Seniors who are considering a move to a retirement community often have many questions about the lifestyle options available to them. Bill Pettit, President of Merrill Gardens, shares his insight into what seniors should consider when shopping for a retirement community.
Q: How is an assisted living retirement community different from a nursing home or skilled nursing facility?
A: Assisted living retirement communities are based on a social model, designed for seniors who want to maintain their independence and lifestyle. Nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities are based on a medical model.
Residents at communities like Merrill Gardens live in private apartments with kitchens. They can choose from a smaller studio apartment or a larger one or two bedroom unit. Residents can even bring their pets to live with them. The communities promote independence with a wide range of planned activities, transportation for medical appointments and shopping, weekly housekeeping and 24 hour staffing. Many communities now offer a full time concierge to assist with everything from personal shopping, travel reservations or dog walking. At Merrill Gardens, we offer a wellness program called Active Living that teaches residents how to be physically active and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Residents at Merrill Gardens also enjoy restaurant style meals in the community dining room. The community’s exclusive Anytime Dining program means that residents eat on their own schedule, just like they did at home. There are no set dining hours and the meals are cooked to order from 7am to 7pm.
Residents can also choose to receive a variety of services to assist them with the tasks of daily living. These assisted living services can include medication management and bathing or dressing help as needed.
Q: What are the top reasons people choose to move to a retirement community?
A: This lifestyle choice is increasingly popular because residents enjoy an active and independent lifestyle, receiving care services only if needed, while they have the security of 24 hour staffing. Isolation can be a major problem for seniors and many choose to live in a community for the wide variety of social opportunities such as classes, crafts, games, discussion groups, exercise programs and outings to movies and cultural events. They also like the independence of scheduled transportation for doctor visits, shopping, and trips to restaurants, museums and picnics.
Q: What kind of care is available in an assisted living community?
A: Residents only receive the care services they want and need. Each resident has an individually tailored service plan that supports their ability to remain independent and they only pay for the services they need.
Q: How do the costs compare between an assisted living retirement community and maintaining a private home?
A: When you compare the cost of living in a private home with the costs of an assisted living retirement community, you will find that the community can be very affordable. Residents at Merrill Gardens pay a monthly rental fee that includes their apartment rent, utilities, cable, meals in the community dining room, scheduled activities, transportation, weekly housekeeping and linen service and 24 hour staffing.
Residents also like the peace of mind they achieve knowing that they no longer have to worry about the cost of property taxes or home maintenance. A good way to examine the costs is to use a comparison worksheet to list the costs of maintaining a private home compared to the monthly rental fee. Even if a senior is no longer making a mortgage payment on a private home, they must still carry the cost of property taxes, insurance, home maintenance and utility costs which can add up quickly.
Q: With so many options available for seniors, how do I choose the right one?
A: Carefully evaluate your situation. Make the best decision based on research, recommendations and common sense. Here are some good questions to ask yourself: Are you able to care for all of your daily living needs? Are you lonely and feeling secluded? Are you interested in socializing and making new friends? Are you fearful of nights alone? Do you have medical conditions you can no longer handle alone? Is someone else available to care for you if needed?
Do your homework and carefully compare each option to find the community that meets your wants and needs. We recommend that you visit a number of communities and talk with staff members and residents to get a feel for what it is like living there. Another good way to see if a community is a good fit is to attend events at the community or join them for an outing. You should also schedule time to enjoy a few meals in the community dining room and meet as many residents and team members as you can to determine a good fit.
About Merrill Gardens
Merrill Gardens is a privately owned family company based in Seattle, WA. Parent R.D. Merrill is a timber company with roots that go back over 100 years. The Merrill family started Merrill Gardens 17 years ago and it’s now the largest senior housing company in Washington and one of the largest in the country.
Bill Pettit is President and Chief Operating Officer who joined Merrill Gardens after 18 years in banking. A graduate of Princeton with a M.B.A. from the University of Oregon, Pettit was the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Seafirst Bank (now Bank of America) and the President of Pacific First Bank.
Pettit combines his financial background and passion for seniors as president of Merrill Gardens. The company now has 56 communities in ten states and under Pettit’s leadership, the Better Business Bureau named Merrill Gardens the Business of the Year and The Family Business Institute honored Merrill Gardens as the Washington State Family Business of the Year.Share on Facebook