How do I help my father retire into an assisted living community?
February 8, 2007 12:03 PM   Subscribe

How do I find and evaluate assisted living, retirement communities, and nursing homes from afar? My father wants my help in researching retirement options for him, and he wants to retire to an area where neither of us currently lives. Google is a bit overwhelming and feels predatory on this topic, and I'm just not sure how to proceed.

He's young now -- looking to retire in about ten years -- but has several health problems. (At this point, the main concern is his balance and mobility; he's really not getting around very well.) He's had one stroke, and I'm concerned about how that might continue to affect him cognitively and emotionally.

He's been talking about an assisted living community, or a continuing care community, that will allow him to live independently for as long as he is able but give him access to doctors and PT and help when he needs it, and eventually a place that could move him into more intensive care if and when he needs it without his having to uproot his life entirely. He's in love with Savannah, GA, and is hoping to find a place there (warm weather, fishing opportunities, and lack of hurricanes or earthquakes are his current criteria).

How do I do this? I've been signing up for mailing lists, but I don't even know how to evaluate the info I'm looking at. How do I assess the medical care? The community? Is this going to be semi-pointless unless I can go visit? Do many of these "continuing care" communities even exist right now, or does it make sense to wait another few years and hope the idea spawns more options? Or is there some financial advantage to setting up this sort of arrangement as early as possible? Other thoughts?
posted by occhiblu to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The AARP website has some information here to aid in decision making. There are definitely "continuing care" communities to be found. My grandmothers moved into one exactly as you described in Macon, GA, and it served their evolveing needs very well throughout.

I'm not familiar with the financial aspects, although Suze Orman has convincing things to say about long-term care insurance.

When it comes down to it, I think choosing a community would be a lot like choosing a college or university. Request information, ask lots of questions, and see which possibilities best fit your/his values and budget.
posted by ejvalentine at 12:21 PM on February 8, 2007

We went through this with my mom 20 years ago. At that time there were only 2 such facilities in the area, and we took her to visit both. Her decision was made on those visits. One thing I suggest is that your dad visit during meal time, and strike up a chat with current residents. Believe me, they'll be really upfront if there are any major problems.
posted by SteveInMaine at 12:37 PM on February 8, 2007

A starting point might be the Office of Regulatory Services in Georgia. They are more involved in inspection and compliance, so you can get names of facilities and review their inspection reports.

That can be a start, but ultimately there's no substitute for him going down there and getting the walk-around tour.
posted by jasper411 at 12:42 PM on February 8, 2007

Does your employer (or that of a spouse/partner) have an Employment Assistance Program (EAP)? I used mine when my boyfriend was looking at options for his parents, and they gave us comprehensive guidelines and guidebooks for how to assess and choose a community/facility. They were also able to provide references geographically based on the type of facility needed. It was free, and they even called back to see how we were doing and if we needed anymore help.
posted by kimdog at 12:43 PM on February 8, 2007

I didn't include the California Health Care Foundation's Guide to Long Term Care in California, because you said Georgia. But on second thought, I think it's worth looking at anyway because there are some useful publications there about how to choose, etc. (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

You might also want to call or email them to see if they can recommend a similar service for Georgia.
posted by jasper411 at 12:46 PM on February 8, 2007

We've just been through this with my grandmother. She's now in a self contained flat in a retirement community but can move into the main building and then "hospice" areas later if required. I was made easier by the fact that she lives in the area already and knew from friends about the options available (although none of the rest of the family does).

My advice is to use the information that you are collecting to create a shortlist and then visit. You have to visit at some point. Without notice if possible. My dad did the standard planned visits and then my mum and my gran just turned up unplanned a week later. They learned more about the places - the feel, the staff, the atmosphere, from the unplanned visits than the pre-planned ones.

Can you get in touch with some local community groups like churches and stuff? It's one of those things that the internet isn't especially great for because many of the residents in these communities aren't on line so the lo-tech approach is needed. But if you speak to some real people over the phone I'm sure they'd be willing to provide advice and put you on to people who can answer your questions (i.e. residents and their families rather than the companies themselves)

In some ways, the timing really depends on when your dad is ready to move rather than anything else. Go by his timetable.
posted by finding.perdita at 2:38 PM on February 8, 2007

The agencies listed here might be helpful for the local Savannah area.

FWIW, we did this with my mother in 2004, but were fortunate enough to have a really obvious assisted-living choice in her town, close to her doctors, etc. Good luck!
posted by Robert Angelo at 3:59 PM on February 8, 2007

Another idea: Go to this link and find an elder law lawyer in the desired area. They will know the facilities very well.
posted by yclipse at 7:19 PM on February 8, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you so much, everyone, for all the extremely helpful advice and links. I'll be going through them all over the next few weeks.
posted by occhiblu at 12:23 AM on February 9, 2007

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