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The Next Chapter

SENIOR LIVING TIPS TO FIND THE BEST LEVEL OF CARE IN THE GOLDEN YEARS

The idea of senior care has evolved in the last few decades, encompassing a wealth of options as diverse as the seniors who live them. Opportunities abound, whether that means continuing to live in your own home or taking advantage of more specialized care to suit your particular medical needs. 

Options include assisted and independent living options that truly make your golden years shine. 

For seniors, these options mean a chance to enjoy the best years of their lives to the fullest. But for those who have to choose from among these options, the questions can be legion. Which option is best for your parent?

What should you look for in care options? What considerations should be made for budget and lifestyle?

The answers will ultimately come down to your particular circumstances, but here we outline some of the ins and outs of each level of care.

IN-HOME CARE

One of the biggest hurdles seniors face as they begin eyeing the next chapter in their lives is the perceived lack of independence. After all, they’ve spent decades building up the life around them, including the place they’ve called home, and that can be difficult to give up. 

For seniors who only need the occasional assistance, they don’t have to. 

“Primary goal for us is to help folks who want to stay in their home remain independent as long as possible,” said Bob Risk, co-owner of Synergy Home Care. 

In-home care allows seniors to maintain both their independence and their home, supplying help when needed at a moment’s notice. And according to Risk, that rapid response to issues is paramount when choosing a provider. 

“Responsiveness is important. You want to know who’s in the office and who can respond after hours and on weekends,” he said. “The ultimate acid test is being able to adjust, be flexible and make sure help can arrive at a moment’s notice.”

In-home care costs about $54,912 annually nationwide, according to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey.

INDEPENDENT LIVING

senior2The next step up would be independent living, where seniors enjoy their own space and their own lifestyle, but within the framework of a facility where care is available on demand. 

“Independent living is pretty similar to picking an apartment, really,” said Misty Phillips, sales and marketing manager for Navion Senior Solutions, a firm which manages independent living facility Island Cove as well as assisted living facility Village Cove and memory care facility Harbor Cove on Hilton Head. “The key is really to promote engagement and socialization in a community setting.”

Under South Carolina licensure laws, independent living facilities aren’t allowed to provide medical support — they legally can’t even take blood pressure unless ordered by a doctor. So considerations for independent living mostly boil down to the individual’s lifestyle.

Besides the more independent lifestyle it fosters, this level of care has different financial considerations as well. 

According to seniorhomes.com, the average cost of independent living in South Carolina is $2,180 per month, while the average cost for assisted living is $3,988. The key difference being, independent living communities will typically ask for a lump sum up front, a percentage of which will go back to heirs. 

Independent living facilities often offer prepared meals, transportation, social activities, and housekeeping, said A Place for Mom, an assisted living referral service.

ASSISTED LIVING

senior3As independent living facilities are legally unable to provide medical care, assisted living facilities are better suited to those who might need assistance at a moment’s notice. 

“When you see your loved one needs 24-hour care, in assisted living we can provide that,” said Phillips. 

While there are several amenities that will set assisted living communities apart, from dining options to off-campus recreational opportunities and social clubs, the most important thing you can do is to visit the facility and engage with the caregivers. 

Culture is everything at an assisted living facility. 

“It still requires knowing the person and their likes and dislikes,” said Phillips. “We call that discovery. Who were they before this part of their journey? What is their life story?”

There are important things to look for when choosing the best facility. At the top of the list is cleanliness.

“Does the community feel fresh and clean?” A Place for Mom notes. “Make sure to look past the furnishings and into corners, baseboards and windows.”

AARP suggests also checking for rooms and bathrooms with handrails and call buttons; safety locks on doors and windows; well-lit stairs and hallways with well-marked exits; and large enough rooms for your family member’s needs.

Be aware of the staff’s friendliness. Their attitude toward each other and the residents can give you a good idea of how they interact daily.

Does the staff listen and make eye contact? How many people are involved in the residents’ care? 

“It is important that you have confidence in the property’s staff,” the website said.

Make sure to visit the facility during an activity. This will also help you judge how the staff interacts with the residents and if the activities offered are fun and engaging.

“Take a look at the community calendar of events. Do they match your or your loved one’s interests?” A Place for Mom said.

MEMORY CARE

senior5Memory care facilities are typically for those who may harm themselves or pose a flight risk, with security and alarm systems keeping them safe 24 hours a day. 

For Phillips, whose grandmother passed away in a state facility following a bout with Alzheimer’s, it’s vital that each patient lives their best life in memory care.

“I want to make sure they’re there for the right reasons and they’re receiving the right treatment,” she said. And those whose loved ones might need that extra care should ensure they’re receiving the same.

Questions to consider when choosing a facility include how many meals are offered each day? Is assistance available to help your loved one with meals? Are there memory-enhancement programs?

Find out exactly how many physicians, RNs and LPNs are on staff at any given time, as well as what specialized services are available, from X-Rays to physical therapy

AARP said on average, memory care ranges from $5,000 to $8,000 a month.