What to look for in a senior home

I have been a loving informal family care manager for elder parents, each of whose needs continued to change, and like many of you, I have spent much time and energy seeking quality options across the spectrum of retirement living: from independent living apartments all the way to long-term skilled nursing facilities.

I have learned that as people grow older or have disabilities, they should not experience a loss of humanity; and that we should look for homes which display Person-centered living (PCL) as a way of life. This means they arecentered on personal preferences and values that stress dignity, choice, self-determination and individuality.

As you visit different communities, spend time at the community and see how comfortable you and your loved ones feel there.

Ask yourself if you feel the following PCL Principles are being practiced:

Every person is provided choice, autonomy and independence, and treated with dignity, respect and privacy.

Services and supports are provided in a way that optimizes the physical and psychosocial well-being of the person in a nurturing, empowering and respectful way that also includes their family and larger caregiving and support network.

People have the right to determine their needs, decide how best to have those needs met, and to be provided a means to give feedback about the quality and nature of the services and supports.

Moving into a new community is a major transition for the prospective resident and your entire family. So dont just take a scheduled tour with a marketing director; but also drop by the community at different times of the day and week. Chat informally with residents and staff. Are they friendly and positive about the community? Does it feel as if they are honoring the residents life experiences, choices, and routines in the natural rhythms of daily living? These are the person-centered elements that contribute to residents and their families sense of belonging and well-being.


Jackie Pinkowitz, M.Ed., is the Chair of CCAL, a non-profit national advocacy and education organization whose mission is to raise awareness about and advocate for the widespread implementation of person-centered living principles (PCL), policies, and practices in home and community-based supports and services for elders and individuals with disabilities.