One of the most important decisions to make when considering or nearing retirement is where you’re going to lay down your head at night. No, we aren’t talking about the latest comforts in mattress design that can balance a glass of wine while five little monkeys are jumping on the bed. Rather, the actual structure in which that resting point will reside.
For many who have moved past simply receiving letters from AARP in the mail and are actually drilling down on the thought of clocking out from work for the last time, home may very well remain where it’s always been. Some might down- or up-size their residential situation, perhaps even moving to a different city or state entirely. Others will end up with kindred spirits of this monumental turning point, with other retirees in places built for this demographic. Two of the most common examples of this are nursing homes and retirement communities. The decision between them may be more up to the individual’s circumstances — health, activity ability, etc. — but there are still plenty of decisions to make therein.
According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 5 percent of retirement-age adults live in a nursing home currently. But, the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance estimates that around half of seniors will spend some time in a nursing home during their lifetime, with most staying for less than one year, others between one and three years and some for more than three. If the odds are roughly a coin flip, it’s important to know what options are available and how to choose the right one.
“The first thing to do is narrow down your nursing home choices and then visit those homes and meet the administrator, the director of nursing and get a feel from other staff members,” says Jim Towers, administrator at Robinson Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in North Little Rock. “Ask for a tour so that you can go visit the care halls where you can meet the CNAs, for they’re actually the caregivers who are going to be taking most of the care for your loved ones. You’ll be seeing them a lot more than you will other staff members.
“It’s really important that you get a good feeling, that you feel comfortable, because once placement happens, then communication is going to become key, and you want to feel that you’re able to visit and talk to the staff and communicate effectively to deal with any concerns or issues.”
Towers holds the belief that the best model for individuals who are not independent is to be at home with a one-on-one care model, but that is not always a possibility, and that’s when placement in a nursing home becomes the best route to take. Because of that, he keeps this objective at the forefront of his and the rest of his staff’s minds, ensuring the best quality of care for all of their residents.
“We’re fortunate to have a very good therapy group,” he says. “We’re able to take a lot of people, get them on a therapy plan, and then send them back home to live the rest of their lives. That’s our target. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
“Back home” might be to a residence this person has occupied for years, or it could be to a retirement community, depending on the circumstances.
For retirees who are active and independent, a place like Chenal Village in Little Rock has a healthy deck of cards up its sleeve.
Chenal Village is an active adult community, not a retirement home nor an apartment complex. Like many communities of the same ilk, it is designed to be a stress-free atmosphere that is also fun and stimulating. The grounds are made up of custom-built patio homes with spacious soaking tubs, glass showers, double-sink vanities and more. Outside of the homes, there is a community, Olympic-sized swimming pool, fitness center, pool table and other entertainment options. Chenal Village hosts social events like happy hours, and residents have even formed book clubs and have poker nights. And, like other live-in communities, maintenance and lawn care is included.
“A lot of our target demographic residents are those who have been homeowners and are done with the hassles of homeownership and want to transition into living in a maintenance-free home,” says Christian Tilley, the property manager. “All of our residents are independent and really take advantage of what we have to offer.”
In either case of living options, there is a rewarding sense of community and camaraderie that is difficult to match elsewhere. Regardless of where one is physically, such companionship is priceless.
“From a socialization standpoint, we can take people whose spouse may have passed, or who are just alone in their homes,” Towers says. “In such situations, depression can set in and also get people down physically. But when they come into a nursing home, they’re around other people, and their socialization can pick up.”