Moving to an assisted living community is a big decision, and one that can ultimately improve your quality of life by providing the support you need. However, many people put off making a move and, as a result, choose a place to move in a rush when they find themselves in the midst of a medical crisis.

At Chicagoland Methodist Senior Services (CMSS), we believe there’s a better way. Here are four strategies for assessing your assisted living options before you need to act on them. Considering your options early on can help you feel more comfortable if you eventually choose to move to  an assisted living community, and make the transition less stressful for you and your family.

Schedule Site Visits

More than 735,000 people live in assisted living communities in the U.S., but every assisted living community is very different. Set aside some time before you need assistance to think about your individual wants and needs in a community. Is being a part of a close-knit community your number one priority? Or is having plenty of personal space more important? What sort of activities would you like to be able to participate in?  Is it important to you to move somewhere close to family or in or close to your current neighborhood?

Once you’ve decided what’s most important to you, schedule times to visit a few communities that appear to meet your needs. Take a tour, and talk to staff and residents to get a better sense of where you’d feel comfortable. By identifying your preferences and matching them with the features offered before moving in, you can set yourself up for an easier transition.

Get Involved

Participating in events at assisted living communities is one of the best ways to get a behind-the-scenes look at what daily life feels like and to begin to picture yourself in an environment prior to moving in. Many communities host regular activities and events for their residents and may extend the invitation to prospective residents or allow you to participate if you ask.

Reach out to local communities you’re interested in to see if they are currently accepting volunteers. CMSS offers a variety of volunteering options that can give you a firsthand look into daily life at CMSS while you’re also doing good work for those who are already part of the community. We also host educational community events on a variety of topics you may find interesting.

Decide on a Budget

Getting clear on your retirement budget and how much you can afford to spend monthly on living expenses and care is crucial to assessing your assisted living options. Prior to moving to  an assisted living community, make sure you understand how much money you can reasonably spend each month and choose a community within your budget. Remember there are a lot of things included in the cost of a community that you are probably paying for now, so you will want to get detailed pricing from any that you are considering.

In Illinois, supportive living is also an option for those who have some saved funds that can be used for future care but may eventually need help from Medicaid. CMSS offers supportive living at Covenant Home of Chicago, located across from Swedish Covenant Hospital on West Foster Avenue.

Health Considerations

Even before you decide to make the move to a specific community for older adults, you should take into consideration whether you may need extra care for special health needs. Some assisted living communities, including CMSS, also offer short-term rehabilitation services. If you anticipate needing surgery this alignment between a rehab provider and your community may ease the transition between the hospital and home. If you have a family history of memory loss or are worried about a possible diagnosis of memory loss you will also want to look for a community that includes assisted living memory care, as CMSS’ Hartwell Place offers, as well as  skilled nursing for those with memory loss, as CMSS’ Wesley Place offers.

Prior to selecting an assisted living community, you should discuss specific health needs with your doctor and the staff of the community so you can move feeling confident and comfortable.