How to Choose the Right Senior Living Option For You

Words by Frances Nyugen. Photo by Adobe Stock.

We plan for retirement throughout our entire adulthood, but what happens once we reach that milestone?

“People don’t like to think about aging,” says Lynn Paxson of Oasis Senior Advisors in Hockessin. “It’s not in our nature to embrace it. But this is a natural course; it’s all really normal.” Paxson aims to destigmatize seniors communities and assuage fears about what life is like inside them—and, in the process, reshape social perceptions of what it is to age.

“The main stigma I see is one [seniors] put on themselves,” says Paxson. “That if they can’t manage their home anymore, then they’ve failed.” It’s Paxson’s job to help them see assisted living as a next phase rather than as a failure; when seniors make decisions about their care well in advance, they feel empowered by it, not defeated.

Here, she sheds some light—and positivity—on how to choose the right senior living option for you.

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Know what makes you happy.

What’s something you really enjoy—or something you once enjoyed and can’t do anymore because you don’t have transportation or mobility or your eyesight is impaired? Starting with this foundation is key. Maybe you need a place with a putting green because you love to golf, or a place with fun communal activities because your spouse has passed away and you’re looking to connect with other people.

Understand your current and future care needs.

This helps you ask the right questions about a senior community or assisted living to determine whether it’s sustainable over the long term. What training does the staff receive? Is there a lot of turnover among care staff? How are medical emergencies and safety issues handled? You’re essentially going to be living with these people, so understanding how a place operates in advance is key. An often overlooked consideration is the ratio of residents to staff, and how it changes between day and night. For instance, if you need special care in the evenings, then having a caretaker who can provide it is crucial.

Keep an open mind.

Change is stressful, but it’s also inevitable, and if you’re open-minded, it’s much easier to accept information and see the big picture for yourself—and make the best decision. If you go into something thinking it has to be a certain way, you’ll be fighting yourself through the whole process. Rather than considering senior living communities as a last resort (as many of Paxson’s clients do), try being proactive. We’re all going to age. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s part of the cycle of life. Embrace it. There’s so much good to come.

For loved ones of those entering these communities, it’s also important to consider how they’ll treat outside communication and accessibility for the resident. “If want to be up to speed on what’s happening on any changes in their condition, you’ll want to understand how the community handles that kind of communication,” she says. Especially with the pandemic, when regulations are much more strict, understanding how communities are protecting residents is paramount.

Published as “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” in the Fall/Winter 2020 issue of 302Health.

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