Having “The Talk”

By Eileen Ryan-Maruke, Vice President Marketing & Community Relations at St. Ann’s Community.

Over the last week I have been asked by friends how to have “the talk” with their parents about considering a move to a senior living community.

My first question is always the same…why are you asking? Most often the responses are:

• I’m worried about their safety.
• They’re having more frequent medical issues.
• They need me to help them more and more but I don’t have enough time between caring for my kids and work.

Does this sound familiar?

There is a reason why they refer to so many of us in the 45-65 age group as the “sandwich generation,” raising our own kids while taking care of our parents. We have a lot going on and we don’t want to disappoint anyone.

The first step in helping family members is to have an honest conversation. Let them know you are concerned and discuss the reasons why. Talk about how they feel about their current living situation and ask if they would be willing to join you in visiting a senior living community to see what it offers.

When you visit a senior community, bring a list of questions and ask the same questions each place you go so you can compare.

1. Do they have multiple dining options?
The quality of your food is an essential thing to look for in a retirement community. Above all, look for variety. It may be difficult or you may not want to cook every meal, so having great dining options is a big plus. Many communities have culinary trained chefs. There is no better test than to have lunch or dinner there. Ask the person touring you if you can schedule a time to come back for a meal.

2. Do they have a continuum of care?
Moving is a big decision and a lot of effort. You don’t want to have to move should you ever need support services or healthcare. Make sure the communities you are considering offer a continuum of care. That means if you have a surgery planned, they offer rehab that can get you better and back home. And as you age, if you start to need assistance, they have assisted living and skilled nursing options. This way you can stay on the same campus you are comfortable with, keeping the friendships you have made with your neighbors and the staff.

3. How much does it cost?
Finding a retirement community that is a financial fit for you is a must to avoid being caught in a stressful situation further down the road. Ask what the pricing is for each level of housing and healthcare they offer should you need it. Ask what the average increase to residents has been over the past few years. Ask about the financial health of the overall community. Request a copy of their annual report, and ask friends and family if they have heard anything about the organization over the years.

4. What experiences do they offer that you are not enjoying in your current home?
Does the retirement community look like a luxury resort but live like a home? Are there trips, exercise classes and cultural activities you have wanted to try? Ask yourself whether you can see yourself waking up and wanting to try some of the amenities being offered, or if it’s not as great as it seems. Do you see the residents using these amenities a lot?

5. Is it really maintenance-free living?
How does the community look when you drive onto the campus? Are the lawns lush and green with flowerbeds well cared for? Are there paths to walk that are well maintained? The last thing you want to do when you retire is mow the lawn, fix broken appliances or clean your home constantly. You have worked hard for a long time to get to retirement. It should be fun and you deserve to relax.

6. Do you feel welcome there?
Perhaps the biggest part of moving anywhere is knowing what the community and your neighbors are like. Get a feel for the place by coming back for an event they have planned so you can experience the lifestyle firsthand. And when you’re there, talk to the other residents. You will find out right away what they like about living there, and anything they don’t like.

Take your time making your decision. Let your family and friends come with you on the tour, and discuss the results. You’ll know when you’ve found the place that’s right for you—and you’ll be glad you did your homework.

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