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How Senior Living Advisors Remove the Stress of Finding a Retirement Residence

Amy McConnell is the owner of Tea & Toast, a complimentary retirement living search service based in Ottawa. Below, she explains how this kind of service works and what to look for in an advisor.

Amy, what is a “retirement living advisor” or “senior living advisor”?

Put simply, it’s a caring professional who helps senior citizens or aging adults find a retirement residence that suits their needs — whatever those needs may be. The advisor often counsels seniors’ family members as well, helping to make this life transition as simple as possible for everyone involved.

The advisor really takes their time to get to know the senior, their needs and concerns, as well as those of their family. And then we take clients on tours of retirement residences we think would meet those needs and concerns.

What are the advantages to using a senior living advisor, as opposed to someone just doing their own research of retirement residences?

A lot of it comes down to time. Normally it’s a family member, such as an adult daughter, who does all the research and tours on behalf of their loved one. It takes an average person approximately 80 hours before they make their decision — that’s more than three full days! Meanwhile, these adult children often have their own kids, careers and limited time of their own. When they’re under so much pressure, they may not feel confident that they’ve done a thorough search for their aging parent.

When you seek the help of a senior living advisor, you’re going to save a ton of time. Why? Because an advisor does all the work for you! We can pinpoint exactly what the client is looking for and identify retirement options quickly and efficiently.

What are all the types of senior care living options out there?

There are so many different types and terms: retirement residences, homes or communities; independent living; assisted living; physical care; nursing homes … the list goes on.

It can be confusing to know which one is best for yourself or your loved one. For example, not everyone realizes that some retirement homes also provide the same high-level specialized care that nursing homes provide.

The good news is that by asking a retirement living advisor for help, you don’t have to understand every single definition in the book — and you don’t have to take on the burden of knowing where to look, because the advisor will have all that insight about residences at their fingertips.

What is the process for working with a senior living advisor?

It may vary depending on who you work with. But generally, it begins with a “discovery process,” where the advisor collects information from questionnaires and/or interviews to determine the senior’s physical and other needs, budget and preferred location.

Once the advisor has a solid understanding of the client’s unique situation, they will assess which retirement living option is best. From there, they determine availability, book tours and even accompany you on the tours of different homes. Finally, when the client decides where they want to go, the advisor will provide other resources for assisting with things like downsizing, selling your home and moving.

If someone is considering enlisting the help of a retirement living advisor, what should they look for?

Above all else, trust your gut. This can be a challenging life transition and extremely emotional time for many people — including seniors as well as their family members. Some seniors may have trouble trusting others in the decision-making process, and some adult children feel a great deal of guilt. Moreover, if there are multiple adult children, they may not all agree on the path to take. So make sure you use an advisor who you believe genuinely cares, who can significantly help remove that sense of feeling overwhelmed and even act as a mediator between all parties if necessary.

Meanwhile, make sure the advisor has been to the homes they are recommending. There are some retirement residence search services that operate more as call centres — and a lot of the time, those advisors have never even been to the places they’re referring you to, let alone lived in the residence city! So watch out for advisors that seem more focused on hitting quotas than on providing personalized recommendations and sincerely helping you.

What else should seniors, families and caregivers know about when it comes to retirement residences?

There’s a really neat thing that some retirement residences do — short-term stays — where they allow a senior to stay at the home for a short length of time.

Short-term stays provide so many benefits to seniors. First, it’s a great opportunity to “try out” a retirement home. A short-term stay is also great for seniors who need specialized medical care after surgery, or if they’re having work done on their home and need a safe place to live temporarily.

This option is also fantastic for caregivers and family members. Short-term stays enable caregivers to go on vacation without worrying that their loved one will be left to fend for themselves. And short-term stays are also great for giving caregivers some much-needed time off, as caregiving can be both emotionally and physically exhausting.

Basically, short-term stays are fantastic … and many retirement residences offer them as an option!

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