I’ve had enough experience touring senior living communities, and speaking with people who’ve had experience living in them, that I thought it would be helpful to share a few questions I think are important to ask when touring a community. These might be less obvious than the questions that naturally come to mind.
1. Do you have a way of making sure your residents are okay?
I have a sad personal story that motivates my asking this one. My Grammie was living in an independent senior living community well into her nineties. My parents lived very nearby and usually saw her several times a week, but they had been travelling. When they returned, they called her for a couple of days but didn’t get an answer. My Dad finally went over there and had the management key in, and they found her collapsed and unconscious. Her neighbors and friends there felt terrible. They had noticed her missing at meals for a couple of days but assumed she was just busy. She had suffered a stroke. She was able to partially recover but she was not the same.
Different places I’ve toured have different methods of checking to make sure residents are okay. Riderwood has a lever outside of each door that security goes around and pushes down each night. By mid-day the next day, a staff member walks past and checks to make sure the levers have moved (the doors have been opened). If one hasn’t, they knock on the door and check on the person. Kensington Park, Brightview Fallsgrove, and Brooke Grove each request that residents wear a pendant, and they can push a call button on it if they need help. Forest Hills of DC watches to make sure everyone who is supposed to attend lunch or dinner is there. If someone doesn’t come a staff member goes to check on the person. Personally, I think it's important that even independent living communities have a way to regularly check on their residents to make sure they're okay. Otherwise, it's not that much different than living on your own.
2. What happens if a resident runs out of money?
If someone runs out of money and they’re elderly, Medicaid usually will kick in and pay for a bed in a nursing home. But not every senior living community accepts Medicaid or has Medicaid beds. And often, you need to already be living in a community in order to be given one of their few Medicaid beds. So if you or a loved one might run out of funds sometime in the future, be sure to think through what your plan would be. And don’t move into a senior living community until you understand how they deal with this issue.
3. What if a resident want to move out?
Sometimes a senior moves to a senior living community and decides it’s just not a good fit. Other times a senior moves to a senior living community to be close to a relative, and then the relative moves away. What happens then?
Some senior living communities are leasing communities, and some are buy-in communities. Most leasing communities are fairly easy to move out of, but buy-in communities are sometimes not. Understand what their policy is if you want to move out. How much of your money would you get back? How much notice do you need to give?
If you sell your home using a senior real estate specialist, he or she should be able to help you think through these kind of questions when planning your next move. If you live in the Washington, DC area, and you're thinking of selling your home, please don't hesitate to contact me. If you live outside the DC area and are thinking of selling your home, I'd be happy to help you find a senior real estate specialist in your area.