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Six Questions To Ask For A Better Senior Living Decision

When you’re looking for an answer, asking the right questions gets you there quicker. That’s especially true when it comes to your choice of senior living. We’ve helped a lot of seniors and their families in their search for how and where to live in their advancing years.  We’ve heard all their questions and become adept at knowing which questions expedite decision-making and which don’t.  With a bias toward helping you focus on finding what’s right for you, here are the 6 questions we believe you should ask when you’re trying to decide on a senior living lifestyle that suits you.

QUESTION 1 – What Do You Want?  Your goals come first. The clearer you are about what you want out of life now, the better prepared you’ll be for making a good decision. This is important, because what you’ll soon realize — if you haven’t already — is that making a senior living choice will mean a delicate balancing act, where head and heart aren’t altogether at peace with the mixture of feelings, insights and relationships that come into play. Your clarity about your goals will help you stay centered, and staying centered is key for making a good decision. So what do you want?

QUESTION 2 – Are you ready for a senior living community?  That orange glow on the horizon — is that a sunset or a sunrise? Before they’ve decided to move to a senior living community, some people see the choice as limiting possibilities, opportunities and freedom. They see a sunset. That’s paradoxical, because most of the time, as soon as you make the move into a community, you notice all kinds of new possibilities, opportunities you hadn’t imagined and — surprisingly — a keen sense of being liberated. That’s not a sunset. That’s dawn. Consider which way you’re facing, metaphysically speaking. Face the sunset, and you’re ready for nothing new. Face the sunrise, and a new day lies ahead. You can move at your own pace, set your own terms, march to your own private drummer, and live for yourself and the ones you love. Asking yourself if you’re ready for a senior living community can mean a simpler question:  Are you ready for a new day?

QUESTION 3 – Is your home ready for you to continue to stay there?  There’s an irresistible logic to staying right where you are. No packing! No garage sales!  No goodbyes! But will you be saying hello to home renovations instead? Rooms that are outdated and unsafe may need to be adapted as abilities change or a caregiver is needed.  From basics such as installing grab bars and handrails as safeguards, to enlarging doorways and adding ramps for walkers or wheelchairs, or perhaps renovating a bathroom to fall-proof it or create space for a caregiver to assist. The costs of making a home safer for aging in place add up fast.

Also consider the cost of staying put. Lively excursions, like-minded friends, new interests: These arrive effortlessly and naturally at a senior living community, where everything is arranged for your preference and pleasure. Ask yourself if world-expanding opportunities like these come your way if you stay where you are.

QUESTION 4 – How do you choose a senior living community that’s right for you?  It helps to be practical when shopping for a senior living community. We’ve compiled suggestions to do just that, plus a list of questions to refer to during a visit. But once you’ve collected all the facts and figures, our advice is to set it all aside and listen to your inner voice. Because when it comes to picking a new home, it’s the heart and soul of a place that matters most. You’ll know when a community is right for you.

How to get started:

READ | Learn the language used by senior living communities. Terms like CCRC or

Life Care are just a start. (Our glossary on page 8 covers common terms you’ll come across.)

Compare alternatives like senior rental homes and 55+ or “active adult” communities.

TOUR | Make a list of communities you’d like to know more about, then schedule a virtual visit. Invite a friend to the visit.

NOTICE | As you visit with the sales counselor, they should want to get to know you, not just talk about the many features of the community.

INTERACT | Look for opportunities to interact with residents during a virtual visit or a virtual event.

SHARE | The community should be open with financial disclosure information and allow you to share it with your accountant. If the community isn’t willing — or offers only extremely limited information — make note of their reluctance.

DELIBERATE | Take time to think about what you’ve learned. Schedule another visit if you need to.

Ask these questions when you visit:

FINANCIALS

How much of the community’s financial information can be made available to me?

What’s an entrance fee, and what does it pay for? What does the monthly fee cover?

What’s the history of price increases? How are they handled?

What happens if I outlive my financial resources?

HEALTH CARE

What health care services aren’t covered?

If there’s a health care continuum, how does it work?

What costs change as I move through the health care continuum? And what costs change when my spouse uses these progressive levels of care?

What does it take to qualify for each level of health care services?

QUESTION 5 – Do you need Life Care?  Satisfying senior lifestyles rarely happen spontaneously. They take planning. To help with this, some CCRCs help residents control living expenses and health care costs with a cost management plan called Life Care. It can protect you from rising market rates and save you thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.

 How Life Care works

Upfront, you pay an entrance fee, and thereafter, you pay monthly fees, which cover almost all your living expenses — meal plans, upkeep, utilities, scheduled transportation, etc. You’re granted unlimited access to the community’s wealth of opportunities, including long-term health care, at a predictable cost that’s considerably less than market rates.

 The advantages

Life Care simplifies care and saves you money if a long-term health need crops up.

For example, if you require skilled nursing and you’re married, your spouse can continue to live in the residence you’ve been sharing. Your skilled nursing costs may be only about half the cost of elsewhere — saving you thousands — while your monthly costs remain about the same. Since health care at a Life Care senior living community is typically on-site or nearby, your spouse can easily visit. You may also see other benefits such as tax deductions for a portion of the entrance fee or monthly fees, or earned benefits paid directly to you from your long-term care insurance policy.

QUESTION 6 – How do you involve the family in this decision-making process?  Once you’ve decided what you want to do, and when you’re ready to share what’s on your mind, sit down to talk it over with your loved ones. Your choices will impact everyone in the family, and you’ll need their support for a smoother, easier transition. It’s natural that you, or they, feel uncomfortable discussing topics such as long-term care, finances, and a possible move to a senior living community.

Here are some tips on how to approach the conversation:

  • Create a list of the concerns that prompted you to explore senior living options.
  • Share what you’ve learned.
  • Talk with them face to face, not via email or text.
  • Write down what you want to say, and bring your notes.
  • Set a time when you’re not rushed and there are no distractions.
  • Plan to revisit the conversation at different times, over a period of time.
  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Practice active listening, and try to understand their concerns.
  • Maintain a sense of humor, and don’t take things personally.
  • Go with the flow when loved ones bring up subjects that you don’t expect.
  • Be patient, and ease them into a productive discussion.

By moving into a senior living community while you’re still active, you’re choosing to be exactly where you want to be. Your residence is maintenance-free; your expenses are simplified to a single monthly fee; and you’re surrounded by engaging, like-minded people, as well as opportunities for recreation and socialization. It’s a decision that’s a gift to your family too.  You free your children from making stressful decisions on your behalf because you have a plan in place for future care. They’ll have peace of mind knowing that if there’s ever a change in your health, professional care is right there where you need it.

To access and print off the full guide, click here.

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