You've worked hard, raised kids, built and managed a career, often doing both at the same time. Now's the time to relax and truly enjoy your retirement. You might be asking if assisted living is right for you as a retirement option — or for your aging parents. You may be wondering when it’s a good time to move into a community and if there other choices. We'll help answer those and more questions so you can make the best decision for your unique situation.
When Is the Right Time to Move into Assisted Living?
Assisted living is a good option for people who can no longer live alone but don’t need full-time medical care. Maybe you're having trouble getting around, need reminders to take your medication or are facing challenges with other activities of daily living (ADLs). Perhaps you have fewer opportunities for socializing and are looking for ways to meet people.
Assisted living facilities not only provide personalized care, round-the-clock support, housekeeping and daily meals, but many offer exciting events and activities that happen right in the community.
Making a big change, such as moving into an assisted living community, comes with much thought and preparation. It's normal to be cautious about this type of transition. Talk with family members, your doctor or a friend who has moved into an assisted living community. Be open to frank and honest conversations.
What Other Options Are There?
Today there are so many options for senior living. Assisted living is generally for older adults with a great degree of independence, but may need some assistance with ADLs. Other options include nursing homes — also called Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs).
Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes
Assisted living communities are created to look and feel more like a resort, with apartment-style living, private baths and kitchenettes, restaurant-style dining, transportation and other amenities. Residents are largely independent and can go outside of the community to visit family and friends on their own if they wish. Assisted living residents may need help with ADLs, but generally don't need intensive medical care.
Nursing homes are for those who need skilled nursing care or a higher level of medical support. They may have chronic conditions that need ongoing monitoring and care.
Moving Forward with Assisted Living
Once the decision to move into an assisted living community has been made, there's some work to be done. We've broken it down into three steps.
1. Research – You will need to do a bit of research once you've committed to moving into an assisted living community. If you're searching for a loved one, be sure they are involved in the process. Do you want the community to be close to family? What types of services and amenities do you want? Start researching ways to pay for the monthly costs of assisted living.
2. Visit – Once you've narrowed down your preference to three communities, schedule a visit to each one. Some communities offer online tours, which is especially helpful if your preferred community is out of state. You can even have a meal with residents to get a better feel for the environment. If you're visiting a community, come with a list of questions and concerns. At your visit, be sure to ask questions about payment expectations.
3. Choose – When you've chosen the assisted living facility you or your loved one wants to call home, you'll work with the community's coordinators for move-in dates. Like other milestones in our lives, there will be paperwork to complete. It is important to understand the documents you're signing, so you may want to have a lawyer look over everything before signing on the dotted line.
What Should I Pack for Assisted Living?
If you or your loved one is coming from a large home, you'll need to downsize considerably and make plans to store special family heirlooms. Living quarters vary widely among communities, so it’s important to have accurate information about your new space.
Be thoughtful about what you want to bring. For example, if you're moving to a warmer climate, you may not need a heavy parka and snow gear — or you may want to store it with family members if you plan to visit them during the winter holidays. Here's a general list of items to consider packing when moving into an assisted living community:
- Appropriate clothing
- Jewelry and accessories
- Glasses, hearing aids, canes
- Prescriptions and over-the-counter medications
- Toiletries and personal care items
- Legal and financial documents
- Favorite pieces of furniture or art
- Home décor such as mirrors, plants, fans, clocks, etc.
- Organizational bins for storage
- Kitchen supplies if the apartment has a kitchenette
- Books, TV, puzzles, games, computer, phone, hobby supplies
- Household items
Staff at the community can provide you with specific details about the apartment, such as room size and square footage. Some communities even have designers to help with furniture placement and other matters.
Move In and Meet the Neighbors!
Make it a special day if you are helping a loved one move into an assisted living community. Bring the family to help and celebrate when all the hard work is done. Decorate the new space and emphasize the positive aspects of the community.
Leaving your home and moving into a new environment can generate a wide range of overwhelming feelings. If it doesn’t feel like the right time to meet new people, take a step back and go easy on yourself or your loved one.
Making the Transition to Assisted Living
Today, assisted living communities are vibrant and active places for older adults. There are many reasons why seniors enjoy living in an assisted living community. They might be tired of managing a home, are looking for a vibrant social life or want help with ADLs to improve their quality of life.
Remember that moving to assisted living has benefits, including improving health with personalized care 24/7, wellness options close at hand and exciting social activities, all within easy reach. Best of all, assisted living can deliver peace of mind to you and your loved ones.