The search for assisted living usually begins when an elderly person needs more help than a caregiver can provide. Many families look to assisted living communities to provide essential care and peace of mind for aging parents. However, finding the right community requires matching your parents’ needs, lifestyle, and budget with locations in their desired area. The process is easiest and results in success most often when all parties involved prepare, ask the right questions, and participate in frank, open conversations. Take these six steps to learn more about assisted living and find the right fit for your parents.
The decision to relocate to an assisted living community is a big one, and it’s one your parents should be involved in for the move to be successful. The earlier you get everyone on the same page, the better the final result will be.
While some families may plan for assisted living in advance, in many cases something happens that sparks a conversation around the need for assisted living. This may be something large, such as a hospitalization, or a series of smaller incidents that cause concern.
“I found when families started talking to one another about what they have observed or overheard, there’s more than one example of why assisted living should be considered,” says Sarah Mitchell, MSW, a senior manager who has been with A Place for Mom for almost 20 years. “For example, a fridge with expired food, missing or mixing medication, displaced items in the home that aren’t making sense.”
If possible, involving your parent or senior loved one in the conversation can be extremely helpful.
“Being as open and honest as possible usually creates a more favorable outcome as well as participation and cooperation from the senior loved one. I’d also suggest that they help identify two or three things they’re looking for [in a community] to engage them as well,” says Mitchell.
As you make plans to talk with other family members and your loved one, keep these tips in mind:
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Many people think of assisted living and picture a clinical setting or nursing home. However, assisted living communities are often quite vibrant, with a range of activities and outings for residents to enjoy.
Instead of an impersonal, hospital-like environment, assisted living communities are homey and softly-lit, with thoughtful decorations and comfortable décor. Quality care, of course, is still a priority, so you should keep in mind what assisted living can and can’t provide.
If you’re unsure about whether assisted living will provide the care your loved one needs, Mitchell recommends that families pay special attention to the following areas:
“These three services are often state-regulated and can vary from one community to another. Having an understanding of a community’s maximum assistance level will help identify any roadblocks you may have,” says Mitchell.
Most communities begin with a care assessment to see what level of assistance a new resident will need with activities of daily living (ADLs). Can they bathe, dress, and move about easily? How much help do they already require?
The phrase “assisted living” encompasses far more than people realize, but it’s not the same as nursing homes or memory care — those are two different community types with more daily involvement and specialized care than what’s usually offered in assisted living.
Another aspect of assisted living to consider? The fun. Many communities are rich with amenities, outings, and activities.
“Social amenities are important for many seniors,” says Mitchell. She suggests asking the following questions during your search:
“Off-site outings or activities are often enticing for a senior who is moving from a home environment, [in order to] have the opportunity to leave the community with a group,” Mitchell says.
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Cost can be another important factor when you’re looking for senior living options. Once you’ve decided that assisted living is the right fit, assess what your family can afford on a monthly basis. From there, look for assisted living communities that match your budget. Some people have savings or long-term care insurance to help pay for senior living, while many others explore other avenues.
When looking at finances, keep the following tips in mind.
The best transition plans start from open, supportive conversations about key factors in the move. Given the high costs of senior living, you should discuss finances as soon as possible to avoid surprises and reduce stress.
Does your loved one need an all-inclusive experience or just help with some ADLs? Your answer will determine the ultimate price of senior living.
According to A Place for Mom’s proprietary data, the median monthly cost of a one-bedroom apartment in an assisted living community is $4,820, or $57,840 a year. However, costs can vary greatly depending on where you live. You may want to compare the prices of different senior care types, such as the costs of assisted living compared to nursing homes.
It’s also helpful to get a breakdown of what’s included in the monthly rent. Many times, the monthly bill includes things such as:
When you consider what you might pay for all of these services separately, the cost of assisted living may seem more reasonable.
Most families use private funds to cover the cost of senior care, but private health insurance, Medicare, and VA benefits may also support some or all of the cost.
“Budgeting for senior housing is one of the top factors when researching and touring communities. It’s a good idea to discuss, as a family, what additional assets are available ahead of time,” Mitchell suggests.
It’s also important to understand what certain assets, such as Medicare, will and won’t pay for.
“Unfortunately, some families are quick to assume Medicaid will be a resource, or unknowingly think Medicare will pay for assisted living, which it does not. Understanding the full financial picture is helpful when discussing cost with assisted living communities. It’s also a good idea to research any outside resources, such as the Veteran’s Aid and Attendance benefit,” Mitchell says.
When making a decision as important as the move to senior living, talk to people in the know to learn as much as you can.
A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors are experts in your local area, and their services are free. With plenty of experience connecting families to all levels of care, they can provide personalized advice and recommendations based on your unique needs. Plus, you can always contact your Senior Living Advisor during the decision-making process to get their input on the communities you’re considering.
Here are some additional search tips:
No amount of time spent pouring over brochures, photos, reviews, or floor plans can substitute for a trip through an assisted living community — whether in person or via video. Plan to tour at least three communities on your short-list.
Additionally, we recommend the following tips:
Feel confident and ready to tour communities
A Place for Mom’s downloadable guide makes space for all your observations and notes and identifies important questions to ask. It’s our simple, step-by-step resource for comparing communities and finding the right fit.
Download the assisted living touring checklist >
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Moving a parent to assisted living can bring up a lot of emotions for everyone involved. However, it’s important not to delay the move. Especially when an elderly parent needs care right away, procrastinating is risky and can lead to avoidable accidents and medical problems. Instead, focus on feelings of excitement and ways to make the community feel like home.
“Moving to assisted living can be both stressful and exciting,” Mitchell emphasizes. “Encourage your loved one to pick a few cherished items such as a wedding picture, family photos, or a handmade item or two that will help make the apartment feel like home. They’ll also serve as conversation pieces for the staff and other residents they visit with to get to know one another.”
To make everything go smoothly, you may want to consider delegating certain responsibilities to other family members or hiring a professional to help. For more detailed tips, consult our checklist for moving elderly parents.
Whether your parents are choosing a community themselves or you’re helping them make a decision, the above steps should help ensure everyone in your family feels good about the change. Remember: Compassion is key, so have frequent conversations with your parents where you collectively discuss the pros and cons of each community, and always strive to come to a consensus together.
Original article by Haines Eason
A Place for Mom. (2022). A Place for Mom proprietary data.
The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom and the reader. Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter, and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site. Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not endorse the contents of the third-party sites.
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