVING COMMUNITIES
  4. POINTERS FOR ON-SITE VISITS
  5. PAYING FOR SENIOR CARE
  6. MAKING THE MOVE
  7. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  8. ABOUT BRIGHTVIEW SENIOR LIVING

Defining Senior Living

SENIOR LIVING VS. NURSING HOME CARE

In generations past, the only residential care option for aging adults was a nursing home, otherwise known as a skilled nursing facility. However, these facilities are typically for aging adults who have more serious or extreme medical needs that require ongoing attention. Today, many aging adults don’t need the level of care associated with that of a nursing home. In recent years, a new option has emerged – the senior living community. These communities offer homelike environments that cater to both healthy aging adults, and those that need some assistance. A senior living community not only offers a safe and comfortable place to live, but it provides an all-encompassing lifestyle where residents can also connect and socialize with others. In addition, communities may come equipped with amenities, such as a cafe, pub, theater, fitness center, library, beauty salon, community store, and more. As you explore different senior living communities, you’ll find a number of options. Here are three common selections offered to seniors, often under the same roof:

Independent living

Active adults who need relief from yard work, snow shoveling, home maintenance, or house cleaning may consider an independent living community. These communities offer a newfound freedom of maintenance-free living combined with the added convenience of everyday amenities. They have full-service teams of associates who handle and maintain interior and exterior maintenance, on-site transportation, housekeeping, laundry service, and security. A dining plan is typically included, and apartments also have full kitchens in case you like to cook for yourself. And, if you later find that you need some assistance, you are able to access those services without having to move from the community.

Assisted Living

Assisted living is designed for the senior who wants to live in a private apartment but may need a helping hand with certain daily living activities, such as taking medications, dressing, or bathing. Since each resident’s needs are unique, tailored assistance is offered to encourage and empower the resident to live as independently as possible. Additional services include maintenance, housekeeping, scheduled transportation, and three meals a day.

Dementia Care/Memory Care

Dementia care communities provide services to those seniors with forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, or other memory impairments. These communities offer apartments specifically designed to make a resident feel like they never left home. Around-the-clock supportive services reinforce dignified living by providing a secure and safe “village” environment, and common areas encourage social interaction that foster a sense of belonging for the resident. Fun, intellectually stimulating on-site activities include music, art, cooking, gardening, exercise, and more. Many communities also extend support and hold educational programs aimed to help family members understand the impact of memory loss. 

Beginning your Search

Choosing a senior living option is a complex decision. Thankfully, there are resources available to help you along the way. You may start by exploring the following resources

PROFESSIONAL REFERRALS

Set up a consultation with a geriatric care manager, a trained professional who helps with the process of assessing and planning for the care of aging adults. They are educated in fields of social work, nursing, and gerontology.

GUIDES AND WEBSITES

Review senior-targeted guides and websites for tips and trends of current senior living. Some examples include Administration on Aging (https://aoa.acl.gov/), National Council on Aging (https://www.ncoa.org/), and Aging Care (https://www.agingcare.com/).

THE OFFICE ON AGING

Contact your local county’s Office on Aging for advice on senior living options in your area. This government-run agency offers free guidance on how to address the needs affecting the health and well-being of older adults.

Evaluating Senior Living Communities

Read the Reviews

Take the time to search online reviews. In most cases, a positive review is as good as a personal recommendation. Most, if not all, service-oriented businesses depend on consumer testimonials and reviews in order to thrive, and consumers are more likely to purchase a product if the reviews are authentic and positive. What may work for some, doesn’t always work for others, so expect to run into some negative reviews. Seeing negative reviews can actually be a good thing, since you know for sure those reviews were written by real customers rather than the company you are researching. One, or even several negative reviews shouldn’t eliminate a potential option from consideration. Rather, it’s an opportunity to learn more. If you see a negative review, address it with the sales associate or executive director when you visit that community. Exploring the traditional channels of gathering information is also essential. Set up a meeting at the prospective community with staff members, as well as residents, to understand their experiences. Ask a representative of the community to provide you with references of family members of current residents, so you can understand their perspective as well. 

What Do Employees Think of the Community?

Read employee reviews to get a sense of how much the company invests in employee satisfaction. If the employees are happy, chances are their satisfaction reflects their confidence in leadership, good care, and service to the residents.

