Searching for Senior Care: Industry Leaders Share Their Insights
With so many senior care options, it can be difficult to know where to start or what to look for. To help seniors and their families on this journey, we’ve interviewed three industry experts for their senior living insights.
Meet Argentum’s Chief Operating Officer, Maribeth Bersani.
Argentum is the leading national association exclusively dedicated to supporting companies operating professionally managed, resident-centered senior living communities and the older adults and families they serve. Since 1990, Argentum has advocated for choice, independence, dignity, and quality of life for all older adults.
Q: If you had to give someone a step-by-step breakdown of the senior living search in 30 seconds (elevator speech-style), what would you say?
A: Decide on location and price first, and then include other personal criteria, such as being in the city or by a church. Then start the process by using the internet, getting word of mouth recommendations, reviewing checklists, then scheduling a virtual tour.
Be sure there is an understanding of the different programs available: IL, AL, Memory Care, CCRC, Skilled Nursing. And during the tour, the senior — not the adult child — needs to decide about the right fit: Is this where I want to live? Do I like the way the caregivers and residents interact, or the programs the community offers?
Other opinions are fine, but at the end of the day, it’s personal. And with so many choices available now, you have to zero in on what is MOST important: For example, is the main meal served at noon or the evening? If you have a strong preference about this, then it is important to know.
When you decide on the place, ask about the state licensing survey (small indiscretions should be weighed as such). Also, ask about staff tenure. Does the community have a pattern of Executive Directors changing frequently in a year?
Maribeth’s quick senior living insights:
- Start with location and price
- Then the internet
- Then a virtual tour
- Understand the available programs
- Listen to the senior
- Ask about licensing and tenure
Q: What do most people misunderstand about the senior living search process?
A: The level of support provided — i.e. setting expectations. Often, the adult child thinks there will be one-to-one caregiver support 24/7 and that’s just not the reality.
Adult children also need to understand it is still the resident’s choice of what they do during the day. Even though the adult child may want mom to play mahjong, if mom wants to sit quietly, that desire needs to be accepted and respected. And if you think mom is not going to eat candy during the day anymore (which was something she did at home that concerned you), she still might. Older adults have the right to continue making their own decisions — as long as they are not putting themselves in danger — even after they move into a senior living community.
Meet Carol Bradley Bursack of Minding Our Elders.
With nearly two decades of eldercare experience to ground her, Carol has spent over a dozen years supporting caregivers and elders through her book, newspaper column, and articles.
Q: If you had to describe the senior care search process step-by-step in 30 seconds (elevator speech-style), what would you say?
A: I would say first take a virtual tour. While doing so, watch how the staff treats each other. Is there respect from the top-down as well as the bottom up?
Watch the staff interact with the residents. Again, is there respect? Do staff members look residents in the eyes? Get down to their level? This is all part of respect.
Are there creative activities for varied interests? Do they have choices for meals? Do most of the people seem happy or at least content most of the time? (Be realistic. Allow for sickness, special needs, and bad days for some, but try to get a feel for the general mood).
Also, ask for references and listen to your gut. Again, be realistic, but if your gut says something is off, then try another place.
Q: What do most people misunderstand about the search process?
A: Many people start out with a negative mindset and carry old ideas with them that are set in stone. They expect to find fault, so they do. Instead, try to be open-minded. Consider all of your options and really try to see if each one is a good fit. If you experience any negative emotions, ask yourself if you have brought those into the situation, or if it’s truly warranted.
Meet Anne Tumlinson, founder of Daughterhood.org.
Anne has spent the last two decades collecting senior living insights and working on improving how America cares for its frailest, most vulnerable older adults.
Here’s Anne’s advice for family members during the senior care search:
Take your time, get professional help from an unbiased source if possible, and remember that senior living is not going to solve all your issues. You will [often] have additional senior care costs beyond assisted living and you’ll still have to do caregiving. But it can be a great solution for isolation and safety.
We hope these senior living insights have been helpful to you on your journey! For more interviews, check out this blog post.