The old saying “you don’t know what you don’t know” often applies to those who realize that they or their parent’s life is becoming increasingly difficult as the effects of aging sets in. Challenges with activities of daily living, memory, health and social interaction can make the desired lifestyle difficult to maintain. But, without prior experience dealing with aging transitions, none of us know how to research, understand and make decisions about the best options for the next phase of our lives or the lives of our aging loved ones.

In more than a decade of assisting seniors and children of seniors with life transition decisions, I hear many of the same questions repeatedly due to the common lack of information or misunderstanding about the terms and options that are used to describe senior living and care. So, let’s consider some of the typical scenarios and the questions that you might pose as you or your loved one reaches a point where a lifestyle change or assistance of some kind may be needed due to aging.

“My Mom Needs Assisted Living”

One of the most common statements I hear from children of an aging parent is “my mom (or dad) needs assisted living.” Most often the real translation behind that statement means: “my mom or dad needs some help with cooking, cleaning and transportation.”

However, those needs and the services to address them accurately describe some of the primary services that are offered by independent living communities for seniors. That is why independent living communities were developed to help make life for senior adults significantly easier and more enjoyable while maintaining an independent lifestyle.  Apartments in independent living are designed for a truly independent lifestyle where seniors can still live the life they enjoy while being enhanced by a host of non-medical services that address the activities that challenge them.

But services are just the start of the story that help senior adults enjoy a better lifestyle when living in an independent living apartment community. Lifestyle is also about our own pursuit of happiness that means something different to each of us. Independent living communities typically offer a diverse calendar of activities that could include programs in the arts, culture, travel, health, pursuit of passions and educational programs. The activities concentrate on social interaction, cognitive stimulation and exercise as those are the three legs that support successful aging.

“But My Mom Needs More Help”

So, your mom (or dad) is struggling to get up and get started in the morning. She or he may need help with bathing or medication reminders, but they are still generally healthy and want to remain independent. For those without the medical need for a higher level of care, the recommended approach may be to simply remain in independent living with some help from a home health aide or nursing service that can assist the senior adult with those additional activities that they are not able to handle themselves. This could be as little as two hours a day if that is all that is needed to assist them with the activities that they struggle with.

However, this may be the time to consult with a physician or nurse consultant who specializes in senior health and living to discuss the available options. If they feel it is appropriate, the certified medical professional may do an evaluation such as a PRI (Patient Review Instrument) that is a medical evaluation tool used to identify whether or not a person is eligible for a skilled nursing placement or if other options are more appropriate.

“Then What is Assisted Living?”

For some aging adults, moving to an Assisted Living community with a higher level of medical and cognitive support could be the appropriate level of care for their needs. An Assisted Living community offers apartments and services that are designed for seniors who are no longer able to live on their own safely, but do not need the high level of medical or cognitive care that a much costlier skilled nursing community provides.

Seniors who live in Assisted Living reside in a private apartment that are often studios or small apartments with limited kitchen facilities as they receive three meals a day in a common dining room. The community will also support activities of daily living, provide housekeeping, social activities and scheduled transportation services. Assisted Living communities provide licensed nursing services, dispense medications and have staff available 24 hours a day for the resident’s safety.

Pricing structures for residents at Assisted Living communities generally fall into two categories. Those that are a fixed monthly price and those that have a base fee plus ala carte fees for additional services. When researching Assisted Living communities, be sure to find out how fees are determined in addition to the quality of living and care.

Enhanced Assisted Living provides a higher level of care than Assisted Living without having to move to a costlier skilled nursing community. This additional Assisted Living level can offer the right quality of life, level of care and cost when appropriate.

“I Can’t Care for Mom While I am at Wok”

For some families who prefer to care for an aging family member at home, one of the common issues is the fact that the family members need to work but are afraid to leave their aging family member home alone. For that situation, many families have relied on Adult Day Programs that offer a safe place for their family member to stay while they are at work. This affordable option, generally offers healthy meals, recreational activities, exercise, music and social interaction in a safe environment.

Transportation and “wrap around” services at an additional cost, are also available to help assist your aging family member to get ready to go to the adult day program by assisting with dressing and breakfast preparation. If needed, the assistant can also stay with the senior at the end of the day until a family member arrives home to be sure they are not left home alone.

“Where Can I Find Senior Living and Care Resources?”

Having access to the Information that will help you have confidence in your decision is so important. There are a number of medical and non-medical local resources that can provide information and support as you explore senior living and care options. Here are a few that I have relied on for the families that I have assisted in addition to supporting my own family as they aged.

GRAPE (Greater Rochester Area Partnership for the Elderly)

This Rochester based not-for-profit organization includes a wide variety of practitioners who are in the business of supporting successful aging in a broad variety of capacities.  Go to then click on Elder Pages then click on the arrow to see the services. The site lists their members by category and also alphabetical.

Specialized Medical Support

Geriatricians specialize in the unique health needs of senior adults that include chronic disease, cognitive deterioration, medicine, nutritional issues, skin ailments, immobility and balance. To find a Geriatrician you can ask a trusted physician for a referral or search online for “Geriatric doctors Rochester NY” or for broader support options search “Geriatric consultants services Rochester NY” or “Geriatric care management services Rochester NY”.

What’s on Your Mind?

We would love to know what you would like discussed in future issues of Senior Lifestyles. Knowledge is power when it comes to creating the best lifestyle for seniors and their care providers, so let’s start a dialog on what matters to you. Feel free to contact me directly.

Jim Payne, Director of Marketing

Seniors’ Choice Communities

Jim Payne has provided consulting and held executive positions for companies offering senior living/care communities and services. Jim is a certified Eden Alternative Associate and has also held a three-year cabinet position with Leading Age New York, the premier association of senior living and care communities.

Seniors’ Choice Communities is a developer of senior living and care communities serving the needs of upstate New York by offering independent and assisted living communities with unique upscale amenities and services including Chateau at Heritage Square in Brockport.