The search for an assisted living community for your loved one is crucial as part of ensuring your senior’s comfort and security. You want to be prepared to make the right decision, the first time. Knowing what mistakes to avoid will help you be better prepared in the search to find just the right community.
While many seniors require assistance at some point in their lives, few families want to discuss the life-changing decisions that are involved in moving to a senior living community until it’s too late. Families may be afraid of making the wrong choice or making a loved one feel discarded, but waiting until a parent or loved one is unable to care for themselves makes the decision even more difficult and fraught with emotion.
While many seniors require assistance at some point in their lives, few families want to discuss the life-changing decisions that are involved in moving to a senior living community until it’s too late. Families may be afraid of making the wrong choice or making a loved one feel discarded, but waiting until a parent or loved one is unable to care for themselves makes the decision even more difficult and fraught with emotion. While many seniors require assistance at some point in their lives, few families want to discuss the life-changing decisions that are involved in moving to a senior living community until it’s too late.
There are several common mistakes that families might make in their approach to senior living communities. Below are a few ways to avoid making them yourself:
1. Listen to Your Senior’s Preferences
It’s easy to let your own preferences or opinions creep into the decision making process. Sometimes seniors can’t tour with you, or we believe we are saving them trouble by making decisions for them. Seniors who are involved in decision making are happier and feel more in control, so try to involve your loved one with every part of the process. Ask questions rather than telling them what they should look for, and be sure to base your decisions on what they say rather than what you might like for them.
2. Be Aware of Your Senior’s Needs
As we age, we change, and our needs change. You may remember your father as a social butterfly, always the life of the party, and choose a community that reflects that kind of active, out-going personality. The man you remember may be very different from your senior loved one – he may now prefer quieter activities and a smaller group of friends, so it may frighten or overwhelm him to be engaged in large social situations. Be honest about what your loved one needs and try to choose a community that will make a dedicated effort to meet those needs.
3. Get Advice
It’s not uncommon for families to feel like they are alone in this very personal decision making process. There are resources such as Senior Living Advisors and Advocates who draw from their own experiences and provide a better understanding of all the factors involved. These helpful resources offer aid in researching amenities and services, and can explain care requirements and financial arrangements.
4. Prioritize Care
There are so many choices among senior living communities, but the most important factor is not appearance or features but rather quality of care. Whether it’s a resort style location or a small private assisted living community, see for yourself if the facility is run smoothly and the residents are important to the staff. Trust your instincts and notice interactions between the care team and those in their care: are they kind and conscientious? Will they care for your senior as much as you do? Do other residents seems happy and well provided for?
5. Take Your Time
This is a life-changing decision. The community you choose may become your loved one’s permanent home. You will want to make a thoughtful decision that will address your senior’s needs along with your concerns for their happiness. Allow time after each tour for you both to process and consider each community. Visit several locations and make multiple visits to any place you think might be a good fit – drop in during a social hour, make arrangements to have dinner there with your senior, and talk with the management and care staff. You should feel like you know everything you need to know before you make a decision, and that may take more than one visit.
6. Think Ahead
As challenging as this initial decision may be, take time to consider the future. It may be very difficult to move your senior again when their needs change. Talk with your loved one and their doctors to make sure you understand what you can expect as any health conditions progress, and make sure to ask senior living communities how they handle progressive care and what kind of financial arrangements are involved. You want to be certain that their needs can be met now and in the future.
7. Read Carefully
Senior living contracts are fairly simple and straightforward and do not involve a lot of complicated legal issues. Make sure that you understand all pricing and fees – different communities meet different needs and may have varying ways to charge for care. Determine what kind of services you will need now, then learn how they are billed. For instance, you may not use all-inclusive care for several years – do you have the option to choose care “a la carte” or is every resident charged the same fee, regardless of care? Get a clear picture of the expenses you will face now and further down the road.
8. Proximity is NOT a Priority
Families often choose a senior living community because it’s close to home or work, thinking that they will visit every day. A community that will keep your senior happy, engaged, and active is far more important – they need to be happy there without your daily support. It is unrealistic to think that you will be able to visit every day or that those visits will be enough to keep your senior happy if the community they live in doesn’t suit them. There is no reason to avoid choosing a community near you, but it’s more important to find the right fit than to choose a community because it is close by.
This is a big decision, and there is always a chance that the community you choose will not be the best fit, or that your senior’s needs will change. If you do see a problem, be willing to admit it and discuss it with your senior immediately. It’s better to make a change and let your senior know that you will do whatever is necessary to keep them comfortable and happy in their new home.
Most of all LISTEN to your senior and trust your instincts. The love and care that drives you to help them will be your best guide.