Today I’m sharing an article written by Joan Rettmann, Regional Director of Sales for Koelsch Communities, on moving to a retirement community. Joan has many years’ experience working in the senior housing field and her insights align perfectly with the services we provide at Forever Care Services. Our personalized guidance helps families find the best possible senior housing and care in Assisted Living, Memory Care and Adult Family Homes in King and Snohomish Counties.
Transitioning to a Retirement Community, by Joan Rettmann
Moving to a retirement community, whether it may offer independent living, assisted living, or memory care, is a big decision. Deciding which community is the best fit and when to make the move can be difficult. Along with the guidance from Forever Care Services, here are a few tips to help guide you to the right place.
Experiencing the community firsthand is important. I recommend visiting the community at least two to three times to give you exposure to the intangibles – how the community feels. Is it clean and well maintained? Do the staff make eye contact and look happy and friendly? What are the residents like? Are they happy and engaged?
Your first visit may largely be spent with a community relations/marketing staff member where you’ll learn all the details about the amenities and services, along with a tour of the community. There may not always be time to explore everything on the first visit, and that’s OK!
Many people benefit from multiple visits to ensure they have gathered enough information to make an informed decision. I recommend including as many of the following experiences as possible to maximize your knowledge about the community:
- When looking at independent living and most assisted living settings, spend time with the residents. Ask to meet residents who have lived in the community for some time as well as some who have recently moved in. Those who have been there for some time can speak to the quality of the services and how stable those services have been over time. This can tell you whether possible changes in management or other staff have impacted the community, which may prompt questions you may wish to have addressed by the Executive Director/General Manager of the community.
- Speaking with new residents or their families can help provide insight into their decision-making process, which may also be relevant to you or your family, and can help you prepare for what to expect when you first move in.
- Try the food! Eating is one of the most frequented activities that all of us do every day, so it’s important to make sure you like what the options are. If possible, have a meal in the dining room to experience the quality of service in addition to the cuisine. Even better – ask to have a meal with a resident and you’ll learn so much more!
- Ask to meet staff members in leadership positions. Sometimes it can be hard to know what is most important to you when you are in the beginning stages of your search. Along with spending time with residents, meeting key department heads might help you think of other things that you may like to add to your list of criteria. For instance, meeting the chef may be helpful to understand how flexible the dining program is, which can be very important if you have certain dietary restrictions or preferences.
- Discover what criteria is used when the Life Enrichment Director creates a calendar of activities each month and learn if the residents have input.
- Meeting the Community Health Director, who is normally a licensed nurse, can be helpful to understand the degree of assisted living services offered, care staff-to-resident ratios, and what kind of training is offered to the staff. When looking at memory care, understanding the approach to providing personal care and activities is essential.
- Lastly, meet the Executive Director/General Manager. Are they warm and approachable? While you are spending time with residents, ask them how they feel about the Executive Director/General Manager and the rest of the management staff. Do the residents feel respected and valued?
- If possible, visit the community at different times of the day and days of the week to have an opportunity to observe activities that you may have an interest in and to gain exposure to different staff and residents. In some communities, you may even be allowed to stay as a guest for a couple of days.
In many cases, the move into a community will result in retaining or even gaining independence because of the ease of access to social experience and support, compared to where a senior lived before. This feels empowering to many people, and time and time again we hear “I wish I would have done this sooner!”
This is a new adventure in life, and with due diligence in exploring the options during the search process, the thriving experience of living in a retirement community can be greater than ever imagined. When it’s the right fit, it feels like family – where each resident feels loved, has a sense of belonging, and bears a sense of purpose. It is home.
Contact Adrienne Miller, Chief Care Officer at Forever Care Services to start your senior housing search at forevercareservices.com/find-a-community.