Growing Senior Housing Options in Milwaukee: How to Choose

The other week I got a call from Bob Bach of WUWM radio to participate in a series exploring senior housing options in Milwaukee. Patricia Bruce of Milwaukee’s Interfaith Older Adult Programs and I discussed the broad range of options that exist in our community and some of the challenges families have in navigating them.

As part of the interview, Bob joined me at Laurel Oaks to get a sense of the many options that a community like ours offers. The marketplace in the greater Milwaukee area is competitive and because of this seniors have far more options than they realize. Laurel Oaks is a very good example as we offer studio, one and two bedroom apartments and a range of care services that includes memory care.

_DSC0324cropped.jpgAs I stated in the interview, you can have a couple where one is living independently and one needs care. But, instead of having that older adult spouse be the caregiver, they can live independently and have someone else do the caregiving while remaining together. Until a family takes a look at what options there are, all too often they have an outdated view of senior care from the 1970s. 

The process of choosing is complicated.

Anyone who works in senior housing knows how overwhelming it can be to look into senior care services. Even if a family’s search is not sparked by a health crisis, it is an emotional time to look at moving and transitioning – for the older adult and adult children.  The Schraith family, who chose Laurel Oaks for their father agreed to share their experience. For Mark Schraith and his brother, the time to begin looking was after their mother died and they could see that their father was suffering the loss, feeling lonely and unable to keep up the family home.

As Mark described his father’s experience, "He just had a really hard time just trying to figure out what to do with himself and eventually finding Laurel Oaks with all the people and activities and meals and everything, it just clicked.” They no longer worry about their father and spend time together creating new memories instead of caregiving.

Learn from our experience. We can help guide you.

While the Schraith’s story is similar to many families, each family’s situation is unique. We offer Laureate Cares, a free consultation service to help families get educated on the many options they have. It starts with us asking questions to get a true picture of an individual’s situation. I often say that I don’t offer answers as much as I guide families to a narrower list of options to consider.  I first need to get a sense of physical needs and then an idea of their financial situation. It is easy for families to assume that they cannot afford moving to a senior care community, but they don’t realize the resources that exist to help with the cost. 

They also may not fully understand just how much better their standard of living might be in a different setting. As another older adult put it in the radio series: “I’ve just accepted it and decided that this is much better living for me at the present time and will be for the future.” 

If families are planning ahead, I counsel them to choose a community that not only serves them today, but for years down the road. It is possible to age well and stay at one address. I also suggest that getting a “plan” in place for how to transition to your next home does not mean that the move is eminent. It is unfortunate that many older adults will stay in an uncomfortable living situation out of fear of what they don’t know or understand. Getting educated, touring communities and talking to residents is a great way to learn about senior care options and be ready to make the move when the time comes.

If you would like to listen to the three-part radio interview, it can be found on WUWM’s website.