A residential setting for people older than a certain age, usually age 50. Retirement communities have many different configurations. Some are homes converted to accommodate a small number of residents, some are large apartment buildings, some are smaller units such as fourplexes or duplexes, some are gated or secured communities of single-family houses, and some are large campuses that feature a combination of housing arrangements. Some such campuses include assisted living facilities, skilled NURSING FACILITIES, and LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES on the same property to provide what the industry refers to as a continuum of care.
Many retirement communities require that residents be fully independent: that is, capable of meeting their own personal care needs including transportation and functions such as shopping just as they would be if they were living alone anywhere else. Generally there is a higher level of security, and there are staff available to perform necessary maintenance and upkeep tasks, and sometimes to provide extra services such as grocery shopping. Some retirement communities, particularly those that are like apartment buildings, provide amenities such as community dining rooms that serve at least one meal a day, recreational facilities, computer rooms, and planned events ranging from day outings to vacation cruises. Full-service retirement communities may also provide meals, laundry services, and housekeeping services. The cost of living in a retirement community varies widely but generally is correlated with the level of services provided.
For the person with Parkinson’s, moving to a retirement community often is an interim step between totally independent living and assisted living. The person feels more secure and comfortable in a more protected environment, and family members are reassured to know that there are people to check on their loved one to make sure all is well. Spouses may live together, and in many retirement communities so too may unmarried partners. For all intents and purposes, there is little difference in many settings between the retirement community and independent living, aside from the age requirement.
Retirement communities that belong to an umbrella of residential services are becoming increasingly popular as the American population ages. Although the person must move from one facility to another when care needs change, the facilities are usually on the same campus and the person can maintain friendships and contacts as well as a sense of continuity of procedures. The advantage of these arrangements is that once a person moves into the retirement community, he or she is assured of availability in any of the other facilities should the need arise. As Parkinson’s disease can shift course suddenly, this is a significant advantage for the person with Parkinson’s as well as for family members.
It is important to take a full tour of the community before making any decisions or paying any fees and to visit several times unannounced. Such visits give a feel for the overall environment and the consistency of staff and procedures. Determine the community’s accreditations, certifications, licensure, and other credentials and check with the local Better Business Bureau and other resources to see whether there is an unusual number of complaints about the community. Know exactly which services are included in the regular fees and charges and which services cost extra. As with other planning related to Parkinson’s disease, considering retirement communities several years before anticipating a move is prudent. Many retirement communities have waiting lists.