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Senior living tips

FOR THE BEST LEVEL OF CARE

BY HILTON HEAD MONTHLY

ENJOY THE GOLDEN YEARS

The idea of senior care has evolved, 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 opportunities that truly make your golden years shine.

But 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 circumstances, but here we outline some of the ins and outs of each level of care.

ASSISTED LIVING

Assisted living facilities are suitable for those who might need assistance at a moment’s notice — 24-hour care.

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 important at an assisted living facility and 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, an assisted living referral service, notes on its website. “Make sure to look past the furnishings and into corners, baseboards and windows.”

AARP suggests also checking rooms and bathrooms for 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.

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.

Many facilities nationwide provide access to a pharmacy (83.6%), dietary and nutritional guidance (82.8%), physical, occupational or speech therapy (71.4%) and skilled nursing care (66.1%), according to the National Center for Assisted Living.

Others offer more services for those with specific needs, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The National Center for Assisted Living said about 14% of assisted living communities in the U.S. have a dementia care unit.

The approximate monthly cost of assisted living on Hilton Head Island is $5,475, according to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey. The statewide average is $3,988 a month.

INDEPENDENT LIVING

Seniors can enjoy their own space and their own lifestyle, but within the framework of a facility where care is available on demand.

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. Considerations for independent living mostly boil down to the individual’s lifestyle.

Assess the facility’s quality of life. Try to ask community members about their experience and pay attention to any activities taking place. Pay attention to the cleanliness inside and outside and observe if there are plenty of outdoor spaces.

Independent living facilities often offer prepared meals, transportation, social activities, and housekeeping, according to A Place for Mom.

Many facilities give adults plenty of social activities to keep them busy, which helps them feel less isolated, happier and more engaged.

Cost is a consideration.

According to seniorhomes.com, the average cost of independent living in South Carolina is $2,180 per month (some costs can surpass $4,000). Independent 

living communities will typically ask for a lump sum up front, a percentage of which will go back to heirs.

IN-HOME CARE

Primarily for seniors who only need occasional assistance. This helps seniors remain independent.

It is good to fairly assess what type of care is needed. In-home care can include help with dressing and bathing, meal preparation or household tasks.

Then determine if help is needed daily, weekly or hourly. Consider the extent of help needed and how often you will be available to help.

Response time from a provider is important. Knowing who is in an office and who can respond after hours and during weekends is essential.

Make a budget. Find out if insurance covers any services or if there are services that could offset costs.

In-home care costs about $61,776 annually nationwide, according to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey. The average has increased from $42,000 in 2004.

Genworth Cost said the approximate Hilton Head Island area hourly cost is $23-$25 an hour.

It is important to ask the service you hire how it screens and trains in-home care workers.

MEMORY CARE

Memory 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.

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?

It is also important to know if there are programs for exercise or physical therapy and if there are accommodations for specific needs (diabetes, mobility issues, wandering).

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 that memory care ranges from $5,000 to $8,000 a month, but costs vary.

In South Carolina, according to memorycare.com, the costs range from $3,329 in Sumter to $5,625 in Hilton Head. In Columbia, memory care is around $4,088 per month.

COST OF CARE

ANNUAL MEDIAN COST OF TYPES OF CARE IN SOUTH CAROLINA:

IN-HOME CARE: $53,768
ASSISTED LIVING: $43,338
NURSING HOME (Private room): $95,813