Retirement is more than room and dining options.

It's a lifestyle. It's a trip to a museum or a Reds game. It's about options and convenience. But at its core, it is also safety and care.

Retirement choices are plentiful, and families should approach decisions with deliberation and research for the move from home into a care facility.

"(People) want to have options," says Laurie Petrie, communications director for the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio. "There's some convenience to being on one campus and knowing that if you need more care, it'll be there and you'll be able to move seamlessly."

Choosing a facility and level of care can be confusing. Communities that provide all levels of care and a continuum of accommodations may make those choices easier. A retirement community that ensures your loved one can get increased medical care as they age, without having to move into a whole new community, is the ideal for many families.

It's a very personal choice.

"There's no one retirement community for everyone," says Mary E. Day, Managing Longterm Care Ombudsman for ProSeniors. "Everyone needs information based on their needs and preferences. They need to look and form their own impressions, and ask themselves what they are looking for in experiences and services. It can be activities, closeness to loved ones."

THE FUTURE

Ask about how future needs will be met as health situations and finances change, recommends Ken Paley, Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Episcopal Retirement Homes. Reading and understanding the written policy on what happens if and when retirement money is exhausted is crucial. Make sure the retirement community will "support you and not ask you to leave," Paley says.

At facilities operated by the non-profit Episcopal Retirement Homes, residents can begin their retirement living independently and then, as their needs change, so does their care. Assisted living and skilled nursing care are available.

"We've adopted the philosophy of person-centered care to restore purpose, choice, and freedom to our residents," says Emerson Stambaugh, administrator of skilled nursing at Deupree House, an Episcopal Retirement Homes community.

PERFECT BLEND

The key is the perfect blend of care and community, according to Becky Schulte, director of communications at Maple Knoll Village in Springdale. Additionally, two of the most important factors to look for in a retirement community are the history and financial stability.

"You want to be sure that the facility is going to be around for your loved one's entire life," Schulte says.

Making sure a family members will feel at home is indispensible. "You should also ask whether it's a place your family member will feel comfortable," she says. "Get to know the people, the residents and the staff. See if they're happy and involved."

Maple Knoll is set up like a regular neighborhood, offering several floor plans so residents can live in a cottage-style villa or apartment, all with a variety of services.

Services must fit current and future needs to prevent having to move. Maple Knoll offers all levels of care, so the community "becomes more like your home," Schulte says. "You make friends and get involved. Then, as you move through the continuum (of care), you stay active with the people that you know in the place that you know."

Finally, make sure that the atmosphere is one of enjoying life. "The reason you should come here is that this is a retirement community that takes care of all the things that aren't fun in life," Schulte says. "You have that healthcare piece, but you should come to enjoy life. You can push all the housekeeping aside and concentrate on your general interests, take classes, go on trips."

Aside from the living accommodations, Maple Knoll residents can take advantage of amenities such as dining, a pub, gardens, a swimming pool, walking paths, wellness and fitness centers, and a spiritual center.

"Moving to a retirement community is like coming to college," Schulte says. "You are with a bunch of people your age to experience a lot of different things together."
 
BE SURE TO ASK
Choosing a Retirement Community
Careful consideration of current needs as well as what the future might hold should guide decisions in choosing a retirement community. Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations at Episcopal Retirement Homes Ken Paley says it's crucial to ask:
 
1) Does the community have a clear policy in writing stating that even if your financial situation changes in the future and you can no longer afford to live there, they will support you and not ask you to leave?

2)Do they have a long-term reputation and track record of financial stability, quality care and staff longevity?

3)Are you confident it is a welcoming community that provides all the amenities, services and assistance at each level of care you might require in the future if your health situation changes?
 

FOR MORE INFORMATION

At www.medicare.gov, search "nursing homes" for locations, ratings, and a checklist. Search "CCRC" for a summary of choices for long-term care and resources.

Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio 175 Tri-County Parkway, Cincinnati.
(513) 721-1025 or www.help4seniors.org

Episcopal Retirement Homes
3870 Virginia Ave., Cincinnati
(513) 271-9610 or
www.episcopalretirement.com

Maple Knoll Village
11100 Springfield Pike, Cincinnati
(513) 782-2717 or