Today we welcome guest blogger John Regalsky, the executive director of Willow Brook at Delaware Run. Prior to being promoted to executive director, John served for almost four years as the Delaware Run independent living manager, working with prospective residents and their families to plan their move to Willow Brook. Whether you’re ten years from retirement or ten days, his insights are helpful for both potential residents and their loved ones.
As the executive director at our Delaware Run campus, I have met with countless prospective residents and their families over the years. I have seen both ends of the spectrum: those who are planning for a retirement that is a decade or more in the future, and those who need a placement now. One thing that happens all too often is that folks wait too long to move to a community like Willow Brook and miss the opportunity to build relationships, enjoy the many activities and trips, and take full advantage of the amenities that community living affords.
If a retirement community is even a glimmer of a possibility in you or your loved one’s future, here are my top tips as you navigate your options:
Start saving now!
Many times, your options will hinge on your financial resources; that is, how much money you have saved for retirement or set aside through long-term care insurance policies or other investments. You may plan to use proceeds from a home sale or other forms of payment (such as veteran’s benefits); a trusted financial advisor can help you determine what makes the most sense for your unique situation.
Perhaps most importantly, Medicare is a not a form of payment for retirement communities. In some cases, Medicaid can be tapped if you have completely run out of funds, but communities that accept Medicaid are few and far between and many have waiting lists of a year or longer. Start your research earlier rather than later!
Start the information-gathering process in advance.
In my years of giving tours, I’ve had folks that have very specific “dealbreakers” on their list, so it makes sense to start narrowing the field by determining the amenities and services most important to you. Do you have to have a two-bedroom apartment? Or a balcony or patio? Is the quality of food important? Knowing these things in advance can make the process much easier and take less time for you and your loved ones.
In addition, be sure to visit the community’s website and request an informational packet prior to your in-person meeting and tour. If a community is not a good fit for whatever reason, there is no need to waste time touring.
Talk to your friends (and friends of friends).
At Willow Brook, our residents and families are our largest source of referrals. I often meet or talk to prospective residents who say they have friends who live at one of our three campuses. If you have friends who have had a rehabilitation stay with us, or know others whose parents, grandparents, or other family members or friends have lived here, talk with them. They’ll give you a transparent overview of their experience. While no retirement community is ever 100 percent perfect, you will find our staff members to be 100 percent committed to our residents.
Schedule a tour.
The COVID-19 pandemic really threw a wrench in things, especially with our in-person tours. To reach people who could no longer visit, Willow Brook developed virtual tours and put them on our website for easy viewing. While that is always an option, we believe an in-person tour will give you more information about the culture and community atmosphere that simply cannot be relayed via video. If you are able, we encourage you to visit our campuses in-person, and stay for a meal, on us.
Jump on a waitlist.
If you find a community you love that feels right, inquire about the waitlist. Most communities have them for all levels of care (but some do not, so be sure to ask). At Willow Brook, our waitlists do require a monetary deposit, which is refundable if you change your mind. Being on a waitlist can give you the peace of mind of knowing that you are being proactive and have set the process in motion.
In closing, planning for your future can be overwhelming, and it takes time. But not having a plan can be even more overwhelming, especially if you find yourself needing to move immediately due to an unexpected change in healthcare needs, your doctor’s orders, or an ailment or accident that requires supportive care. Planning ahead is a great gift not only to you, but to your loved ones. Whether you have been planning for years or are starting tomorrow, we look forward to seeing you at Willow Brook.