How Long is an Average Senior Care Search?
Families reach out to A Place for Mom (APFM) at various stages in their transition to senior care. Some families recognize a gradual decline in their loved one’s health and begin the search process long before it’s urgent. Other families have just experienced a medical emergency and need to move the same day.
In fact, we find that 3% of families who move-in to one of our partner properties, inquired with us in the past 48 hours. On the other side of the coin, 11% of families take more than one year to move after starting their senior care search. For most families, reality lies between these two extremes.
What happens to the average family? Just how pressing is families’ need when they begin their senior care search? When do they expect to move? When do they actually move? We turn to the data to find out.
One of the first questions our Senior Living Advisors ask families is when do they expect to move. To start, let’s look at the distribution of families by their expected move-in timing.
When someone takes the step of reaching out to A Place for Mom for senior care, more than half plan on having their loved one move within a month. More than 25% of families expect to move within two weeks. This is a significant life transition to make, especially in such a short amount of time. These folks are in a BIG hurry, especially the 14% of people who expect to move in less than a week.
On the other hand, you can see that nearly all families expect to move within 12 months. This is an index chart, meaning 100% is the maximum (that’s when everybody does something). That means that 1.3% (or 100% minus 98.7%) of families expect the move to happen more than a year after they inquire. Talk about preparation! We encourage families to start their search early, since the process can often be more complicated than you initially realize. These families that start their search more than 12 months in advance of when they expect to move are in the vanguard of senior care preparation.
So the chart above shows when people expect to move. Things don’t always play out as we expect; I wonder how that applies to moving into senior care? A Place for Mom has the data to measure that too. Let’s take a look:
Surprise! There is a difference between expectation and action (ok, you might not be very surprised by that statement). In this case, the difference turns out to be a pretty big one. When families think they need to move into senior care quickly, it takes a lot longer than they expect on average.
How much longer? More than four times as long! In the first chart, more than half (62%) of people expected to move within one month. You can see from the top bar in the second chart that the average person takes four months to move.
This trend continues when you look further down the chart. Expect to move within seven days? It takes you two and a half months on average to move. The difference between expectation and reality narrows as you move down the vertical axis.
At six months, we hit a turning point. People who tell us they expect to make a senior care transition within six months are, on average, very accurate. It is important to emphasize the “on average” part of that sentence. Some people expect the move to happen in six months, then an emergency happens and they move the next day. Other people expect to take six months, then Dad’s health improves, allowing him to stay independent for another couple of years. Those outliers are covered up when we average everything together.
The trend continues when we look out further than six months. Families who plan on moving within 12 months, actually only end up taking seven months to move. Note the “<” on most of the labels on the bar chart above. That stands for “less than,” which means that those families plan on moving within the stated period of time. So a move that expected to happen within 12 months and ends up happening after seven months is spot on.
The general takeaway from this chart is that families feeling a great deal of urgency around their move tend to take a lot longer than they expect on average, and they are more realistic with their move in expectations as they feel less urgency at the outset of the senior care search.
Averages versus Medians
So far in this post, we analyzed the data by looking at averages. The average is one way of calculating the mid-point of a data set, and is calculated by summing all numbers in a data set divided by the number of data points. This is a useful way to look at data, but it doesn’t always tell the whole story. Another useful measure to understand the mid-point of information is to look at the median. The median is the middle value of data set. In this case, the median value means that half of families took longer to move and half of families took less time to move. The median and the average might be close, and also they might not be.
Are they for this analysis? Let’s see:
With this information, the median values are a lot lower than the averages. In some cases, the average is more than 5x the median. Overall, the average is three times larger than the median.
What does that mean? The key distinction between medians and averages is that averages are affected by values that are really large or really small, whereas medians are not. Since the average is higher than the median, it would suggest that there are some large values pulling up the averages.
I sorted the data to show the largest number of days between inquiry and move at the top of the list. This is the top 10 values:
So one family reached out to us asking about senior care, and then didn’t move for another 4,286 days. That’s nearly 12 years!
There are two more instances where a family didn’t move for more than 10 years after beginning their senior care search. In statistics, these families are considered outliers. They are very rare, but they have a big impact on the averages that we calculate.
We Can Help! Our local advisors can help your family make a confident decision about senior living.