The pandemic has upended so many aspects of life and, for some families, it has underscored the need for personal care and the individualized lifestyle and services it offers.
Nevertheless, determining that you or a loved one needs personal-care support is never an easy decision. Unfortunately, the process doesn’t end there. In fact, some people say the hardest part comes after the decision: Choosing the right personal care community.
This decision can take a while, but that’s okay. It’s not a decision to be made in a rush, but sometimes situations require a decision sooner than we might want. Research upfront can be especially helpful because what might be important to you or another family member may not be to your loved one.
Because personal care communities differ in size, configuration and offer, here are 10 questions you can ask that may ease your decision-process:
1. How are care plans created?
The term “personal care” can encompass many things. Some older adults require only a little extra assistance, such as help with cleaning, cooking or transportation. Others may require more extensive assistance for medication management, dressing and bathing and even mobility assistance. When choosing a personal care community, be sure you are selecting one that carefully considers the needs of each resident rather than having a one-size-fits-all approach.
2. What floor plans are available?
Different communities may have different approaches to personal care. If your loved one needs light care, he or she may be able to live in a private-style suite; other suites may have a shared bathroom or other adaptations based on need. Review various options so that you find accommodations that fulfill both physical and personal needs.
3. Does the community have a wait list?
Many personal care communities have full residency and maintain a wait list for prospective residents. If you find several communities you like and they’re full, it’s a good idea to put your name on a waiting list so that if accommodations become available, you can be ready to move. This is another reason it’s important to start looking for a community before it’s medically necessary; that way, you don’t have to settle for “good enough”; you can settle for “exactly what I want.”
4. What’s included in the monthly fee?
Personal care communities may bill very differently. Review the residency agreement carefully. Ask for a breakdown of the monthly bill—what services are included? Are there any that aren’t? Are there any hidden or unexpected fees you should be aware of? One personal care community may have a lower monthly rate but require you to pay a la carte for other services, for example. You don’t want to experience any sticker shock after you move!
5. How happy are the residents and the staff?
This isn’t a question you necessarily ask out loud, but you can definitely learn the answer when you visit a community. Notice the residents. Are they smiling? Are they having a good time? Do the staff members seem happy and appear to enjoy their jobs? Do you see residents out and about engaging in enjoyable activities? You can also research online reviews from residents and their family members.
6. How well is the community maintained?
When was the community built? What renovations have been made to keep the buildings attractive and up to code? Pay attention to the little details. Is the landscaping neat, clean and attractive? Are corridors wide and brightly lighted? Are there appropriate safety features such as grab bars, non-skid mats and emergency call buttons? You’ll also want to check for things such as chipped paint, dusty baseboards, overflowing trash and so on.
7. How is security maintained in the community?
You want to be sure you or your loved one will be safe when you move into a personal care community. Are entrances and exits secured and monitored? What about the credentials of care team members? Do research to determine if the community has ever been sanctioned by licensing bodies or health departments. Personal care communities must meet regulatory and safety inspections to be licensed; you want a community that has passed everything with flying colors!
8. What medical services are on site or nearby?
Older adults often have medical concerns, so it’s important to learn how you or your loved one will receive care in an emergency. How much contact exists between staff members and residents? How are individuals who require medication assistance or have a known health issue managed? How can an older adult call for help if an accident occurs? Where is the closest emergency center and what procedures are in place if there is an emergency?
9. How is the food?
This question typically appears very high on question lists or satisfaction surveys. Never settle for subpar meals! Many personal care dining services operate like fine restaurants, with tableside service, an ever-changing menu that’s nutritious as well as delicious and other specialized options. Be sure to sample the food when you tour the community. You may even want to speak with the head chef or kitchen staff.
10. Are pets allowed?
Many older adults have four-legged friends as integral members of their family. If you or a loved one has a pet, you most likely will want your companion to join you in your new community. Make sure pets are allowed (although some communities will have size and type limitations on pets). Many personal care communities allow pets because they know life is often happier with our animal friends.