Understanding residential options for seniors

When trying to determine the best residential options for an elder loved one, there are many choices. Understanding the differences is important both from a financial and a lifestyle perspective.

From aging in place to a more structured environment, it’s important to do your research, investigate regulatory infractions, conduct unscheduled visits, and understand the continuum of care among other considerations. It’s also important to know what your loved ones, as well as the family member who will be supporting them, wants in terms of how care will be delivered and received.

This understanding can come from a facilitated family dialogue. When we conduct these important discussions with our clients, we call them “Caring Hearts Conversations” and they are designed to unearth the entire family’s ideas on the topic of housing and care options.

There are many choices just in the housing category alone. Each choice comes with its own advantages, lifestyle options, costs, flexibility, and care considerations. While aging in place or in a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) living apartment may be appropriate for one person, assisted living or memory care may be needed for another. Others may require a more skilled environment such as a nursing home.

In the State of Wisconsin, we have legislation for three types of assisted living environments: adult family homes; residential care apartment complexes; and community based residential facilities. There are differences in administrative rules that govern each of these options and each have significant differences in things like the number of residents, staffing, care models, and costs.

Many assisted living communities that cater to people with dementia or other memory disorders. There is a growing emphasis on stand-alone facilities that provide specialized care delivered by a staff trained to address the physical and behavioral complexities of memory care residents. These facilities offer care in a secure environment that fosters a resident’s individual skills and interests in settings especially designed to reduce confusion and agitation.

Continuing care retirement communities are becoming more widely seen and offer innovative and independent lifestyle choices for single and married older adults. The CCRC continues to meet the needs in a familiar setting even as the resident grows older and care needs change.

With so many choices available, selecting an appropriate living environment with your aging loved one can be a daunting experience. Having a few questions in mind or in hand when you do a site visit will be helpful as you weigh your options. Do some homework before visiting a facility. It will take some digging but you can find information on deficiencies and citations for assisted living facilities on the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website. Be sure to ask for a complete outline of costs and understand if the facility you’re looking at is a private pay facility or one that accepts Medicaid/public assistance.

As published in the Racine Journal Times | August 10, 2018

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