How to find the best assisted living communities

Originally featured in the Democrat and Chronicle.

What comes to mind when you think of assisted living? For those of us who have never explored assisted living as an option for ourselves or a loved one, we probably don’t know what to expect. The fact of the matter is that it’s probably not anything like you’re picturing it to be.

Today, assisted living communities are vibrant places full of life and activity. Residents are coming and going to onsite restaurants, gathering places, and in and out of the community all day long. Many residents bring their own cars, and most enjoy regular visits both on and off campus with friends and family. At Cherry Ridge, assisted living residents are members of book clubs and exercise groups, and when they want to relax, they have a spacious and quiet apartment to unwind in.

The way St. Ann’s Community at Cherry Ridge in Webster, NY, describes its assisted living residence is simple: “Private apartments, with helping hands.”

 Person-based care

“These apartments are our residents’ personal homes, and we’re here to support them however they want us to,” explains Brian Burger, marketing representative for St. Ann’s Community. “When someone moves in, we sit down with that person and discuss where we can be of help and where we should step back and stay out of the way.”

Known as an individual care plan, these jointly-made outlines allow residents to remain in control of their own care. Many seniors seek assisted living for things as simple as medication management or the nutritional services offered. What is most important to remember while researching assisted living communities is what is most significant to you and making sure the community can meet all of your needs.

There’s a lot more to assisted living than just personal care. Communities like St. Ann’s ensure that residents have a wide variety of social events to attend every day. With offerings like exercise classes, a variety of games, support groups and other special interest groups like book clubs or Bible study groups, there’s something for everyone.

“Many people at home start to shy away from the activities that they once loved as their daily routines become increasingly cumbersome,” says Burger.  “Once they’re able to find some help with the ‘chores’ of daily living, they suddenly find themselves freed up to jump into the recreational activities offered on- and off-site.”

In many cases, a married couple may find that one needs more help than the other. The good news is that in almost every case, both spouses can transition to an assisted living apartment together – even if only one person wants to take advantage of the community’s care. Both people can still enjoy the fine-dining style food, the social engagements and the sense of community.

When is the right time?

No universal life event indicates that ‘now is the time to think about assisted living.’ Much like individual care plans, it depends on someone’s situation.

Often, friends, family, and neighbors will pitch in to facilitate a safe and healthy lifestyle for a beloved senior. It can be easy to lose track of how much time those closest to a senior are spending to give care, but it’s a great metric to measure just how much a person (and their loved ones) could benefit from the services of an assisted living community.

 Your new home

Once you make the leap and move into your new home, settling into the new routines may take some time. That’s completely normal! As the moving process is wrapping up, it’s also not uncommon to feel an incredible sense of relief. Many newly settled residents describe a renewed feeling of security and comfort that they didn’t realize they had been missing for a long time.

“When you talk to a new resident a week or two after they’ve moved in, and they just keep going on and on about how happy they are here, and how it really feels like ‘home’ – that’s the best part,” says Burger.

To learn more about what assisted living offers, seniors or their families can reach out to St. Ann’s Community or any assisted living providers to ask questions, request brochures, and even make an in-person visit.

A pro tip: When starting this journey, prepare a list of questions in advance, and don’t be afraid to ask them. The community representatives will likely have heard those same questions before, and they will have the answers you need to guide you through the decision-making process comfortably.

If it’s harder to get out of the house – whether it’s the process of getting ready to go or the act of traveling to a destination – then a senior may opt to ‘stay in’ and forego the things that make them happy. Social isolation is another important consideration when deciding on the next steps.

“There are so many benefits a person can enjoy at a community like Cherry Ridge,” says Burger. “Everything is just easier here. Socializing, great food and even learning opportunities. It’s all right at a person’s fingertips, and you don’t need your jacket to get there.”

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