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Once my mother turned 65, I began talking with her about moving from her house in Virginia and looking for a senior living community closer to me in Delaware. Originally from New York, she owned and operated a popular tavern in Long Island for nearly 20 years. After selling her business, she relocated to Virginia to enjoy a much less stressful and affordable lifestyle. My wife and I also relocated to Virginia for a few years, but ultimately decided on Delaware to be closer and midpoint to both our families.

While my mom is now retired, she’s still quite active. Even after TWO hip replacements, she still mows her own lawn, gardens, and walks her Labradoodle, Marley, several times per day. Her home is always clean and she’s still cooking up all of her famous, delicious meals. She also looks out for the neighborhood feral cats by getting them into the local spay/neuter program and also adopted her favorite, Mr. Kitt. He’s got 2 different colored eyes.Needless to say, an ‘Independent’ senior living community that allows pets is a must. Marley is also getting on in age and we know many senior living communities do not allow large dogs. So, she’ll definitely be waiting until Marley crosses the rainbow bridge before making the move. And we completely agree. But, it’s also important to begin the discussion about senior living sooner, rather than later. Sometimes there are waiting lists or financial concerns, so it’s best to get the ball rolling when beginning to consider moving.

At first, the conversation about relocating to a senior living community was a bit difficult. In Virginia, she has a great support system with many friends, her own home, and her pets. But, she does live alone and now that COVID is a concern, she also wants to be closer to us and her family in NY. She’s also growing tired of maintaining her home and would like to enjoy more free time and convenience. Now, she’s actually looking forward to her next adventure. COVID has really made the process of finding a senior living community more challenging, so my wife and I have been doing most of the research online and taking tours locally. We provide my mom with all of the details so she can make her own decision. We’ve been looking in Delaware, Maryland, and parts of New Jersey. We live in a convenient part of Delaware that has many communities across all of those states and they’re less than 1 hour away. I’m happy to say that there are 3 communities that we’re currently considering. 

Now that I’m over a year into this process, here are my top 5 tips from my personal experience on how to help your parents find the right senior living community.

  1.   Decide on the most appropriate type of senior living community for your parents needs.

Since my mom is still very active and simply wants more convenience and free time, it was clear that Independent Living was the right choice for her.  But depending on the lifestyle of your parent or loved one, the most common types are,

Independent Living Independent living is perfect for those who still enjoy an active lifestyle and desire more freedom to pursue their passions. Residents do not have to worry about things like home ownership, maintenance and landscaping. They’ll spend more time doing the things they love in a place designed to feel and function like a home.

Assisted Living Assisted living is a wonderful option for people who need assistance with daily activities like managing medications, dressing, bathing, housekeeping and meals. It provides peace of mind and allows you to spend more quality time with your loved ones.

Memory Care Memory care services provide quality care and support for seniors living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. With gentle guidance and visual reminders, these programs provide a secure, safe space with activities that meet a resident’s skill level and allow them to flourish even with advanced expressions of the disease.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities – A continuing care retirement community (CCRC) offers multiple care levels on one campus, which means you don’t have to move even if your healthcare needs change in the future. They provide a full range of personalized assistance and care options that fit your lifestyle. 

  1.   Begin with the right conversation starters about senior living.

Getting the discussion started can often be the most difficult part. Try one of these conversation starters.

  •          If you didn’t have to maintain your house, what would you like to do with that extra free time?
  •          Have you been feeling lonely lately? Would you like to meet new people that are around your age?
  •          Do you still enjoy living alone? Do you have any fears or anxiety about your safety? (Feel free to discuss specific safety concerns such as struggles in the kitchen or bath, managing finances or meds, and falling or difficulty with mobility. Loneliness, crime, and the pandemic may also be giving them anxiety, so address that as well.)
  •          Have you experienced any difficulty keeping up with your bills or managing your money lately?
  •       Have you ever thought about hiring someone to help you with your housekeeping?
  •        Do you have any anxiety about traveling or driving your car? What if you didn’t have to worry about your transportation anymore?
  1.   Discuss the kind of lifestyle that’s important to your parents and determine a budget.

All senior living communities have a wide variety of amenities, features, and services that appeal to different types of individuals. Some are just like living in a resort. Create a wish list based around your parent’s needs, budget, and preferences. Knowing what your parents can afford each month for living expenses will be extremely important when considering a community. Begin your search online and you’ll find a wealth of information on different communities that fit their criteria.  For example, Brookdale Senior Living offers 740 different senior living communities in 45 states.  Narrow your choices down to the top three that seem like a perfect fit and schedule a tour.

  1.   Schedule tours of each community and ask a lot of questions.

Scheduling a visit to a senior living community is easy and can be done online or over the phone. I would suggest doing no more than two per day and make each tour very thorough. If possible, make the time to visit the communities with your parents. Bring along a list of their concerns and questions, so you can get an overall sense of each community.  Was the staff welcoming and friendly? Do the residents look happy?  Are all of the spaces in the community clean and well maintained?  Feel free to ask to participate in one of their programs or activities, or even try the food in their dining spaces. Taking a tour is an opportunity to gather many personal insights from both the staff and residents. Don’t be shy. Ask them what it’s like to live and work there. 

  1.   Let the final decision be up to your parents.

Definitely help them every step of the way and offer constructive guidance. But, the ultimate decision of the community they choose should be entirely up to them.  After all, they will be the ones living there. After you tour each community, ask your parents a lot of questions. Such as:

  • What was your first impression of the community? 
  • Did you enjoy the food and lifestyle there? 
  • Did you enjoy meeting any specific staff members or residents? 
  • Is this a community where you would feel at home?

Your role is to support them as they make these life changing decisions. 

Want to Learn More About Senior Living Communities?

Brookdale Senior Living has more additional helpful tips and guidelines to get you started on your journey to senior living. Visit them now to get all of the info you need to make the best decision for you or your loved one.