Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Crisis or controlled decision?

Choosing an assisted living community

Can you imagine being told that you have to find an assisted living apartment to move into by Tuesday and today is Friday? Donna and her daughter were told that recently. That happens frequently in care centers with rehabilitation wings, otherwise known as Transitional Care Units (TCUs).

If you have elderly parents or loved ones, starting conversations early about their wishes is a wise decision, should this scenario ever occur to them. More than 90 percent of seniors over the age of 65 want to remain in their own home. However, research shows that about two thirds of seniors are unable to do so because they need assistance performing activities of daily living (ADLs).

Having a “Plan B” is a good idea, just in case your loved one becomes unable to continue to live in their home. If a friend or loved one experiences a fall or becomes hospitalized for some reason, that may be a good time to start a conversation with your own parent that might go something like this: “Mom, I know that (insert name) fell and I’m not sure if she’s going to be able to come back home after she recovers. If something like that were to happen to you, have you thought about what you would like to do?”

Research shows that about two thirds of seniors are unable to remain in their homes longterm because they need assistance performing activities of daily living.

Many times a crisis occurs and there hasn’t been a conversation about what the older adult would prefer. In crisis, options are not as clear, as you are already in a stressful situation and there isn’t the time to discover and have the control over the outcome. Even though many assisted living facilities today have vacancies, not all of them do. If memory care is needed, finding a good option can be even more difficult.

Ideally, this decision-making process of choosing a new residence should be made over the period of a month or more. Comparing three to five communities is recommended. Narrow your choice after the initial visits and then go for a second visit. Most communities can arrange to have you dine with one of their residents so you can find out how they like living there.

Key areas to focus on are:

* Staffing: What is the resident to staff ratio? Are the staff employees’ or contracted from outside agencies?

* Costs for rent and care: All senior communities charge differently so it is important to make sure one is comparing apples to apples. Find out if they take medical assistance if funds become depleted or do they ask the resident to move out?

* Food and Nutrition: Does the organization have a chef and dietitian on staff and can they accommodate special diets?

* Care levels: Is this community able to accommodate a two person transfer or one-on-one care if needed?

For Donna and her daughter mentioned earlier, finding a facility that had availability, great care and memory care offerings in case her mom should need it in the future were all important. Fortunately, she was able to find an option that fit her preferences and needs; however, doing so under a tight timeline was not ideal and can be avoided by doing one’s homework in advance.

Choice Connections is one organization that advocates for seniors and assists them to have more control and choice in a future home decision should they need one. Choice Connections is a free referral service offering unbiased personalized advice to help seniors and their families find the best option in senior housing when home is no longer the best choice. For more information, contact 651/261-5379 or go to www.choiceconnections.com/twincities.

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