What is important to you?

Once you have a short list of communities that fits your needs, take the time to research what they offer from an accommodation, lifestyle, and care perspective. Look for certain distinctions that fit your requirements and separate the community from the rest. Older adults transition to senior living for a variety of reasons. Communities offer assorted levels of care, and certain aspects of a community are more important to some than others. Understanding what you would like in a senior living community is the first step to finding a good match for you or your loved one.

Below is a list of the most common reasons people typically choose a senior living community.

  • Comfortable living arrangements
  • Overall community feel
  • Easy and healthy lifestyle 
  • Companionship of those with common interests
  • Access to assisted care
  • Fits the budget
  • Safety and security

Pointers for On-Site Visits

Experiencing a senior living environment firsthand will help you make an informed decision. Even within the same company, each community can have a different feel. Spending time on the premises will give you a sense of what day-to-day life will be like in your new home. Spend as much time as you need walking the grounds. Make sure to take notes so you can review the important things you saw. A great time of day to tour a community is during dinner to sample the cuisine and get to know the current residents. If one tour isn’t enough, don’t be afraid to schedule another, or even return unannounced. Request a list of monthly activities to determine if your interests are addressed in the community’s schedule of events. Ask how the activities are selected, and how often they change to gauge whether resident input and feedback are considered when the schedule is created. In the end, go with what your intuition tells you. If the community doesn’t offer a sense of ease and comfort, it’s probably not right for you.

COMMUNITY TOUR CHECKLIST

As you visit a community, evaluate as much as you can. Use this checklist to be sure you’ve asked all the right questions.

Apartment Homes

Are the apartments designed to your liking?

  • Is the layout designed to provide a safe living environment?
  • Is there a lot of natural light?
  • What is the emergency response system?
  • Are there senior-friendly bathroom features?
  • If you will be cooking, does the kitchen provide the amenities you need?
  • Which style of apartment is currently available?

Is the apartment clean?

  • Are the corners, windows, and vents clean?
  • Is it odor-free?
  • How often does housekeeping clean the residences?
Community
  • Do the surrounding neighborhoods seem safe?
  • Are the grounds in good condition and appear to be well maintained?
  • Are the common restrooms clean?
  • What kind of technology is offered? For example, is there WiFi to connect to the internet?
  • Are there comfortable shared spaces for social interaction?
  • Does the community offer everyday amenities, such as a library or craft room, that you would enjoy using?
  • Are the shared spaces clean and maintained?
  • Do the shared spaces have comfortable, updated furniture?
  • Are there inviting outdoor spaces to enjoy good weather days?
  • If you have a car, is there designated parking for residents?
  • Is there a shared space, such as a large dining room to host a private event?
  • Is the location convenient for family and friends to visit?
  • Would you be proud to invite family and friends to visit with you in the community? 
Lifestyle
  •  Are the meals healthy and tasteful?
  • Are there multiple menu options for each meal of the day?
  • How frequently are menu options updated?
  • Is there a laundry service on-site? Many independent living apartments even have laundry facilities in each apartment or home.
  • Are there opportunities to practice faith in the community?
  • How is socialization encouraged between residents?
  • Do the activities cater to a wide variety of interests and abilities of residents?
  •  Is there an emphasis on outdoor activities?
  • Is there a calendar of events accessible to you?
  • Are off-site events offered, such as trips to local attractions and entertainment?
  • What type of transportation is made available to you?
  • Where does the transportation go and how often does it operate?
  • Does the outdoor space feel inviting, safe and secure?
  • How does the community incorporate a resident’s family into the activities?
  • Are there special activities where residents can invite family members and guests?
People
  • Are the staff and management teams friendly and energetic?
  • Does the staff treat you with respect?
  • Does it appear that the staff treats current residents with respect?
  • Do they know all the residents by name?
  • Does the staff appear to be well-groomed and clean?
  • How does the staff handle an emergency or problem?
Care
  • Does the type of care available meet your needs?
  • What is the response time of the staff when a resident needs assistance?
  • Are there registered nurses or doctors on-site? If so, how often and how many are on call?
  • What is the staffing schedule at night?
  • If your care needs increase, can you stay in this community?
  • At what point, if any, would you have to move?
  • What are the community’s philosophy and practices for dementia care? 
Finances
  • What are the payment options?
  • Is the pricing all-inclusive or will your bill vary each month based on the services you use?
  • If you are receiving care, how many hours of care are included in the base price?
  • Exactly what services are included in the price, and what additional items may be added to your bill?
  • If your care needs increase, what would be the increase in fees?
  • How would the need for increased services and potentially increased fees be communicated?
  • Is there an entrance fee?
  • Is renter’s insurance required?
  • What are the added fees?
  • By what percentage did the rent increase for current residents over the last three years?
If there is a waiting list...
  • Can you be added to the wait-list?
  • Is a deposit required to be placed on the wait-list?
  • How long is the list?
  • Are there other locations nearby that don’t have a wait-list?
  • Can you move to that location with the option to transfer to my first choice when space becomes available?

