A Guide to Senior Living

    Talking to aging parents about moving is rarely an easy conversation, especially when your loved ones insist they are just fine in their current situation. The reality, though, is they aren’t “just fine” when they can no longer make rational decisions, safely remain at home alone, or take care of themselves (bathing, taking medication) without help.  

    According to Health Affairs, there are more than 40 senior living facilities per 1,000 seniors in Minnesota, compared with fewer than 10 facilities per 1,000 seniors in Hawaii—giving Minnesotans (and nearby neighbors) a plethora of options.

    But how does a person even know where to begin?  

    First of all, keep in mind that planning a move of this magnitude is a process, a series of ongoing exchanges between aging parent(s) and their adult children. It can’t be accomplished in a single discussion, so don’t wait until an emergency happens to get the ball rolling.

    Naturally one of the key factors is cost, but other important factors to consider include: How much help will your loved one need? How far is the facility from the things and people they hold most dear (grandkids, church, social opportunities)? And will the facility be able to accommodate their current and future needs (are there ramps for mobility issues? Secured entry for possible dementia issues?).

    Once you’ve narrowed down the possibilities, call and see if there’s a waiting list, go on at least one guided tour, talk to current residents about the meals, the staff, and if there’s a resident council for complaints, and then get a copy of the contract and show an elder law attorney before signing anything (the contract should address any costs associated with leaving the facility—such as how much of your money will be refunded and when, or what happens if money runs out). 

    The Cooperative Lifestyle 

    Nokomis Square Cooperative, a member-owned and operated independent housing and lifestyle choice for those 55 and over, provides carefree living in a prime location, situated between Lake Nokomis and Minneapolis in South Minneapolis, a short walk from public transportation, the post office, library, several banks, churches, and a supermarket. The cooperative is a self-governed community, with a sense of community spirit, services, and resources that make daily tasks easier, and financial advantages. Perks include ownership with a deductible mortgage interest and real estate taxes, no landlord or outside investors, an affordable down payment, and predictable housing expenses with a reserve fund for major repairs or replacements. One, two, and three-bedroom apartments are priced from $70,000. On-site amenities include an on-site fitness center, beauty/barbershop, dining room, heated driveway, car wash stall, guest room, and party room with a full kitchen.

    Assisted Living

    When some assistance is needed—without sacrificing independence—assisted living is a long-term care option. Continuing care communities offer assisted living and allow seniors to age in place, meaning they don’t have to move should their health decline. They can stay in a familiar, comfortable setting, surrounded by friends and staff they’ve grown to know and love. 

    Meals are provided in a central dining room. Residents live in private apartments that frequently have a limited kitchen area. Staff is available 24 hours per day for additional safety. A key benefit of an assisted-living community is that, should your loved one’s health deteriorate, services are already in place to provide extra care in that same facility. Most assisted living communities provide licensed nursing services, and many also offer memory care should a resident struggle with Alzheimer’s or dementia and need a more secure environment and skilled nursing care.

    Available Support Services For Caregivers 

    It’s common today for Baby Boomers to care for their aging parents. According to an AARP survey, more than 42 million Americans provide family caregiving for an adult. When Mom or Dad moves in, it sets the stage for a rewarding, stressful, and physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining experience.

    It’s powerful work, and a lot of people aren’t completely prepared for the highs and lows. Many times, caregivers do their job in isolation, while juggling a full-time job and/or family obligations. The hectic schedule of caring for a parent can leave a caregiver with a sense of depletion. Here are some resources and tips to make the process less stressful: 

    • Some congregations have active support networks to honor, support, and celebrate the individuals and families involved in caregiving.
    • Physical and occupational therapists, home health aides, and nurses can teach you techniques that will make your job easier and make sure that you and the person you are helping aren’t injured. Talk to your doctor for more information.
    • A variety of print and online materials for elders, their families, and professionals regarding housing, medical, caregiving, and services for seniors is available on aoa.gov.
    • Resources for the elderly and their caregivers on financial matters, health care, living arrangements, and social, mental, and legal issues is available on elderweb.com.
    •The Family Caregiver Alliance provides a database of publicly funded caregiving resources in every state at caregiver.org.
    • According to AXA Equitable, “If you provide more than half of a parent’s support, you may be able to claim your parent as your dependent, giving you a tax exemption for each parent so cared for and allowing you to write off much of the medical expenses. (Note: The dependent exemption phases out at higher income levels. Check with your tax advisor.) You may also be able to claim a federal tax credit that will enable you to deduct a portion of the cost of in-home care or day care. Another option is the flexible spending account (FSA), which lets you pay for a certain amount of care each year with pretax dollars.” Talk to your tax advisor.

