Much as it would do everyone well if retirement communities were created equal, they unfortunately are not. This is the reason why it is important to make sure that you are making the right decision early on, at the point where you may not require the services offered by these communities immediately.
One of the first things you should review is the schedule of fees that you may additionally pay the moment your needs may change. Some facilities, like continuing care communities, give options of paying a more expensive fee now in exchange for not having to pay for additional fees in the future, regardless of how intensive the medical and assistive care may be required in the future. These facilities also ensure that regardless of how living and health needs change, the senior will be moved in residences within the same retirement community, ensuring that they are not subject to the stress of having to move to somewhere new, that they are able to cultivate meaningful relationships, and that they are accessible to their friends and family in the same manner as always.
Others offer a specific residential arrangement, like an independent, single-detached home, and will simply charge additional fees should you require additional, round-the-clock-nursing services. These fees are placed on top of the monthly living and housekeeping fees that are charged by each retirement community to fund the upkeep of the seniors and their residences.
Another thing that you may want to consider is the accreditation of the facility. The Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) provides appropriate accreditation and quality control to communities that pursue accreditation. In such events, CARF sends surveyors to visit the facility and check the compliance to the standards set forth for predominantly senior communities. The accreditation, usually set for a couple of years, like a full five-year accreditation, means that the community is at par with the standards required, and will require the CARF to review the quality of the facility again only after five years.
Facilities that are unaccredited may require the senior to take it upon themselves to scrutinize and survey the quality of service that the facility offers the people who live there.
In order to do that, these seniors can first check from among their peers who may have had previous experience living in one facility or another. This will help them become aware of very specific living conditions, which are privy only to those who have spent a huge amount of time living in these facilities.
An alternative would be to request to spend a couple of days in the facility. Because joining fees and monthly fees are hefty in these communities, retirement community management often permit potential clients to have an experience of how it feels like to live inside their community. Should the facility offer quality service, this “preview” of the retirement community experience becomes a powerful means through which seniors become more willing to pay the hefty fees and sign up for the community.
Seniors can stay anywhere from overnight to a handful of days. In the process, they are able to experience how they are treated by the staff, the quality of the services that regular residents experience, and the lifestyle that the facility is able to sustain. Experiencing retirement communities this way will also give them the opportunity to interact with residents of the community and solicit feedback and recommendations as well.