Senior Living: What’s the Right Option?

Everyone wants to live their best life regardless of age. As we approach the latter years of our life, that requires setting up a support system and environment beneficial to maintaining, and even improving, quality of life. Sometimes this means relying on others to help with the tasks we could once complete on our own, but now require assistance. And while it would be great if our family could always be there to take care of us, in today’s day and age, that is not always a practical option for everyone.


When you find yourself or a loved one in need of senior care, exploring available senior living resources can seem like a daunting task at first. But really, once you start doing a little research, you realize that the process is not as involved as you initially thought.


There are three primary steps to be aware of when considering senior living options. The first is knowing what services and level of care you require. These can be Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, or Integrative Assisted Care which is similar to Assisted Living in some ways, and also has an added natural wellness aspect. Consult with your primary physician or a Geriatric Care Manager to learn more about what levels of care would be right for you.


Once you’ve determined the appropriate level of care, the second step is to figure out what type of environment you want to receive care in. Regardless of where you live in the United States, the options are fairly narrow. You can either hire a home care service in which caregivers and nurses visit you in your home on a daily basis or you can choose to live in a senior living community with other like-minded residents.


Each option has its pros and cons. Home care, for example, allows seniors to remain in their home. The downside is that remaining in your home can lead to isolation and depression as a result of not being active or able to see family and friends as often as you’d like. Home care can also be more expensive than the same services and amenities that a senior living community provides.


A senior living community, on the other hand, provides residents with social activities, friends, required support, and just about every daily task is taken care of or supported for them. Residents remain independent and free to live life on their terms, just like they would at home. The potential downside, and this is not a downside for everyone, is that you are moving from your personal home to a new home. The benefits of a social environment can outweigh the benefits of remaining in the home.


Now that you know where you’d like to receive care, in your home or in a senior living community, the next step is to research the options within your choice. Options for in-home care are fairly homogenous and, for the most part, provide the same services. There is a greater variance to senior living communities, however. While most of them provide the same amenities and services, the difference lies in the culture, and sometimes the benefits that come along with the size of the community.


While it is certainly important to research all the services and amenities available in each senior living community you look at, the culture of the community and its residents will likely make the biggest impact on your or your loved one’s health and happiness while living in that community.


Large facilities which are typically as small as 50 to 75 residents and as big as many hundred residents have a very different feel from a smaller community of 20 or less residents. While each type of community may provide very similar services and amenities, the culture and feel can be completely different.


For those that are very socially outgoing and enjoy making many friends among different groups of people, larger facilities may be the best bet. These residents tend to lean in the ‘life of the party’ direction and enjoy the opportunity of living in a larger hotel-like environment. Activity programming in larger facilities is not as flexible because they are servicing a larger population which means that the activities need to appeal to a broad base of resident preference. For the resident who would feel intimidated by entering into a new environment of many people they don’t know, larger facilities may not be the right choice. Additionally, resident to caregiver ratios tend to be a little higher in this size facility, ranging between 15:1 and 25:1 or higher.


Smaller communities of 20 or fewer residents, and typically closer to between 10 and 15 residents, have an entirely different feel. Residents tend to be closer-knit and form tighter bonds. Whereas larger facilities present as a hotel-like environment, smaller communities are based in something more closely resembling a residential setting. Think bed and breakfast vs. hotel. The idea is to offer the resident something closely resembling the home they’ve lived in for many years. Activities tend to be more focused because a smaller population means that the community can cater to individual resident preference. Resident to caregiver ratios also tend to be much smaller, oftentimes as low as 6:1 which can be very beneficial to residents who may require greater attention.


There is no one type of community that is right for everyone. Depending on personality and required level of care, different personalities will thrive in different sized communities. Once you’ve determined the type of community that will make sense for you or your loved one, do a quick internet search of senior living communities in the area you are interested in living, such as Bergen County, New Jersey Senior Living.” Then contact them and then go visit them to tour the community.


For more specifics on evaluating senior living communities, check out the Clover Hill Senior Living Step-by-Step Guide to Senior Living which will give you a great start for learning how to assess each community and make sure that you are making the right choice for you or your loved one.


For more helpful resources on learning about senior living, please visit the Clover Hill Senior Living Resources page.