Services, cost, staffing and food quality are just some of the things to consider when selecting a senior care facility.
By Gail Kent
As the population ages, more and more people face the possibility of needing some form of long-term care. Fortunately, Coastal Virginia provides a variety of options.
Currently one million Americans live in some type of senior living community, and that number is expected to double by the year 2030, according to the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL). Approximately 70 percent of people currently turning 65 will require long-term care in their lifetime, NCAL says.
Deciding on a senior living facility for yourself or a family member can be a confusing and stressful experience. There are many considerations, such as location, cost and level of care needed. Finding a good fit is key.
“When considering a senior facility, it’s important to ask about what services are available,” says Emily Bartgis, director of community relations at Mennowood Retirement Community in Newport News, which provides a range of services including respite care, independent living, assisted living and memory care. The Mennowood is a non-profit, non-denominational community.
“In our community, someone can start out in independent living and age in place. If they need assisted living later on, they can go there. Then if they need memory care, that’s available. Our goal is safety for each resident, so we are set up to allow them to stay through the end of their lives.”
Other communities provide one type of care only, such as independent living, assisted living or skilled nursing care, so make sure your needs match those provided by the facility.
Finances are critical considerations. Some facilities require a large “buy-in” payment plus monthly fees. Some charge a basic monthly fee, plus additional fees for other services.
Others, such as Mennowood, charge a flat monthly fee that includes food, laundry, housekeeping, medication management, personal assistance, recreation, WIFI, cable, telephone and transportation. A non-profit organization, the Mennowood also offers grant assistance through its foundation for residents who run low on funds, and it accepts VA benefits. Other communities accept Medicaid.
Staffing levels and staffing consistency should be explored. You don’t want your loved one waiting for hours when they call for help, and a high turnover indicates burnout and a poorly managed operation. Some of the Mennowood staff members have worked at the community for decades, contributing to the community culture and residents’ feeling of security and comfort.
“You should ask if there is a registered nurse on-site 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Bartgis says. “Some facilities don’t have a nurse at night, but if someone gets up and falls or gets sick, you want a nurse that can take care of them.”
Bartgis says their facility has a nurse present at all times, and residents wear pendants with call buttons to access help whenever needed. In addition to a nurse, the facility should have enough nursing aides to adequately respond to residents at each level of care, she says. The Mennowood staffs an aide, med tech or nurse for every floor.
Residents need activities to stimulate their minds and provide enjoyment. “We offer a wide range of daily activities to appeal to people with different interests,” She says. “It’s not bingo five nights a week.” The Mennowood offers activities including a photography club, poetry readings, tea parties for women, men’s clubs and a variety of live musical programs.
Food quality and variety are huge issues. “Everything here is handmade from scratch, and a labor of love in our kitchen,” Bartgis says. “We offer at least two entrees at each meal, and residents can request favorites. Make sure there are things you would enjoy eating and that they are healthy things you would want to put into your body—not just frozen foods.”
Transportation is another factor. The Mennowood has a bus it uses to take residents shopping weekly, out to lunch and to medical appointments. Amenities, such as an on-site hair salon, and extras, such as a visiting physician, religious services, extra-wide halls to make wheelchairs easier to turn, emergency generators and a variety of floor plans from which to choose—all provided at Mennowood—can contribute to a higher quality of life.
“You want to be able to trust the people taking care of you, and our employees care about the residents,” Bartgis says. “This feels like a family, which makes for a very good community.”