Parental Guidance

Source: 
Newark Star-Ledger
Published: 
02/24/2008

 

The Star-Ledger

How to find a retirement home

Eighty million Baby Boomers are caring for their elderly parents. For many, that means deciding whether Mom or Dad can live alone anymore and, if not, searching for a suitable place for them to live. It's a tough decision, and Marion Somers, author of "Elder Care Made Easier" ($16.95, Addicus Books) offers these tips:

Visit in person

Promotional materials are going to show you the home's best face. You can determine if it's a true picture by visiting. Besides the physical environment, you'll get a chance to see the residents together and evaluate how the staff treats them. Because you want to see what a typical situation looks like, always drop by unannounced instead of scheduling a guided tour. Take time to ask lots of questions and don't be shy: This is potentially your parent's new home.

What to look for

What do the residents look like? Are they clean and neatly dressed -- messy hair, food-stained clothing and unbrushed teeth are red flags. How does the staff interact with the residents? Are they friendly and attentive? Check out what's on TV in the common room: If the program is the favorite show of the on-duty staff, it's a warning sign that the residents' needs and preferences aren't a top priority.

What kind of social events and activities are there? There should be a variety of things to do, including physical exercise, crafts and intellectual offerings, such as a professional talk, to keep the residents' minds sharp and spirits up. Having an events planner on staff and providing transportation to outside events, such as shopping centers or concert venues, are good features.

Make sure safety and security are high priorities. There should be medical care on-site, 24 hours a day. Alarm systems should be in-house, not an outsourced service. Look for smoke alarms, pull cords and safety bars, as well as video monitors.

Join the residents for a meal. Does the residence have a licensed chef or a dietitian who consults on meal planning?

Other considerations

While it may seem obvious, it's important to think about the location. Is the residence close enough that relatives can easily get there for a visit? Are there restaurants, movie theaters and parks nearby, so family or friends can take their loved one for an outing? Does the location offer access to activities and things important to your parent. For instance, if he or she is religious, is there a church or synagogue nearby?

Finally, if you've found the right place, never sign up without having the contract reviewed by a lawyer. There's a lot of language you may not understand.

 

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