Choosing the right retirement home

Private Property South Africa
The Roosting Venus

Moving out of a home in which you have spent a large part of your adult life is not easy. Here’s how to make the right choice when it is time for you to downsize.

My friends and I have an agreement: we’ll all opt for the same retirement complex when that day comes. And in a way, we’re looking forward to it. We’re already chuckling about the things we may, or may not, do when we “no longer care what other people think”.

Other people aside though, moving is never easy, especially moving out of a home in which one may have spent a large part of one’s adult life, into a retirement space.

The time does come though when one needs to downsize, and making the right choice can have a huge impact on one’s overall happiness.

  • Some parents hope their children will provide or care for them as they age. This places a huge burden on their children, who are often busy raising their own children, and/or have partners to consider too. A wiser option is to choose a retirement facility – perhaps near where they live - so that visits are still easy, but children don’t need to be totally responsible should their parents get to a stage where they need regular care and assistance.

  • While some people choose not to move into a retirement facility when they first downsize, experts recommended that an individual or a couple choose an establishment where they can upgrade to assisted living and frail care at later date should this be necessary, and make the move to this establishment while they are still young enough to enjoy the place and form friendships.

  • Cost is generally a major criteria and in South Africa there are a number of different pricing structures around retirement facilities. Besides basic costs and levies, establish possible future costs such as assisted living, frail care, levy and rate increases, and how the facility charges – is there a flat fee for meals, laundry and medical assistance, or is each service individually billed? Ask the home to specify exactly which items are included and which items are not. Ascertain whether you have the right to terminate an agreement should you wish to and find out about the company’s liquidity in cases where the home requires an upfront capital payment.

  • Amenities in a retirement establishment become increasingly important as a person’s mobility decreases. Does the facility have amenities that are important to you such as a gym, gardens, pool, recreation centre, library, hairdresser or shop? Does it offer activities you’re interested in? Are they available on site and is transport available to outside ones?

  • Food and meal times are important on many levels. Look at the kitchens to see how they are maintained, look at the menus, discuss possible dietary requirements, and attend a meal to get a feel for the place and whether it’s a social occasion. While you’re about it, check the cleanliness of bathrooms and laundries too!

  • Staff play a big role in any retirement home, and besides finding out how health problems are handled – both emergency and non-emergency – find out how many staff are on each shift - a vital factor in determining the level of care that a care home can give, and watch a while to see how they relate with existing residents.

  • The other people living there are perhaps most important of all. Are they happy? Do they seem friendly? What is the general atmosphere like? Do they seem to be people like you? Could you see yourself getting on with them?

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