by: Olivia Parker
Whether you grew up in Georgia or are just looking to move to a sunnier climate, retiring in Atlanta gives you access to a lot of activities at an affordable price. Art museums, sporting events, botanical gardens, world-class restaurants, and more are accessible even if you’re not as mobile as you used to be. You also get to avoid the tourist frenzies and high prices associated with beachside living—all while still being close enough to for a weekend trip with family.
The Atlanta metro area is home to dozens of assisted living communities, but finding the right one for you can take some significant time and research. Asking the right questions of facility staff can make all the difference as you make this important transition. While many are transparent with the information available on their website or in brochures, think about your own priorities and needs and ask detailed questions before committing to your new home.
Look for Testimonials and Reviews
Website testimonials are a good place to start, and they often give a good list of the qualities of an assisted living facility. However, reviews on Yelp, Facebook, Google, and other platforms are just as important to check. An assisted living community may have a handful of glowing testimonials on their website, but it’s entirely possible that a hundred bad reviews are hiding in plain sight on Yelp.
Also, check to make sure the assisted living facility of your dreams isn’t hiding any dark secrets. The Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) is responsible for licensing and monitoring assisted living communities and other healthcare facilities across the state. Ask to see the results of the latest inspection before signing any paperwork for your new home. If the facility you’re looking at doesn’t show up in DCH’s online database, that’s a big red flag—the facility may have lost its licensure or even never had it in the first place.
Consider Your Geographic Needs
Two assisted living communities that offer near-identical amenities can offer vastly different levels of convenience and accessibility. If you have family who may fly in to see you from out of state, it’s wise to pick a community that’s on the south side, relatively close to the airport. If most of your relatives would be driving down from Tennessee, a property on the north side of Atlanta would be easier to access.
Of course, you may prefer to stay closer to the community you most recently lived in or be somewhere near a golf course. Take the time to weigh your hobbies and transportation needs and try not to end up in a community in the middle of nowhere, especially if you’re moving to Atlanta from out of state, you’ll miss all of the city’s fun happenings!
Ask About the Food
If you’re a picky eater, you may not mind a repetitive menu with typical Southern food seven days a week. If you’re adventurous, you may want Chinese food or unique dishes mixed in on occasion. Some communities offer more flexibility than others, so make sure to carefully compare meal plans.
If the facility offers you the option to forgo a meal plan and simply cook your own meals, make sure they’re able to accommodate a sudden switch to their meal plan in case your health and ability to cook start to decline.
It’s also important to consider food options if you’re on a restricted diet or may have to switch to one in the future. While most assisted living facilities are good about accommodating dietary needs, some may resort to serving you salad and a sandwich multiple days a week. People with substantial dietary needs should sit down with the director and ask what kinds of accommodations the facility can make.
Prioritize a Shuttle Bus
While Atlanta’s public transit isn’t bad, the last thing you want is to be waiting for a public bus in the heat on a summer day. Ask your prospective assisted living community about what shuttle services they offer, how many buses are available at any given time, what the reservation policy is, and what time it runs until.
While most assisted living communities are reasonably flexible and generous with their shuttle buses, make sure you pick one that can get you where you need to go. This may not be an issue if you’re still in great health and can walk to a train station, but keep in mind that you may want those shuttle services if you get injured or your health otherwise declines.
Ask the director or staff member giving you a tour what kind of ativties and classes are offered on-site. Some will likely be offered for free, while some may require a monthly or per-lesson fee. Even if you don’t currently have many hobbies, you may find yourself wanting to pick some up, eventually, to make new friends.
If an otherwise perfect facility doesn’t have the exact activity you want, don’t give up—look for it nearby. If your facility has a good shuttle bus, then getting to and from the activity will be no problem. Trying a new hobby may be well worth your time, too, especially if it’s similar to something you’ve tried in the past.
Bigger May Be Better
While small communities can often offer personalized attention and care, larger facilities typically offer a broader range of room types and other services. This may be important to consider if you are currently in decent health. You may be able to take care of a small apartment on your own right now, but, once your joints get older or you begin to fall ill more often, you may want to downsize to a smaller unit. It’s easiest to move units within the same complex, so picking a large facility with flexible options from the onset may save you time and money in the long run.
Look for a Family or Resident Council
Resident councils are representative bodies that can make some decisions about their assisted living facility, as well as brainstorm solutions to any problems or grievances that arise in the community. Imagine them as a kind of school board for an assisted living community. Family councils are similar but are made up of friends or family members of residents. An active family or resident council is a sign of high engagement and, hopefully, indicates the facility is held to high standards.
Picking an assisted living community can be nerve-wracking, but the friendly and capable people of Atlanta can provide an astoundingly high level of care. No matter what assisted living community you choose, you’ll be in for some great adventures and new friendships as you take this next step in your life.