201 N Jessica Ave, Tucson

Multi-generational family smiles for the camera

The Elephant In The Room

Whether you are looking for yourself or on behalf of a loved one, the decision to move into senior housing is difficult. Perhaps we feel embarrassed to have reached a stage in life where we need help. Or we feel guilty about being the one who has to tell a loved one “it’s time.”

Yet if there is a situation where a loved one is suffering from loneliness and isolation, or having difficulty with hygiene, paying bills, getting to medical appointments and remembering to take medications, their wellbeing is certainly compromised.

We recommend having the conversation about senior living needs sooner rather than later to avoid a healthcare crisis. Also, in the event of an emergency, the process of finding senior living becomes rushed and you may not find precisely what you are looking for long term.

How do you determine senior housing needs?

As a first step in determining whether senior housing is advisable, speak with immediate family members about concerns as well as alerting a primary care physician who will arrange for appropriate cognitive and physical tests. Together you can determine the next steps in finding either in-house or senior housing care.

Trust your instincts

If a senior lifestyle community emerges as a favorable option, trust your instincts about where you or a loved one will be safe, happy and healthy. Organizations like the Pima Council on Aging and Our Family Social Services provide excellent guidance on finding care or housing among the many excellent choices in Tucson.

Have high expectations when touring communities. They should be nothing like a stereotypical nursing home. The community should look and smell clean, be attractive, offer varied social and health-enhancing activities, have happy residents cared for by credentialed and compassionate caregivers, and provide well-prepared meals that feature fresh and flavorful ingredients.

Bring a list of questions

To compare apples to apples, make a list of questions to ask representatives at senior lifestyle communities when touring.

Questions to include:

  1. Why do you believe this community is a good place to call home?
  2. Do residents age in place or have to move if living needs change?
  3. What is the cost now, what does it cover and what (and when) are the average yearly rate increases?
  4. How does your community ensure the safety of residents day and night?
  5. What type of training and/or credentials do your staff members have, and do they receive a thorough background check prior to employment?
  6. What kind of activities do you offer daily, for special occasions and seasonally?
  7. How are meals prepared, what are the dining hours, and how often does the menu change?
  8. Does a qualified medical professional conduct health evaluations?
  9. Is there a refund policy during an absence, such as an extended vacation or hospital stay?
  10. What is my obligation when terminating a residency agreement?

Talk to a resident

Last but not least — observe how the staff interacts with residents. Are they friendly and engaged, or do they appear to be overworked and stressed? Are they treating residents with respect or with impatience? Don’t be shy about asking a resident or two about their experiences with the staff. In the best of all possible worlds, you’ll hear the staff is friendly, caring and “like family.”

We hope this information will help you evaluate and choose a senior lifestyle community that’s right for you!