When searching for senior living options for yourself or a loved one, it can be overwhelming to try and find the perfect fit. It’s okay to feel a little worried—that just means you care! To help you start your search with confidence and make a decision with strong peace of mind, here are five important tasks for your to-do list:

1. Research Available Types of Senior Living Options

To narrow your search early on, it’s essential to understand the different types of senior living communities available in your area. Often, most options will fall into one of the following categories:

  • Assisted living: these communities offer apartment-style living with regular access to daily support from onsite staff. This option is best suited for individuals or couples who require daily assistance with general housekeeping, personal grooming, medical care or physical support.
  • Independent living: these communities provide independence within a senior-optimized and focused space. This option is best for self-sufficient individuals or couples interested in lifestyle activities and an increased sense of community among other seniors.
  • Memory Care: this is ideal for those who may require additional care for dementia, Alzheimer’s or similarly-related memory diagnosis.
  • Respite Care: this option is dedicated to short-term stays, providing relief for caregivers and helping the resident receive the in-patient care they require.

If you’re interested in finding a community for a couple with separate needs, consider looking for a senior living option that provides dual-care. Many organizations offer customized plans that can be adjusted according to each person’s specific needs while still allowing them to live together.

2. Determine Individual Care Needs and Preferences

As you narrow your search, prepare a list of both your loved one’s needs and preferences. Each category is essential to consider as you compare options against each other. For example, a “need” may be regular access to pre-made meals, while a “want” might include regular community crafting activities. Each of these items can improve one’s quality of life, but it’s important that you check all the boxes on your “needs” list first—then you can move to the “wants” or preferences. 

If possible, consider building this list with the support and help of your loved one. Not only can this conversation strengthen your relationship, but it allows you to listen to them and find opportunities they feel comfortable with or can get excited about.

3. Learn About the Local Community

During your search, remember that a senior community’s location can impact the overall experience. For example, close approximation to a specialized hospital means that your loved one will be able to quickly receive the care and support they regularly need.

The location can also impact the activities offered within the senior living space. For example, towns near lakes or mountains may offer outdoor field trips, while communities in larger cities may take residents to local museums or festivals.

4. Outline Your Long-Term Finances

Finances are a critical part of planning for the transition to senior living. When you’re building out your budget, take into account the following potential expenses:

  • All-inclusive vs. buildable cost: some senior living communities will include all general expenses in their monthly fee, from food preparation to apartment cleaning and cost of rent. However, some may only charge for the actual living space but leave additional expenses (like meals or care) as an add-on.
  • Additional medical expenses: if your loved one requires medical attention beyond what’s provided at a senior living community, make sure to coordinate with their insurance company and healthcare provider to create a realistic monthly budget for these costs.
  • Furniture storage: still have a few items left over from the big move? You may need to invest in a storage unit if the transition to senior living leaves you with some extra furniture.
  • General spending: keep in mind that your loved one may still want to have a small budget for outside spending, whether for gifts, clothing or special activities. Dedicate a portion of your budget to “fun money” that can be used for miscellaneous purchases.
  • Insurance: many senior living communities don’t accept insurance or Medicaid. Be sure to confirm ahead of time the options available to you for monetary support.

By organizing your finances, you’ll be able to narrow your search for the perfect space (and live with the peace of mind that your loved one has the budget to live their best life). Refer to this Investopedia resource for a list of common retirement costs to get a better idea of national averages. 

5. Plan a Day-Trip to Visit Available Senior Living Options. 

Have you heard the phrase, “you’ll never know until you try it” before? This principle also applies to finding the right senior living community! Where possible, take a day trip with your loved ones to visit potential locations. Once there, meet with the staff and tour the apartments and common areas to make sure it’s the perfect fit. In these meetings, you can ask for further details on any questions that might have come up during your search.

Refer to our resources for additional information to aid your search: 

Good luck finding your loved one’s next adventure!