Confronting Tough Choices



Facing changes in living needs, whether as seniors or as a loved one concerned for a parent, grandparent or other relative, is something no one wants to accept. Confronting the situation, however, offers more choices for finding the right solution and a happier outcome for all.

Where Does It Begin?

Congregated housing, continued care retirement centers, naturally occurring retirement communities, skilled care facilities and nursing homes are descriptions in the senior housing lexicon. To simplify the search, most arrangements fall within three tiers of retirement facilities.

Independent or alternative living provides 24-hour security in an apartment or house-like surrounding. Seniors manage their own lives and finances but have options for health care and housekeeping assistance, covered parking and recreational services. The occupant selects the degree of involvement from the staff or their independence.

Assisted living is a state-regulated facility designed for seniors requiring help with one or more daily needs living in an apartment or private room. Support staff depends on the assistance required. Specialized facilities for Alzheimer’s or memory care challenges exist.

Skilled nursing care facilities require a state license and offer 24-hour nursing care, both long- and short-term. Accommodations may be private or shared. Check the amenities offered, including transportation, physical therapy or registered dietitians in a consultant capacity, to fulfill particular needs. Ask about services provided and which are provided out-of-pocket.

Each setting has advantages and disadvantages. Independent living provides the obvious pros with endless recreation opportunities, ease of living, house and yard care and expert onsite services. The downside may include expenses not met by Medicare, maintaining quality staff and the resident’s adaptability to a new living environment.

Peace of mind for seniors and their families is a point in favor of assisted living. Eliminating the stress of living with chronic diseases, dependency on transportation, medication routines, daily care and isolation make assisted living a good choice for some individuals. The downside of an assisted living center is the expense. New residents may find it difficult parting from possessions, feeling isolated from family and pets and following what can be considered intrusive rules.

A good nursing home facility provides round-the-clock medical services, the company of peers, safety and peace of mind. Some things to think about, however, are cost and separation from family. Also, families are too aware of news stories and lawsuits surrounding troubled nursing homes with poorly trained and vetted personnel.

Whatever the situation and condition, seniors and their families should ask questions and research before deciding on the best living arrangements. For seniors, planning for the future is the best solution to do things on your terms.

Questions And Answers

There’s no ideal time to approach the subject of senior housing and living arrangements. When facing such questions of personal care, health and housing for yourself or a loved one when age or illness hinders independence, there are options.

“We believe a wide range of accessible, affordable housing should be available to all seniors,” says Sean Voskhul, director of Oklahoma AARP. The organization’s website,, features useful tools comparing state-by-state health and assisted living costs plus more than 100 questions to ask when making a plan. Making the right transition starts with the right questions and some first steps.
• Think, plan and discuss your future. How do you want to live your life?
• Plan finances wisely. That may determine your choices.
• Research options tailored to your needs.
• Visit a prospective facility, eat a meal there and check on facility policies.
• During a visit, ask the facility’s current residents, staff and health care professionals for their opinions and concerns about the center.