Realities of the Independent "Active" Apartment Communities

Independent living

During a career spanning 30+ years, I've been involved in the development and management of apartment communities designed for all types of lifestyles. The most recent being the Independent Active Adult resident profiles, age 55+ and age 62+.

Due to the Fair Housing, ADAA Americans with Disabilities Act, HIPPA laws, and the lack of medical training; the owners and management companies of Independent Active Apartment Communities are not permitted to ask potential residents to complete a Health Assessment Questionnaire prior to renting. This situation hinders the full assessment of potential residents and good decision-making on whether one can thrive in an Independent Active Senior Apartment Community.

Many residents mistakenly moved to an Independent Active Adult Community, fully expecting "senior care" to become available. Residing in an Independent Active Senior Community is possible for residents who need daily assistance; however, the resident and family are responsible for coordinating and monitoring outside services that are necessary (housekeeping, physical well checks / rehab exercises, full-time caretakers, etc.)

Realities of Active Adult Communities

As the Regional Manager, I recall one Friday as particularly busy in one of our newest mid-rise developments. Residents moved in during the morning and afternoon throughout every day that week.

During this action packed Friday, one family in particular caught my eye. It was the family of "Miss Dovey." They were busy unloading and unpacking her belongings into her new one-bedroom apartment. By the time I arrived on the scene, the U-Haul truck was empty. "Miss Dovey" was a lovely 93-year-old great-grandmother, whose age exceeded her body weight, and she was wheelchair restricted.

According to my Community Manager, Miss Dovey determined to live "on my own," and refused to move to an assisted care residence because, "They would take all my money and wake me up all the time." Her great-granddaughter planned to stay the first two nights with Miss Dovey to help her get settled in. After that, she was on her own, although Miss Dovey was very frail; unable to cook and or fully care for herself or the apartment.

After unloading the truck, Miss Dovey's adult daughter met with our Community Manager and gave her a list of instructions on what Miss Dovey needed every morning and evening while "staying with us". The daughter explained Miss Dovey gets her daily lunch and dinner delivered (Meals on Wheels) and then asked if we could just make sure she ate it, as her appetite seemed off lately."

What Families Mistakenly Expect

The daughter also instructed us to check on Ms. Dovey's daily medication regiment, "This will be easy as the pills organized in the daily/hourly pill caddy". And since she expected her mom to pass away soon added, "We just couldn't make her live in a nursing home".

"Be sure to check on her every morning, I'm sure she will love it here, but just keep an eye on her in case she starts wandering the halls in her motorized wheelchair. She keeps forgetting that we sold her car over ten years ago and has a tendency to look for it."

The story worsens.. as the daughter stopped giving instructions, Miss Dovey's grandson arrived with a cocker spaniel puppy. He bought it to keep his Grandma Dovey company in her new apartment.

Disconnect of Resident's Needs

Clearly we have had a major disconnect and lack of communication as to the realities of an "Independent Active Senior Apartment Community environment."

Several concerns jumped into my mind as I watched the situation unfold:

  • How was Miss Dovey going to bathe, cook, clean, etc. on a daily basis?
  • Legally, my staff could not administer or "check on" medication regiment.
  • Who was going to walk the new puppy, several times daily?
  • What made them think that Miss Dovey was able to live independently for 24 hours, much less months?
  • Who leased the apartment to Miss Dovey? (we apparently had a personnel training issue)
  • Who did not clearly communicate the realities of 'independent apartment living?

Why this the situation occurred:

  • Lack of Communication between Miss Dovey and Family on the Realities of Mss Dovey's needs
  • Unrealistic Expectations of services from an "Independent Senior Apartment Community" by the Miss Dovey and family
  • Lack of Clear Communication on what your Rental Dollar Buys at an Independent Active Senior Adult Community

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