James and Sarah came to us for help regarding her Mom’s estate plans. In their case the solutions were relatively simple. What wasn’t simple, however, was comparing senior communities for her mom. As they shared their story, it was clear that they were worn out, at the end of their rope. After visiting 15 communities, they were still stymied.

The number of senior communities in St. Louis has increased dramatically in the last three years. In one sense, it serves our region well to have more choices. Making a good choice, however, isn’t so simple. Trying to make straight-up comparisons is a little mind-numbing, especially with the added dimension of memory care, with its various complexities in treatment.

The Easy Part of Comparing Senior Communities

Some aspects of choosing a senior community are straightforward, like verifying their credentials. Are they licensed by the State of Missouri? If they are not currently licensed, that’s a clue to drop them from your list.

The State of Missouri issues licenses to qualified Senior Communities. The Department of Health and Senior Services has a division called the “Section for Long-Term Care Regulation.” That section of the DHSS is responsible for inspecting communities (they use the term “facilities”) and issuing licenses.

This page on the state’s website offers links to show lists of licensed communities, either by City, County, or Region. At the time of this writing, the lists appears to have been last updated on July 3, 2018.

If memory care is not an issue, the search is simply a matter of price, location, availability, and other preferences. Carefully consider the preferences of the person living in the community, not just the convenience of visiting them. Do they like what they see? Will other community residents have similar interests and socioeconomic backgrounds? Finally, assess the chemistry you have with the staff at each community you visit. These are important issues, but not terribly difficult to work through.

Comparing Senior Communities – The Memory Care Component Adds Complexity

Has your family member been diagnosed with a cognitive impairment? Choosing a community will be a lot more complex, for several reasons. Here are a few things you should know.

Others get involved in the decisions. Once a diagnosis of cognitive impairment has been made, doctors and community staff members get involved, deciding the appropriate level of care required. In some cases, a loved one is assigned to a higher level of care. It might be sooner than the family would otherwise choose.

Cognitive impairment shows up and progresses in a variety of ways. Several diseases cover the cognitive impairment spectrum. Dementia and its related diseases, traumatic brain injury, and a host of other issues manifest and progress in different ways. They all require different kinds of care.

Communities Handle Treatment Differently. Even the very best have their limitations. They have different emphases and philosophies that influence their approach to treatment. You’re more likely to make the best choice when you know how to match your loved one’s individual situation with the capabilities of the community.

Consider the Pathway to Safety. What happens in the event of a fire, flood, earthquake, or tornado? How will your loved one make it to safety? What kind of help will they need? Well-lit exit signs aren’t enough. What about help with doors, wheelchairs, and personal assistance working through the fog of confusion? Verify that the community you’re considering is fully prepared with the plans and means to keep them safe.

Get Help Choosing a Senior Community in St. Louis

Knowing these few points is helpful. But making a choice among the many senior communities here in the St. Louis area might still be overwhelming. You don’t have to do all the research on your own. Consider these options.

  • The Voyce Directory: Voyce offers a Consumer Resource Directory for a small fee. Learn more here.
  • Seniors’ Resource Guide: These are available in hundreds of local retailers including all the major grocery chains or online at www.stlouistimes.com
  • Senior Living Guides: These are published for St. Charles County & West St. Louis County. Several thousand guides are printed every year, They can be fund at local area shops, restaurants, doctor’s offices and businesses throughout the year, while supplies last.
  • Elder Care Advisors: Comparing senior communities is a daunting task. Quinn Estate & Elder Law offers Elder Care Advisors as a great resource for you. When you have questions or need direction, call Deirdre at 636-443-3022 or email her at deirdre@eldercareadvisors.org