The changing face of senior residential options in the Triangle

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A recent Forbes report said that senior segment is growing at the second-fastest rate in the U.S.

Recently tapped as 6th among 20 best state capitals to live in by personal finance website WalletHub, Raleigh ranked No. 4 in affordability and No. 10 in economic well-being.

With a strong job market among the best in the country, the area has attracted millennials, families in search of better jobs, and seniors moving to follow their adult children. On a further positive note: the Raleigh market is filling up with options for seniors!

About 10 years ago the expectation of independent living, assisted living, and memory care from design to function started to change. These changes are due in part to the changing face of elder care in our nation.

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The aging baby boomers are an outspoken bunch and do not stand for the status quo. As a result, many of the newer independent living and assisted living communities such as the one featured today are responding.

Not only has the physical appearance of these communities evolved, but the culinary experience in senior living has also changed. Scratch-made, fresh-to-order food with superior service is a must. Residents are also coming into the communities with high expectations for a comprehensive fitness program on site. Activity departments are much more than bingo and cornhole. The vision of cement buildings, white-walled interiors, and food that is reminiscent of high school cafeteria days is gone for many of the seniors in senior living communities today.

Independent living communities

Independent living communities cater to older adults who have very few medical issues. These adults function well independently but would also enjoy more amenities than living home alone.

Typically, independent living communities provide one or more communal meals per day, coordinated activities, transportation to and from appointments, 24-hour security, concierge services, and housekeeping.

Some independent living communities even contract in services such as rehab, podiatry, physician services, and homecare to assist the older adult to "age in place" for as long as possible. Most of the communities are paid for with private funds and the monthly costs vary just as widely as the decor and atmosphere. It's important to know that if the community feels that your loved one poses a safety risk to others, they can ask the person to leave as it is their responsibility to ensure all residents can live safely in their community.

Assisted living communities

Assisted living communities are for seniors who are no longer able to remain safely at home. Typically, they need assistance with activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, grooming, meal preparation, and medication management).

Assisted living communities in North Carolina are regulated by the NC Division of Health Services Regulation (DHSR) and must meet certain standards of care to operate. Assisted living communities offer communal housing and vary in their available living quarters. Some offer private rooms that may look like a hotel room while others offer more apartment-style rooms, and yet others offer semi-private rooms where your loved one would share a room with another resident. Assisted living communities receive regular "surprise" inspections and their ratings can be found online at Star Rating Program. In addition to all the types of services you would find available in an independent living community, assisted living community staff can provide hands-on care to the residents. Assisted living communities are paid for with private funds, Medicaid, or long-term care insurance. The monthly fees vary. Some communities charge a flat monthly fee while others tier their services depending on the care needs of your loved one. Memory care also falls under the realm of assisted living and these are special "neighborhoods" within the building that have more staffing and specialized training to work with individuals with cognitive impairment, typically a form of dementia.

Evaluating your choices

A note on comparing long-term care communities and inspections: Please know that the inspections of the types of long-term care communities listed above are done at random by the applicable state regulating body. The inspections are truly a snap shot of care and quality measures. While you should take inspection reports into consideration when making a placement location decision, don't let them be your only criteria. You should schedule a tour and take into account the general feeling you get when you visit the community. Talk to current residents and family members you see on the tour and talk to the staff - not just the administration but the actual staff who will be involved in the delivery of care for your family member. If you have the opportunity, try a meal. Use all your senses while you are visiting. How does it smell? What are the lighting and décor like? Do the residents seem engaged? Most of all, trust your gut feeling about things. Prepare yourself for the sights and sounds of some individuals who may not be as physically or cognitively aware as your loved one and others who may be frailer.

Waltonwood Lake Boone offers a continuum of care for individuals. Singh, their parent company is about to complete its $40 million project building Waltonwood Lake Boone, a family-owned senior living community-its second in the region following the opening of its Waltonwood Cary Parkway in 2010 that is 100 percent leased with a waiting list. Residents may enter independently or even directly in their assisted living or memory care units.

They provided us a sneak peak of what is to come this fall and a glimpse of the future of long-term care in our area. View those photos in the media player above. Enjoy the gallery of photos! As always if you are finding yourself caring for a loved one, join our online community of caregivers.
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