Is a Smaller Senior Community Better for My Parents?

Is a Smaller Senior Community Better for My Parents?

Apr 23 2014

You're looking for a senior housing community for Dad. Do you go with the bigger facility with more people, staff and activities? Or the smaller one with a tighter-knit community?

There are certain things you need to take into consideration, like staffing, activities and amenities, before you make a decision.

Size Difference in Senior Facilities


According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's 2010 National Survey of Residential Care Facilities, large facilities have at least 26 beds, and the biggest ones can hold over 100 seniors. A small facility consists of about four to 10 residents.

Staff at Senior Care Communities


Perhaps the most important aspect of any senior living facility is the quality and availability of its staff. Staffers tasked with multiple duties, like doubling as a receptionist and a part-time cook, could have a harder time providing their utmost care in all areas. They might burnout quicker, leading to a greater turnover rate.

To find the place with the best staff, you'll have to ask the right questions. Catherine Owens, a senior living advisor and author of Be Your Own Hero: Senior Living Decisions Simplified, notes several key items you should discover first:

    • If the care providers have multiple responsibilities

    • What kind of and how many support staff there are

    • The level of support staff available during different times of the day and on weekends

    • The rate of staff turnover



These questions will yield better-informed answers than just asking about staff-to-caregiver ratio, notes Owens.

"It is more important to ask questions that will help a person understand what level of care and support a community provides, rather than if they provide it," she offers. "This varies more on the company than the size of the community, but having limited staff will play a significant role in this."

Senior Activities and Transportation


Since larger communities have a bigger budget, more amenities and activities will be available like theaters, swimming pools, on-site pharmacies and barber/beauty rooms.

But no matter how much there is to do within a facility, it is important to have accessible transportation to the surrounding area. Owens advises to ask how many days per week and hours of the day transportation is available.

"If a community has limited transportation it will be limited in the support it can provide to doctor appointments, shopping, errands and participating in activities outside of the community," she says.

Specialized Care for Seniors


In general, larger facilities are more likely to provide additional services. According to the CDC, larger facilities were more likely to provide "occupational therapy, physical therapy, social services counseling and case management" than smaller facilities.

Also, a larger facility may be more likely to have a separate wing or living area designed specifically for patients with disabilities such as memory loss. On the other hand, smaller communities may be easier to navigate for those experiencing memory problems. If your loved one requires special needs, ask about the services a facility provides and understand the abilities of its staff.

Cost of Senior Care Facilities


Senior living facilities costs vary and should be considered on an individual basis.

"The reality is you get what you pay for," says Owens. "I have seen many smaller communities cost more because there are less residents paying rent to support the overall cost of running a community."

If your parents desire a large, active community with lots of amenities, a bigger facility could be your best choice. But if they want a quieter, close-knit environment, a small community might be the way to go. Remember, every facility is different, so take the time to visit and compare several places before making a decision.

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