Moving from your home to a facility is never an easy experience, but with the right tools, the transition can make a huge difference in the quality of life for your loved ones. Last week, I spent several hours searching for assisted living in Santa Barbara for a loved one. Frankly, there are no bargains when it comes to senior living in Santa Barbara, nor should I search for one when it comes to a high quality of life for someone in their third age. I am not covering individual homes that are "Golden Girls Style" here. Only covering reputable, licensed facilities that I investigated.
For those of you who don't know the difference when it comes to living in 'a home,' here it goes in layman's terms.
1. Independent Living: Some meals and housekeeping included. These include Vista del Monte, Val Verde, Casa Dorinda, Encina Royale, and several more. The best deal appears to be Encina Royale. They have beautifully landscaped grounds, club house, golf course, and you even get to own your home in this 55+ community. Most of independent living properties have large initiation fees and continuing levels of service as you need to move to assisted living. Val Verde is building 100 new homes right now, so it can be difficult to navigate their property. Even though Casa Dorinda in Montecito is very expensive to enter, they keep monthly fees flat no matter what type of care is needed, so in the end if you are in the assisted living wing, it can actually be up to $2,000 less than other homes.
2. Assisted Living: These offer meals, housekeeping, bathing assistance, incontinence assistance, medication management, laundry, memory care, and more. The only thing they normally don't offer is heart and respiration monitoring. Their rates are up to $2,000 more per month depending on level of care. Some of these properties feel very clinical - like living in a hospital, while others, such as Villa Santa Barbara, feel like a luxury hotel. When evaluating these properties, make sure that you compare levels of care equally. Villa Santa Barbara had an all-inclusive rate while Alexander Gardens had several additional fees. Initially while looking into Villa Santa Barbara, we thought it was more expensive, than Alexander Gardens, but after a full evaluation, it was actually significantly less. The most significant difference that I discovered here was the cleanliness of the rooms and the way that the staff treated its residents. In one facility, I was shown a filthy room with stains on the walls and clumps of dirt on the floors. The resident manager apologized and said that the room was just vacated and they didn't have time to clean it yet. BIG RED FLAG - weekly housekeeping is included in the price. The other big difference is the way the staff speak to guests. In 2 properties, it appeared that the staff only used first names to the residents, spoke in baby words, and was condescending. If you witness this - RUN! Villa Santa Barbara on the other hand, treated all residents with respect and in a friendly manner that would be expected from a hotel.
3. Rehabilitation Centers: This is where your loved ones go after surgery if they are unable to take care of themselves. Medicare and MediCal will cover 80% of the expenses for 100 days after surgery. Don't expect to get much rest at one of these, because you will be awakened every couple of hours for physical therapy, vital sign checks, laundry, bathing, and more. Keep an eye on the progress or decline of your loved ones here. If it appears that this environment is actually creating a decline, then speak to the physician about moving right away.
4. Nursing or Convalescent Homes: This is the end of the line. If your loved one needs round-the-clock care after leaving the hospital, you will need to look into these.
In order to find the best property that offered immediate availability, I used SeniorLiving.net. This service was free to me and the knowledgeable operator did the leg work to find a property in my price range, based on the expected level of care.
If you are going through this experience, you can also pick up publications in the brochure racks at the Goleta Community Center that will help you either find home care or other services that are helpful to seniors. Good luck.