Paying for Senior Care

Senior living communities are attractive to residents for their personalized care, wonderfully convenient amenities, and resident quality of life. But can you afford to live there? Most people put off considering senior living because they have heard stories about the high cost. The financial commitment may seem much higher than what you currently pay for housing, but if you compare your budget side-by-side, you might be surprised at what you can afford. 

SOME FACTORS TO CONSIDER:
  • While rates may sound unaffordable initially, many people are able to pay for senior living by using a combination of social security payments, retirement savings, and assets, such as the sale of a house.
  • Pay special attention to the balance between entrance fees and monthly fees. There are two common financial arrangements to consider:
  • Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) typically require an entrance fee, which can range from $100,000 up to $1 million dollars. After you move in, you’ll also pay a monthly charge. There may or may not be added fees for assisted living services, and only a percentage of the entrance fee is refundable when you move out of the community. –
  • Rental communities usually require only a modest move-in fee of $3,000-$5,000. The monthly rent is usually higher than a CCRC, but since you don’t have to pay a large entrance fee, it typically costs less to live in a rental. Additionally, when you move out, there is no forfeiture of money. There may or may not be added fees for assisted living services.
  • Monthly bills for utilities, lawn care, housekeeping, groceries, and home owner’s insurance disappear, and you’ll also be relieved of the risk of costly home repairs, such as replacing a roof or heating system. Be sure to consider all of the expenses that will be eliminated with the transition.
  • Take the time to fully grasp exactly what is – and is not – included in the fee you are quoted. It’s nearly impossible to make price comparisons on a rate until you understand what that rate includes and what additional fees may be added.
  • Don’t always settle for the lowest price, because in many situations, you’ll get what you pay for. Lowest-priced providers don’t always invest in a caring staff or clean environment.
  • Some communities can lure residents with a low cost introductory rate, then add hidden fees, or implement large rent increases every year. This can make it difficult for people on a fixed income to afford. Make sure you understand what increases you can expect in future years.

Making the Move

Now that you’ve made the decision to move, it’s time to prioritize your belongings and ease into your new home comfortably

YOUR BELONGINGS 

The best course of action when moving to a senior living community is to downsize. To make the move easier, try to downsize in stages. Set aside time to minimize your belongings once a week or purge one room a week. Ask the community you’ve selected for references for services that help seniors with the downsizing process. A good tip to remember when downsizing is that the whole community will now be your home, including the shared spaces. While it may seem like you can’t part with the items you’ve had in your home for years, many of those items, such as a good set of china, or holiday decorations, will be provided. The items that you keep should only be what you will personally enjoy every day in your new apartment or home.

What to Bring

Bringing your most treasured possessions and daily necessities to your new home will help you settle in more quickly. Don’t forget these things:

  1. Family photos
  2. Bedding
  3. Towels
  4. Toiletries
  5. Television and Other Electronics
  6. Kitchen Supplies
  7. Books

This is also a good time to organize your legal documents by prioritizing which documents you may need to access frequently and which ones are best kept in a safe deposit box.

Make sure you know where you’ll be storing all of these documents:

  1. Birth Certificate
  2. Driver’s License
  3. Social Security Card
  4. Medicare, Medicaid, Insurance Card
  5. Organ Donor Card
  6. Marriage Certificate
  7. Credit Cards
  8. Mortgage Records
  9. Copy of Your New Lease
  10. Military Records
  11. Medical Records
  12. Life Insurance Policy 13. Will
TIPS FOR A SEAMLESS MOVE

Visiting your new community before the actual move-in date can help relieve the stress and anxiety associated with a significant life change. It can help you get acclimated with the community and make friends before you arrive.

