A Retirement Community Checklist… Finding the Right One

Group of happy seniorsAre you thinking about a move to a retirement community in the near future for yourself or a loved one under your care? As with so many things in life today, you’re likely noticing that there are almost too many options to choose from in finding the perfect community. It can be daunting, and you may be feeling overwhelmed. We’re here to assure you that it doesn’t have to be so difficult.

Here at Calvary Homes, we’ve created a 9-point checklist of the main things to focus on in your decision-making process. From looking at overall community types like independent living and nursing care facilities to determining how to assess the financial stability of individual organizations, we want to help you sort through the mountains of information and glossy marketing materials to make a confident choice. In that spirit, today’s blog post highlights a few key questions to ask to help make the selection process easier.

What’s the Weather Like?

It may seem like a mundane question, but one of the most significant factors in choosing a retirement community for many people is geographic location, which really comes down to preferences about climate and typical weather conditions. Most people know the kind of weather they prefer, which is why so many retire to the subtropical warmth of Florida or the comfortable dry heat of the American Southwest. But perhaps you want to remain close to home to be near children and grandchildren, or maybe you like experiencing all four seasons. After all, certain holidays like Christmas just don’t feel quite right without snow on the ground or at least a chill in the air.

Here in Calvary Homes’ Lancaster, PA location, we enjoy a temperate mid-Atlantic climate that features light snow in winter and the occasional heatwave in the middle of summer. Fall foliage is brilliant and beautiful, and springtime brings an abundance of flowers and glorious green lawns and fields in the surrounding farmland. If you already live in Southcentral Pennsylvania, you know all about the many advantages (and some disadvantages) of our weather. For example, we rarely suffer the kinds of severe weather events like tornados or the hurricanes that plague our friends in Florida every year. Summers can be uncomfortably hot and humid at times, though, and unpredictable winter storms can cause disruptions to daily routines for several months of the year. Keep location in mind as you’re thinking about communities and refine your search to just one or two areas. Once you’re zoomed in on location, you can begin scheduling tours at individual communities based on your other preferences and needs.

What levels of care are offered?

You’re likely already aware that there are many different types of retirement communities out there offering various levels of care to their residents. Some facilities are more explicitly focused on things like memory/Alzheimer’s care or round-the-clock nursing care for individuals with complex medical needs. Assisted living communities and residential care homes offer 24-hour supervision for those that need help with daily living but are otherwise relatively healthy. Personal care communities, like Calvary Homes, offer some of the same benefits, but assisted living communities have different requirements mandated by the state of Pennsylvania to be considered an assisted living facility.

Many communities, including ours here at Calvary Homes, are known as continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) and offer a range of care options to meet residents’ changing needs as they age. This more flexible type of community assures that residents always have access to the precise level of care that they require at any given time, and it allows residents to move between different levels as often as they need to. While you may move between different physical areas of the community as your needs change – for example, those who are more independent can live in cottages or apartments on campus while those who are recovering from an illness may need to stay in a skilled nursing area  for a period of time – you will never have to move out of the community entirely just because you become ill or require additional help.

Is your community faith-based?

It’s true that the spirit of caring for and serving others is embodied in the core values of many retirement communities, including ours here at Calvary Homes, which is consistent with Judeo-Christian beliefs. This means that a large number of retirement communities are owned and operated by faith-based organizations like the Catholic Church and many Protestant denominations and sects. As we related in a previous blog post, 75% of communities today that are run by non-profits are faith-based.

For those whose faith is essential to their lives, there are many advantages to seeking out a faith-based retirement community. The opportunities for friendship and fellowship with other residents who share your values can bring strong reassurance during this time of uncertainty in life. After all, many new residents in retirement communities are transitioning from family homes filled with precious memories and are moving into an unfamiliar situation, which is always stressful and can be emotionally challenging. At faith-based retirement communities, new residents are often treated like old friends who have already been members of the larger common faith community for years. And faith-based retirement communities are equally welcoming to those from different religious backgrounds and walks of life.

What is there to DO here?

It’s on everyone’s mind even if they don’t ask the question right away. What do the people already living in a given retirement community do for fun? Does the community have restaurants on campus? A pool? A movie theatre? Or if the campus is merely residential, is there easy access to a town nearby with shopping and recreation options?

Whether you prefer a quieter lifestyle and tend to keep to yourself or you make friends everywhere you go and enjoy socializing, it’s important to be sure that the retirement communities you’re considering offer the amenities you most appreciate. For example, if you like to keep fit, but a given community’s wellness and exercise facilities leave much to be desired, it’s probably best for you NOT to move there! Every community has amenities they are particularly proud of, and that inspires a particular culture on campus. Take tours and talk with current residents to determine what features and amenities are best loved and utilized in a specific community.

What will this cost?

While many retirement communities don’t simply publish price lists on their websites, it’s true that different communities are designed for different budgets. Pricing can be complex. It depends upon the services you want to receive, and not every community structures fees and costs in the same way. Once you’ve narrowed your list of potential communities based on other factors, it’s time to pursue quotes for various services and living situations offered at each so you can make informed comparisons.

Think about what needs you currently have regarding your healthcare, and consider those you should anticipate in the future. For example, if you’ve been treating a chronic condition for your entire life, how will it be managed in the retirement community setting? Make appointments at communities that seem particularly appealing and talk with representatives about your unique wishes. You may be pleasantly surprised at the wide variety of pricing options available.

In the end, the path to finding the right retirement community for you or your loved one centers on narrowing down your top choices in terms of location, care options, and amenities and then visiting each community. Take tours, ask lots of questions, and be sure to talk with current residents. You probably already have friends who have made a move to a retirement community – take some time to visit them! Even if you’re sure that their community is not right for you, it can be a great experience just to see what the lifestyle and pace are like.