    • Don’t wait for a crisis situation to make important health care decisions. Discuss long-term care options ahead of time.
    • Research federal, state, and private benefit programs for everything from prescription drugs to taxes at benefitscheckup.org, a service of the National Council on Aging.
    • A geriatric care manager can help you monitor your parents’ care. For more information, visit caremanager.org.

    Auburn Homes and Services, located in downtown Chaska, near the Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia, is a “nonprofit Christian-based organization serving seniors in the spirit of Christ’s love,” says Sheila Nieland-Snyder, Auburn Homes housing administrator. A spiritual care team collaborates with residents and their families, and the “home-like environment reflects the warmth and spirit of a close-knit community.”

    That close-knit community is built through community amenities such as a theatre, clubroom, library, craft room, celebration center, café, chapel, beauty salon, whirlpool tubs, fitness center, and intimate dining areas. The residents, ranging in age from 66 to 98, lead very active lifestyles. Some volunteer, some work out with a personal trainer, many utilize the wellness center with daily exercise groups. 

    Auburn Homes resident Amy Nieland, 76, started thinking about moving to assisted living after a surgical procedure at age 73. She looked at three other facilities before selecting Auburn Homes. “I wanted to stay within the same organization as I aged,” explains the retired nursing home activities director. The “comfortable, homey environment” appealed to her at Auburn Homes, as did the Petal Café, different activities, outings, friendly staff, and small dining areas. “I really feel at home here.”

    At The Shores of Lake Phalen in Maplewood, a new senior living community located between Lake Phalen and Keller Lake, seniors can choose from independent living, assisted living, or memory care private rental apartments. In addition to monthly wellness clinics (you’re never too old to learn about improving your health), bunco nights, scheduled transportation, an on-site beauty shop and spa, a coffee bar, a community room with a full kitchen and pool table, an outdoor area with a fire pit, a library, fitness room, card room, and guest suites, The Shores is on the bus line and near shaded walking paths.

    At the Crest View Senior Communities campus, a faith-based not-for-profit organization, there are five buildings in Columbia Heights, another just a mile away, and a retirement community under development in Blaine. The spectrum of services includes senior housing, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing care, short-term rehab care, and home health care. You choose how you live and change it as you desire (you can add meal preparation, housekeeping and linen service, personal care assistance, underground parking, a roommate, an escort to the mall, etc. at any time). Crest View Senior Community locations are close to shopping, churches, medical services, and more.

    “There’s a tremendous sense of community and family at Crest View,” says Shirley Barnes, CEO. “We like to say that we create new memories with people. We believe it is a privilege to serve older adults and we are blessed to serve people in our ministry.” 

    Specialty Care

    Twenty-four hour skilled nursing services are available from licensed nurses. Many nursing homes also now provide short-term rehabilitative stays for those recovering from an injury, illness, or surgery. Long-term care residents generally have high care needs and complex medical conditions that require routine skilled nursing services. Residents typically share a room and are served meals in a central dining area unless they are too ill to participate. Activities are available. Some facilities have a separate unit for Alzheimer’s residents.

    Residential care homes typically serve residents who live together and receive care from live-in caretakers. These homes offer assisted care services for seniors who want a more private, home-like community. Assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing, are provided. 

    Home care allows people to remain in their homes, while receiving the assistance they need to remain independent. Home care providers come over on a regular basis to help with bathing, dressing, meals, transportation to appointments, companionship, and emotional support. Care plans are created based on circumstances and needs. If the plan changes, the home care provider will try to help the homeowner find the right level of care depending on the medical, social, functional, and financial realities of each individual situation.

    Living Well

    Regardless of where a senior lives, healthy aging is important to maintain physical and emotional health and live life to the fullest. As with any age, there are periods of joy and stress. An attitude of gratitude, sense of humor, positive outlook, and tackling life’s challenges one small step at a time can give a person a sense of control, no matter what changes or transitions occur. It’s also vital to seniors’ health and well-being to stay connected to loved ones, find activities that bring them joy, load up on high-fiber fruits, veggies, and whole grains, drink enough water, get enough sleep, keep their brains active, and exercise. (Walking is one of the best ways to stay fit, and you can do it anywhere.) If your walking days have been curbed due to tingling in your toes, progressing with time to spread to your feet, ankles, calves, knees, or thighs, characterized by “numbness, burning, tingling, pins and needles, or shooting pains,” it could be peripheral neuropathy. At Total Healthcare and Physical Medicine, PLLC, treatment is delivered by a medical provider without lasers or narcotics. Many patients report less pain and less tingling afterwards, and a return of feeling to their feet, leading to an improvement in sleep, balance, and mobility. According to Dr. Joshua Norine, owner of the clinic, “Everyone deserves an opportunity to improve their quality of life.”