  1. Visit the community and have a meal once a week during the month leading up to your move. It will be great way to meet people. 
  2. Join the activities and day trips early.
  3. Gradually transfer your belongings to your new apartment before officially moving. One big moving day might be too emotional to handle.
  4. Seek moral support and surround yourself with loved ones when making the move. Invite your family to join you for your first meal in your new home, and make firm plans for visits. 

Executive Summary

Use this brief summary of the guide as a check point when you need to refer to the key points of the search process. 

Senior Living Options
  1. Independent Living Offers a newfound freedom of maintenance-free living combined with the added convenience of everyday amenities.
  2. Assisted Living Offers private living for those that are still independent but need a helping hand with certain daily living activities, such as taking medications, dressing, or bathing.
  3. Dementia Care / Memory Care Provides services to seniors with forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairment.
Where Do I Start?

Explore the following resources, as you start your research in making this complex decision:

  1. Professional Referrals
  2. Guides and Websites
  3. The Office on Aging
Determine the Best Senior Living Community 
  1. Read the Reviews. Search negative and positive online reviews. Set up meetings with staff and residents to understand their experiences.
  2. What do Employees Think of the Community? Read employees reviews on websites to get a sense of how much the company invests in employee satisfaction.
  3. What is Important to You? Research what communities offer from an accommodation, lifestyle, and care perspective. 
Pointers for On-Site Visits

As you tour a community, evaluate as much as you can. Bring a checklist so you can be sure you’ve asked all the right questions

How to Pay 

Financial factors to consider:

  1. Many people are able to finance senior living with the combination of wages, retirement, savings and assets.
  2. Consider all of the expenses that will be eliminated with the transition, including monthly utility, housekeeping, and grocery bills.
  3. Low-priced providers don’t always invest in a caring staff or clean environment. Don’t always settle for the lowest price.
MAking the Move

Now that you’ve made the decision to move, prioritize your belongings, including keepsakes and legal documents, and ease into your new home comfortably

  1. Downsize belongings
  2. Bring keepsakes and legal documents
  3. Gradually transfer belongings before officially moving
  4. Surround yourself with loved ones when making the move

About Brightview Senior Living

In 1999, Brightview Senior Living was founded to provide seniors a vibrant place to live. Today, Brightview owns and operates more than 35 communities from Virginia to Massachusetts and is supported by over 4,000 associates. Creating vibrant communities by providing excellent service is Brightview’s mission. Residents live in an environment of possibilities, independence and choice where they can receive the support they need to make the most of each day. Brightview Senior Living offers unmatched care and dedication to providing a fulfilling experience for its residents.

What SEPARATES brightview from the rest
  1. The “Flourishing at Brightview” program – before residents move in, Brightview associates take the time to learn each resident’s likes, dislikes, careers, past and present hobbies, and aspirations to ensure they receive the most of what Brightview offers. New residents are introduced to current residents with similar interests, and invitations to meals and other activities make it easier to make friends quickly.
  2. Brightview’s approach to care is centered on Possibilities, Independence, and Choice. Residents who require a helping hand are encouraged to maintain their independence and choice in their activities of daily living. We believe that each person, no matter how old or frail, has the possibility to grow and experience joy every day.
  3. To ensure the highest quality living experience for residents and their families, residents and associates complete an annual, confidential satisfaction survey, and action plans are developed by the company to address feedback.
  4. Brightview’s activities are based on a philosophy that incorporates all dimensions of wellness: Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Cultural and Emotional (SPICE). With activities like guest speakers, trips to the theater, and friendly games of poker, Brightview residents remain engaged. Brightview and our partner Bayada also offer the SPICE in Motion program, an exercise class which has been statistically proven to increase the health and well-being of residents. Residents experience increased mobility, faster recovery from surgeries, and significantly lower re-hospitalization rates.
  5. Brightview builds and operates Brightview Senior Living communities, which means that from the initial design of the building through daily operations, everything is centered on creating an exceptional experience for our residents

Download your Complimentary Senior Living Guide


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Senior Living Resources, Vibrant Living

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