Craig R. Boyer: Factors to consider in senior home search

columns@modbee.comJuly 6, 2014 

The hardest thing about retirement is what comes after.

At least 4 million Californians care for senior family members at home. They may often find it financially or emotionally difficult. Sometimes as a last resort or for the convenience of the senior, they’ll find someone to help. That’s where retirement homes can come in.

My maternal grandmother lived in Palo Alto for 50 years. In 2011, she moved to a Modesto retirement home.

“It’s always hard to move from a place you’ve been living in for 50 years,” she says. “I brought my stuff with me. It took me a month to get settled. But after that, I didn’t have any trouble.”

It’s an adjustment for everybody involved. The seniors will find themselves adjusting to new, unfamiliar territory. Their family members often wonder if they did the right thing. The stress can even lead to depression.

Does your loved one need to move? The Modesto area has many retirement communities from which to choose. Visit as many as you can before you make your decision. Most important, the person who will be living there must have significant input on this choice.

Here are some factors to help you decide.

• Remember the first rule of real estate: Location, location, location. Finding a retirement home close to family makes frequent visits easy. An area close to shops, hospitals and churches makes it easier for the new resident to stay involved. Many retirement homes provide bus services for their residents.

• How does the home make you feel? A retirement home should be inviting, not depressing. When you visit, look for smiles on faces and people enjoying themselves. You don’t want a home where everyone is miserable. A home with warm smiles is the place to be.

• Look at the home’s monthly schedule of activities. Many retirement homes offer dancing, card games, bingo and many other activities. These help keep seniors mentally sharp and physically active. Activities can even help relieve some symptoms of dementia. Find a home with activities your elder enjoys most.

• Retirement homes provide different levels of services for residents. Assess your family member’s needs, and don’t be hasty. If your family member needs help with daily care, for instance, look at assisted living. If not, choose a place that stresses independence.

• Look closely at the meal service. Retirement community meal plans can be a full month of food, a limited monthly amount or nothing provided. Some have kitchens for residents to cook their own meals. It all depends on your family member’s desired independence and how much they like to cook.

• Choose a suitable apartment. They’ll want to keep the most important items from their old home, such as pictures, pillows, art work, etc. Help them arrange their belongings so it feels like their old home. This will help them feel in familiar territory.

Regular family visits can help your elder adjust. You can make them feel comfortable by visiting them “just because.” These visits assure your elder that they’re still being thought of, and not just tucked away. We visit my grandmother every chance we get, and we invite her to our house for meals, too. The extended family visits on her birthday; she turned 93 in May.

Fellow residents can help each other adjust. A retirement home is like a dormitory with a community atmosphere. Your elder should be encouraged to participate in that community. That way, they’ll know they’re not alone.

Choosing a retirement home is like choosing any other home. No home is perfect, but after you weigh all your options, make the choice that’s best for your elder and you.

Boyer is a Modesto resident and community columnist. Email:

Modesto Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service