Where can I find a place for mom (or dad), and what are the options?
As part of the aging process, the time comes when parents, or other loved ones that used to be independent, become unable to live alone and require more attentive care and oversight. While many can move their parent(s) or relatives into their home, for some of us with children or demanding careers, having in-house parents is simply not feasible. And for some parents, having their own residence is a preference. This is quite an uncomfortable conclusion to arrive at. However, there are a growing number of senior living options to choose from. And if you choose wisely, you can find a place for your aging relative that is suitable for them and puts you at ease.
There are a growing number of assisted living facility options due to the ever-increasing elderly population
The rise in the geriatric population due to increased life expectancy has led to the explosion of new facilities and healthcare options to help meet the needs of aging parents and their caregivers, who oftentimes, are their adult children.
The West region has dominated the assisted living market and has the highest number of senior care facilities. The South is expected to see the fastest growth due to the rapidly increasing geriatric population and demand for nursing homes and related facilities.
Across the south, facilities are evenly distributed among small, medium, and large facilities. Some of the largest senior care organizations in the region, include Brookdale Senior Living, Inc. and Sunrise Senior Living, Inc. Texas is also one of the fastest-growing states, in terms of improved living conditions and number of facilities for senior residents. The most troubling factor about the South, which happens to be where I live, is staffing shortages. Staffing can be a more significant factor in your decision-making process than the facility itself. I cover this in Five Things to Consider When Selecting a Senior Living Facility.
- These are some of the largest assisted living facility operators in the U.S. in no particular order:
- Kindred Healthcare, LLC
- Brookdale Senior Living Inc.
- Sunrise Senior Living, LLC
- Atria Senior Living, Inc.
- Five Star Senior Living
- Capital Senior Living
- Merrill Gardens
- Integral Senior Living (ISL)
- Belmont Village, L.P.
- Gardant Management Solutions
Understanding some basic definitions will help you identify your best options
It’s essential to understand the difference between a senior facility and a senior community, even though the terms are used interchangeably. Senior living communities can include facilities that have activities like exercise and dining but do not have housing quarters. People live in communities where they make friends, participate in activities and fellowship with family. Typically, the only requirement to live in a senior or retirement community is to be age 55 or older.
Now let’s get into the different types of facilities and what each has to offer.
Independent Living Facilities
Independent living facilities are facilities that offer housing for seniors. The residents in these facilities live independently as the name implies. This housing option is an apartment complex for anyone 55 years of age and older who may be seeking a tranquil living environment amongst their peers. Medical and skilled nursing services are not offered. However, some offer the convenience of housekeeping and meal service, which is typically included in the rent. Only one resident must meet the age requirement if there is a spouse, partner or roommate.
Ideal for: Loved ones capable of living independently seeking more peace of mind and fewer responsibilities.
Assisted Living Facilities
Assisted living facilities are for seniors who need help with daily care, but not as much as nursing home residents. Residents in assisted living facilities usually live in their apartments or rooms and share common areas like dining areas, recreational spaces, and lounges. They have access to many services, including up to three meals a day; assistance with personal care; help with medications, transportation, housekeeping, and laundry service. There is 24-hour supervision, security, and on-site staff. These facilities also coordinate social and recreational activities. Services can be all-inclusive, offered a la carte, or by service levels. Facilities can accommodate as few as 25 residents or well over 100.
Ideal for: Loved ones capable of living somewhat independently and need basic help with daily activities that don’t require skilled nursing or ongoing medical attention.
Nursing homes, also called skilled nursing facilities, provide a wide range of health and personal care services. Their services focus on medical care more than most assisted living facilities. These services typically include nursing care, 24-hour supervision, three meals a day, and assistance with everyday activities. Rehabilitation services, such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy are available.
Unlike short-term nursing home residents that stay for rehabilitation, permanent nursing home residents have ongoing physical or mental conditions that require continuous care and supervision.
Ideal for: Loved ones that need lots of help with daily activities and close supervision to monitor and treat physical or mental health issues. Health issues are usually chronic or life-limiting in nature.
Memory Care Facilities
Memory care facilities offer long-term care for those living with Alzheimer’s or other progressive-degenerative dementia. Residents require a higher level of support than assisted living residents due to their impaired cognitive state. These facilities typically have different care levels to accommodate the stages of their residents. Residents in the earlier stages of memory loss may be isolated from those in later stages. What stands out most about memory care facilities is the access control and security measures to protect residents against wandering and self-harm. Aside from Alzheimer’s or dementia, residents are generally free of major medical concerns or physical limitations.
Ideal for: Loved ones with advanced dementia or any conditions that lead to progressive memory impairment and make it unsafe to live at home without close supervision.
Boarding Homes and Care Homes
Boarding and care homes, also called residential care facilities or group homes, are small private facilities with 20 or fewer residents. Facilities are often large homes that have been converted and divided into private or multi-occupancy rooms. Residents receive personal care and meals and have staff available around the clock. Transportation for medical appointments, shopping trips, and entertainment outings may also be provided based on the facility’s operator. Operators are often individuals with healthcare credentials vs. corporate entities. Nursing and medical care are usually not offered on-site.
Ideal for: Loved ones that are partially independent but can no longer live at home alone without risk and prefer a cozier family-oriented environment with fewer residents and staff.
The facilities described above can be standalone; however, many are combined. Hybrid facilities allow your loved one to stay at the same facility and “age in place” as they grow older and require more care. Many facilities offer both independent and assisted living accommodations; some even have housing for memory care residents. If moving is a drag, and it usually is, facilities that offer a continuum of care are convenient for family members who expect health to decline gradually due to a known underlying condition.
Be patient with yourself and your loved one
You’ll do yourself a favor if you set the proper expectations for this process. It may be bumpy and involve a lot of starts and stops along the way. Taking a pause can do you and your loved one some good if the search becomes overwhelming and stressful. Thorough research takes time and will consume several hours over several weeks. In addition to visiting the facility websites and reading online reviews, you’ll have to fill out profiles and tour the properties. Some facilities have smooth sales processes; others are unorganized or resemble that of a used car dealership.
You also have to consider that your loved one has an opinion and needs to be comfortable with the facility too. Based on their personality, this can be pretty challenging, especially when decision-making capabilities are impaired as a natural part of aging or due to a health issue.
Remember to have some fun and make the most of the time that you are spending together. Aging is not always easy, nor are the healthcare issues that come along with it. Make finding your loved one’s new home an adventure and stay optimistic.
Enjoy the journey.