Choosing a Retirement Home: the Bare Necessities

By: Carolyn Capalbo

There's a grayish space, a sort of undefined and often unregulated type of housing choice for seniors ready to leave their primary residences but not yet ready for a full fledged nursing home. This type of a home is dubbed, "the retirement home", and usually includes residence/apartment style living in a complex that offers numerous amenities, often including a dining program and some level of medical care/attention. These homes can be a great transition for an individual who wants some ongoing medical care, but who needs to maintain their independence and a true sense of home.

It is tricky to know what to look for in these "retirement homes". As they are not regulated, each residence will be unique and offer different levels of services, for varying costs. Here's a look at what you'll want to investigate as you search for the perfect "retirement home"

The number one aspect of any retirement home that you'll want to seriously look into, is the health services offered. It's this service that sets apart the premium retirement homes from the not so premium ones. Number one, you'll want to find a residence that hosts an on-staff nurse and also certain heath care services like medication reminders and bathing assistance. This should be a minimum requirement in terms of health care.

Pay attention to the general cleanliness of the the entire complex. There's no reason you should live in a place that lingers with the scent of urine- which is, by the way, one of the tell tale signs of a complex that has serious issues with sanitation. On the flip side, a good sign might be to see anti-bacterial hand washing stations speckled throughout the complex.

Another consideration with regards to health care, is to have a realistic peek into the future. How long would you like to stay in this one facility? Most folks would rather not move three or four times in their later years. In this case, it's a good idea to find a community that offers continuing care. Such complexes, offer independent living quarters and also assisted living facilities and nursing homes. With such options, if a resident's health declines, proper treatment and a suitable residence is available to the resident and they can avoid the upheaval of a big move. Considering that moving can be stressful when your in good health, and that moving when your in a health crisis is only going to be that much more taxing, this option is one you'll surely want to consider.

The other aspect of a facility's health care, is the cost. You'll want to understand the various packages available and find one that suits your needs today- and one that'll cover your needs in the future. When it comes to needing to upgrade from one package to that same package with the adjustment of an additional service, many complexes find the opportunity to over-charge.In some cases, it's often best to choose a good overall package that covers services that you may not need now, but could be useful in the future. Whatever the case, you'll just want to know clearly what you need and can afford, and what is covered in the various service packages. Read the fine print and if need be don't hesitate to hire an attorney who specializes in elder care to review the terms of the contract. Better to pay up front and fully understand what your getting into, then to be swindled down the line.

Research the staffing levels of each facility. In direct proportion to your monthly payments will be the staff to resident ratio. It's truly better to have a higher staff to resident ratio and to pay a bit more for the better care and service. It's also a good idea to look into the staff turnover rate. You definitely want staff who know their residents well. If staff are leaving after a month or two, then you may have come upon an unhappy facility and one that you'll want to steer clear of.

It's important to investigate the history of the complex to ensure that it's a well run facility with no big complaints or unhappy law suits filed against it. You can start by having a meal there and chatting it up with some residents- you'll get a quick idea of how content people are with the place. But, this is not enough. You'll want to also check into the Better Business Bureau, Elder Care Locator and Nursing Home Compare. These will all help you find out any complaints, or legal actions that may be filed against a specific residence.

How secure is the facility? This is an important question, as you're putting your security and health into the hands of the facility. You'll want to ensure that there are security personnel on patrol 24 hours a day, seven days a week and that the building itself is secure. Check the locks on the windows and the alarm system. Calls bells, or bracelets for residences that'll notify staff of emergencies- these are security measures you'll want to look into as well.

Once you've covered these necessary elements, you can then narrow down your search by comparing such aspects as location, campus amenities, programs and activities, and the look and feel of the residences themselves.

You should feel very confident heading into this next chapter of your life. With some thorough research you'll be able to find the perfect retirement home- one that has your health and happiness in mind.

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