6 tips for choosing an assisted living community

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Friday, September 25, 2015 4:53 pm EDT

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When spending time with your elderly loved ones, they might appear to be doing okay but you may notice that things just seem a bit “off.” Mom doesn’t seem to be eating as well or dad struggles to open his bottle of medication and misses a dose. An assisted living community might be a possible option to consider for aging parents.

Denise Falco, vice president of operations at Sunrise Senior Living, said, “I’ve met hundreds of families interested in one common goal: finding the ‘perfect’ assisted living community for their aging loved one. Understandably, this process may be emotional and overwhelming.”

Where to begin?

For general information, families can start off by contacting the New Jersey state department for health and senior services, said Christina M. O’Leary, director of media for Spring Hills Senior Communities.

The next step would be to gather information and get referrals from friends and family who have already been through a similar process, said O’Leary. Conduct online searches, including on social media. Baby boomers age 65 and older make up the largest demographic on Facebook, and YouTube is used by 85 percent of boomers, she said. Look for customers reviews on such sites as Google Plus and Yelp. Research shows that 72 percent of customers trust the reviews they read online to help in their next step of the decision making process.

 

Ask questions

There’s no such thing as a wrong or embarrassing question, said Falco. She recommends asking questions that get at the heart of understanding what a day would be like at a senior community: How many meals are provided each day? What is the programming like and is it personalized for each resident? Can I meet with community team members?

O’Leary agrees and recommends asking the following questions: How did you do on your most recent state survey? Can you give me some referrals to call regarding your care and service? How long have you been in business? How long has the staff been employed? What do you offer that is different from the other companies I am calling? What is this going to cost me? What if I am unhappy? What are my options?

Involve your parent, narrow down choices

Touring communities can be exhausting, said Falco. Make sure you do your due diligence first, before you introduce your parents to hour-long tours and 21 questions. Once you’ve toured several communities, narrow it down to two or three and then empower your parent to make the decision. By asking your loved one to weigh out the pros and cons encourages independence and ensures they are the ultimate decision-makers when identifying their new home.

Karen Griffiths, executive director at Spring Hills Morristown Assisted Living, agrees. “When seniors are part of deciding on the solution to their problem, ‘of their own free will’ — before being in a situation where someone else has to make it for them — they feel they are still managing their own future. This sense of being in control is extremely important and makes for a better situation for everyone involved,” said Griffiths.

 

Find the right community

Find a community that encourages independence in a way that will resonate with your loved one, said Falco. “If your parents enjoy their pets, a specific type of exercise or participating in activities that involve the local neighborhood, find a community that won’t expect them to give up what they value,” she said.

Griffiths adds, “When entering an assisted living community, take a look at the associates. If they are happy and accommodating and the atmosphere feels good, this is a sign of a happy community.”

Paying for services

O’Leary said another popular question is how to pay for these services. “Not all companies are alike,” she said. “It’s best to figure out your financial situation first so you can find a company that can meet your income level. For private pay situations, the senior’s money is sometimes tied up in their home, so some people sell their home, refinance or do a reverse mortgage. Other people (buy) long term care insurance. Another option is to look into the qualifications for VA benefits. The last option, if financial resources are low, is applying for Medicaid.”

Try a respite stay

“This may include a 30-day trial to see if your loved one likes assisted living,” said Falco. “With this option, you’re giving them the choice of going back home and removing the stress of packing and moving. Throughout the 30-day period, drop off items that represent home. After a couple weeks of delivering items, have the conversation about transitioning to determine if your parents feel comfortable and want to call a community home.”

There is no such thing as a “perfect” senior living community, said Falco. “Communities will vary, but it’s about finding one that will best meet your parents’ needs, and in the end, bring you both peace of mind.”

Tell us your experience with finding the right senior or assisted living community. Email EAbreu@GannettNJ.com

For more information:

Contact the Morris County Department of Human Services and the Division on Aging, Disabilities and Veterans at www.morrishumanservices.org for information regarding senior housing services.

Assisted Living Residences

An assisted living residence can accommodate people with limited mobility and diminished capacity. Support services are offered on a 24-hour basis. Personal care, medication management, housekeeping and social and recreation activities are also provided. Below is a list of assisted living facilities in Morris County.

Arden Courts, 18 Eden Lane, Whippany, (973) 581-1800, 60 units, offers Alzheimer’s Care. Accepts insurance.

Brighton Gardens of Florham Park, 21 Ridgedale Avenue, Florham Park, (973) 966-8999, 116 Units, offers Alzheimer’s care. Accepts Medicaid and insurance.

CareOne at Morris, 200 Mazdabrook Road, Parsippany, (973) 463-5800, 61 units, accepts Medicaid.

Chelsea at Montville, 165 Changebridge Road, Montville, (973) 402-1100, 152 units, accepts insurance and Medicaid

Lester Senior Housing Community, 903-905 Route 10 East, Whippany, (973) 428-0300, 55 units, accepts insurance and Medicaid.

Merry Heart, 118 Main Street, Succasunna, (973) 584-4000, 100 units, accepts private payment only.

Mt. Arlington Senior Living, 2 Hillside Drive, Mount Arlington, (973) 601-0988, 112 units, accepts Medicaid.

Paragon Village, 427 Route 46 East, Hackettstown, (908) 498-0118, 72 units, provides Alzheimer’s Care, accepts Medicaid.

Spring Hills Morristown Assisted Living, 17 Spring Place, Morristown, (973) 539-3370, 104 units, accepts Medicaid.

Sunrise of Madison, 215 Madison Avenue, Madison, (973) 301-0005, 80 units, accepts Medicaid.

Sunrise of Morris Plains, 209 Littleton Road, Morris Plains, (973) 538-7878, 90 units, accepts only private forms of payment.

Sunrise of Randolph, 648 Route 10 West, Randolph, (973) 328-1922, 77 units, provides Alzheimer’s care, accepts Medicaid.

Victoria Mews Assisted Living, 51 North Main Street, Boonton Twp., (973) 263-3000, 97 units, provides Alzheimer’s care, accepts Medicaid.

Weston Assisted Living, 903-905 Metrowest Drive, Route 10 East, Whippany, (973) 428-0300, 60 units, accepts Medicaid.

Wynwood at Florham Park, 8 James Street, Florham Park, (973) 443-0444, 68 units, provides Alzheimer’s care, accepts Medicaid.

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