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Will My Loved One Lose His/Her Independence By Moving To A Long Term Care Community?

If you carefully scrutinize the activity schedule at a long term care community and correlate it to the seniors needs, his/her independence could be enhanced.

I was the Admissions Director of a Continuing Care Retirement Community located in Cook County near the Chicago metropolitan area. Many of the children who came to tour the home told me they were concerned that their loved one would lose their independence if they moved to a retirement community. It used to amuse me that after expressing this concern, the children would spend so little time studying the activity schedule. Instead they would remark, “Oh this is great! They have bingo, baggo, and bunco!” I used to refer to it as the “three Bs!” While it is important to many seniors to have bingo available, you will have to be more thorough when assisting them with finding the right retirement community if you aim to preserve their independence. Studying the activity schedule to ensure that a community is providing serious mental stimulation for seniors is a task that shouldn’t be taken lightly. As a senior living advisor who has evaluated hundreds of long term care communities in the Chicago area, I can share some activity tips with you.

I have seen many of the retirement communities offer brain fitness programs in order to keep their residents mentally fit. Some of the homes will allow your loved one to participate in their brain fitness programs as a non-resident of the community. I enrolled in one of the classes at a local retirement community because I was curious to see what the programs had to offer. They were offering the brain training program created by Posit Science, that can help anyone exercise their memory and enhance the ability to focus. Although the program is computer based, the senior doesn’t have to be computer literate. They only need to operate a mouse. There were many independent seniors who were taking the course to enhance their driving skills. One of the programs simulated a fictitious car ride where dangers such as a child chasing a bill into the street popped up on the screen. The program requires the driver to react quickly in order to avoid having an accident.

If you are looking to place a senior at the assisted living level who has issues with dementia, you will need to ascertain whether the community offers appropriate programming for the individual.
Many of the assisted living communities do not offer the structured activity programming that is needed for seniors who are in the middle stages of dementia. I have seen many communities offer activities that are appropriate for the beginning and latter stages of dementia, but nothing for the person who falls in the middle stages.

If your loved one resides in a nursing home, I always suggest that the schedule be checked to see how many times the residents (who are capable of going on a trip) are taken out on a weekly or monthly basis. Some of the nursing homes do not take the residents out at all. Wii has become very popular at the nursing homes, with the bowling tournaments causing quite a bit of competition among the the residents. I have also seen the activity directors adding new twists to art classes such as using clay instead of water colors. In any event, you will never want to see your loved one wheeled in front of a big screen TV as the activity for the day.

Always try to take a tour of a community around 10:00 A. M. or 2:00 P.M. to ensure you can observe the activities. And, check to see if any activities are offered in the evening.