What To Know Before You Move to a Senior Community

Before making this life-changing decision, it’s important to do your homework and learn what you can. Find out some of the topics loved ones and their caregivers commonly discuss with these communities.

Moving a loved one into a senior living community can be an emotional and difficult decision. Your loved one might be clinging to their youth or they could be leaving a home they’ve lived in for many years. They may also have concerns about finding their way around a new place.

At the same time, you also have plenty of questions. Did we wait too long? Did we make this decision too early? What will my parents do all day?

Before you and your family decide to make the move to a senior living community, it’s important to learn as much as you can. That includes doing some homework on each facility you’re interested in and asking important questions along the way. These are some of the topics that come up most often.

Frequently Asked Questions

Gil Arroyo hears one question more than any other: Will my loved one be in their room all day long?

“Very few of our residents spend much time in their apartments, because they’re generally in a social environment or in common areas of the community throughout the day,” says Arroyo, memory care director at White Oaks At McHenry County, a McHenry-based community designed to serve older adults with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. “They’re also with staff or other residents, so they’re supervised and looked after.”

Though White Oaks specializes in memory care, its sister facility, Heritage Woods of McHenry County, is an assisted living community designed to accommodate adults 65 and older who can live semi-independently.

“Heritage Woods caters to seniors who need some help with activities and daily living,” Arroyo says. “White Oaks opened in 2017 as an extension of the Heritage Woods campus. Both entities share the same management company, but we serve two separate senior populations.”

The “what are they doing today?” question is also front-and-center for many families with loved ones at Fox Point, a retirement community in McHenry.

Fox Point provides accommodations residents in assisted and independent living, while also offering memory care and supportive living services.

Staff members are plugged into Sagely, a phone app that shows families what activities the residents are participating in.

“Families can log into the app to see what their loved ones are up to,” says Judy Nordschow, director of sales and marketing at Fox Point. “They can send a picture through an app on their phone, and they can see what their loves ones are doing each day. This also gives the family something to talk about.”

Nordschow finds many potential residents and their families are concerned about the cost of a senior living community.

“We try to work with families on affordability,” Nordschow says. “We’re a private pay facility, but when you consider the care, the meals and everything that’s included, you’re talking about a quality of life that we’re offering that really beats sitting at home and watching television each day. The biggest thing is looking at the community and making sure it’s a good fit for their family and their loved ones.”

For families still considering a move, a big question is how they’ll know when, or if, their loved one is ready.

“Everyone is at a different state of readiness when they move into senior living,” Nordschow says. “You’re not just finding an apartment. You’re moving into a community, and we have staff here to help you. You can also create new friendships while you’re here, and you can have fun at the same time.”

At The Garlands of Barrington, a continuing care retirement community in Barrington, Dawn Kempf finds there’s a common theme in the feedback she gets from new residents.

“We frequently hear people say they should’ve come here earlier,” says Kempf, vice president of sales, marketing and healthcare for The Garlands. “Once they get here, they love the lifestyle so much that they regret not making the decision sooner.”

This service-rich, chore-free and social community primarily offers independent living, plus assisted, skilled nursing and memory care. Kempf says it provides an ideal lifestyle for adults who travel, want to be closer to family or just appreciate living in a community of peers.

The minimum age requirement is 55.

She hears many reasons why people wait too long to make the move.

“Sometimes, people think they’re not ready,” she says. “Unfortunately, if they wait too long, they may not be able to take full advantage of the services and amenities that we offer.”

Making the move can be a very emotional choice. That’s why The Garlands will help residents sell their property and assist with packing and moving.

“We get it. They’re leaving behind memories, and that can be huge,” Kempf says. “It’s a big choice, and that’s another reason why people tend to put it off. But, based on our own members’ experiences and feedback, they shouldn’t wait.”

Nordschow, of Fox Point, finds some people make the decision willingly, while others have a difficult time.

“Sometimes, people are leaving their homes after 55 or 60 years and it’s not always easy,” she says. “We’re here for the residents who move in as well as the family members, especially when it comes to memory care. We want them to be as comfortable as possible while they’re here.”

For as hard as the move is on the new resident, it’s also a big moment for that person’s loved ones. Sabrina Powers, memory care director at Fox Point, frequently sees loved ones and personal caregivers burnt out and overwhelmed.

“Sometimes when they come in, the seniors are not eating properly, and they’ve lost muscle tone,” she says. “Those families will see a change over time. Once they see their loved ones are eating right, they’re doing therapy and they can actually see how their loved ones have changed, they always say, ‘We should’ve done this a long time ago.’”

Arroyo says guilt could be another reason why some families wait too long.

“If they knew their loved one was going to thrive, be in a social environment and be cared for 24/7, they wouldn’t feel guilty about leaving them at our facilities,” he says. “I’d encourage those who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia to start looking now so they can see there are folks out there thriving in the memory care community.”

What Facilities Want You to Know

When families have done their homework, they may think they know everything they need to make an informed choice, but there are some details that still go unnoticed.

At The Garlands, advisors will guide families through the selection process, even if they don’t move into The Garlands.

“We’re still here to help people find that right solution, wherever that might be,” Kempf says. “If our community isn’t the right fit, we’ll do our best to help them find a place that is.”

Arroyo says some people come in with a preconceived notion about what a nursing home or senior living community is supposed to look like. But it’s not representative of every facility.

“Our facilities are designed to be more like home, and I think people will be surprised when they see the community and how it exceeds their expectations,” he says. “We feature a home-like environment, as opposed to a clinical environment, and when you’re here, we want you to feel
like you’re at home.”

Reputable facilities will have compassionate and caring staff members who will look after their residents.

“This is not a nursing home and this is not an institution; this is their home,” says Nordschow. “And we are here to welcome them home. We want everything to be as comfortable as possible for the residents. We want families to know we’re providing this care because we care about the residents staying with us, and we want them to thrive and feel good about themselves.”

Do Your Homework

Before deciding to move into a senior living community, Kempf recommends doing some homework and learning about the locations that most interest your family. Make sure you understand what services are provided, what amenities are available and what the culture is like.

“There are so many options out there, and it can get pretty overwhelming,” she says. “Every community offers something different, and it’s critical that prospective residents narrow down their options to find what’s best for them. I highly recommend setting up an appointment just to learn what’s here and educate yourself about the community.”

Depending on their need, Arroyo encourages residents and their families to tour each facility and meet the residents.

“Family members want to know their loved ones are in a caring environment, and I welcome them to visit us to get a picture of what this community looks like,” he says. “People will be surprised when they see this community and how it exceeds their expectations.”