The decision to place your parents in a senior living community, or to enter one yourself, can be a difficult one. Because there are so many different kinds of senior living options that offer so many different levels of care, at some point you’ll need to know what setting is best for very specific health or lifestyle requirements.

If your Mom is suffering from memory loss, she’ll be safest and looked after properly when she is in a community that offers this level of care.

If your parents require skilled care, you probably shouldn’t be taking them on a tour of an independent living community.

If you are looking to simplify your life and enjoy a different quality of life in your golden years, you likely won’t need a place that offers skilled nursing care.

But because you probably don’t have the diagnostic skills to decide what kind of a community will be the best for you or your parents, filtering a long list of choices down to appropriate options can be difficult.

Evaluating Senior Living Needs

Here are some basic questions that can help you zero in on the kind of senior living community that will be a good fit.

Rate your answers on a scale from 1 to 5; with 1 being “excellent” or “does not need assistance” and 5 being “not so good” or “needs maximum assistance”.

1. Quality of Life: How would you rate you or your loved one’s overall quality of life in terms of socialization, health, and nutrition?

Lack of social support is related to negative impacts on health and well being, especially for older people. Socialization can be an important factor in reducing stress, increasing physical health and defeating psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. Is your quality of life excellent, not so good or somewhere in the middle?

2. Falls: Have you or your parent had any falls in the last 6 months?

Falls are the leading cause of death, injury and hospital admissions among the elderly. Several factors contribute to the fact that seniors fall, including impaired vision, medications and health conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and arthritis. More than one fall is cause for concern. A fall with serious injury is of even greater concern.

3. Safety: How many times in the past month have you been concerned about the safety of your loved one or for your own safety?

Safety is a serious issue for many seniors – especially seniors who are living alone. In addition to falls, safety concerns include driving safely and fire/smoke safety due to memory lapses which increase the risk for household fires caused by cooking, candles or smoking.

4. Hospital Visits: How many times have you or your aging parent been hospitalized or visited the Emergency Room in the last 12 months.

Not only do older adults use the ER at a higher rate, they also have longer stays, more hospitalizations and readmissions. More than 2 visits in the past 12 months is cause for concern.

5. Medication: How many times in the last month has your loved one forgotten to take their medications? Do you have any concerns about their ability to properly store and give themselves the right dosage at the right time? Or do you ever forget to take your medication?

Older adults are at an increased risk for medication errors due to increased numbers of medications needed to treat multiple chronic conditions. Overuse and underuse of medications are among the top five greatest health threats to aging seniors.

6. Mobility: How do you or your senior parent manage getting around?

Mobility problems are particularly common among older people who have Parkinson’s disease and other age-related neurological disorders

7. Bathing, Hygiene and Grooming: How does your mother or father manage tasks such as getting dressed, brushing their teeth, shaving, and combing their hair? Or do you require assistance with those tasks yourself?

While personal hygiene may seem like a private matter, it is important to understand why your parent may be forgetting to take of themselves and what strategies you can use to help them practice regular hygiene

8. Eating: How would you rate your aging parent’s ability to feed themselves, prepare meals and take care of the basics? How would you rate your own ability to do the same?

There are a few common reasons some older people don’t eat healthy meals. They may need moderate assistance due to physical reasons hindering their ability to prepare food. Or they may get confused and preparing meals is something they cannot look after.

9. Mental Awareness: Rate your loved one’s level of orientation to people, places, time, and situations. Have any of your loved ones or friends commented on your own level of orientation?

One of the greatest fears associated with aging is losing the ability to think quickly, remember accurately, and reason clearly. Are you as sharp as ever or do you always need to be reminded of things, people, places and time?

The Different Levels of Care in Senior Living Communities

Clearly this article is not intended to give you a detailed diagnosis but it will give you clarity and steer you in the right care direction.

If You Answered Mostly 1 or 2 For Each Question

Independent Living or Independent Living with Health Care services is the starting point for your search in senior living options. Your answers indicate you or your loved one is aging well and should benefit from a community offering minimal services such as housekeeping, meal preparation and social activities. The addition of health care services to an independent living setting can add services such as medication management, laundry services and bathing assistance.

Click here if you’re beginning to conduct research on independent living options

If You Answered Mostly 3 or 4 For Each Question

Assisted Living or Assisted Living with Memory Support is the starting point for your search in senior living options. Assisted living provides moderate assistance with activities of daily living including meal preparation, showering, taking medications on an accurate schedule and transferring from a bed or chair.

Discover what to expect from Assisted Living facilities here

To find the best care for seniors needing memory support, start here

If You Answered Mostly 5

A Skilled Nursing Center is the starting point for your senior housing options. Skilled Nursing Centers provide 24/7 nursing services with maximum assistance of daily living including bathing, grooming, toileting, eating, and medications.

You can learn what to look for in a Skilled Nursing Facility by reading this article

Make A Smart Choice About Senior Living

A community that provides the kind of services that will keep your parents safe, well cared for, and comfortable is key to easing the transition process to senior living. Move ahead with confidence and find out which Senior Care Providers align best with your senior living preferences by using The Smart Senior Living Choices tool.