Finding an assisted living community that suits your loved one is an essential part of ensuring your senior’s safety and comfort. It’s important to be prepared enough to make the right decision, the first time. Understanding the mistakes that are common in this search will help you be ready to find the right community.
Many seniors will require assistance during some part of their lives, but few families are eager to discuss the many different facets of moving to a senior living community until it’s too late. Many families are afraid of making the wrong decision or making a loved one feel unwanted, but waiting until a parent or loved one can no longer take care of their own needs creates a situation that is even more difficult and complicated by emotion.
There are several mistakes that are common to families when they are searching for senior living communities. Below are a few ways to avoid them:
1. Learn about Your Senior’s Preferences
We often allow our own preferences or opinions to creep into the decision making process. Perhaps a senior can’t tour with you, or we think we are saving them the hassle by making decisions for them, but seniors who are involved in the process are happier and feel more secure. Try to keep your loved one involved in every step of your search. Ask questions instead of telling them what to be looking for, and be certain that your decisions reflect what they prefer rather than what you think they might like.
2. Stay Aware of Your Senior’s Abilities
Aging tends to change what we need to be happy and comfortable. Your mother may once have been a social butterfly, the life of the party, an image that would lead you to choose a community that will support her once active, out-going personality. The woman you remember may have changed, creating a very different set of preferences – she may now enjoy quieter activities and more intimate visits, or she may even feel frightened or overwhelmed by large social gatherings. Be honest with your loved one about their needs and choose a community dedicated to meet those needs.
3. Seek Advice
It’s easy for families to feel as if they are alone in this very important decision, but there are resources that can draw from experience and provide a better understanding of all the factors involved. Senior Living Advisors and other helpful resources provide help with research about amenities and services, and can help you understand such factors as care requirements and financial arrangements.
4. Make Care Your Priority
There is a wide variance among senior living communities, but the single most important requirement lies not in appearance or amenities but in the quality of care. Every community from resort style to private assisted living should show the signs that it is managed efficiently and that the residents are important to staff and management.
Trust your instincts as you observe interactions between the care team and residents: are they compassionate and conscientious? Will they take your senior’s needs as seriously as you do? Do other residents seem comfortable, happy, and well provided for?
5. Don’t Hurry
This is a major decision in life. Your loved one may make the community you choose their permanent home. You want to make a careful decision that will address your senior’s needs as well as your concerns about their happiness. Allow time for both of you to process after each tour and consider each community thoughtfully. Visit more than one location and visit the places you like best several times – stop by during a social gathering, make reservations to have dinner there with your senior, and get to know the management and care staff. You want to feel like you know everything you would possibly want to know before you decide, and that will take more than a single visit.
6. Think of the Future
Take the time to make the right decision now with the future in mind. If your senior’s needs change, it may be difficult to move your loved one a second time. Talk to your loved one and their doctors about what you can expect and how a health condition may progress. Make sure to ask the senior living community how they manage progressive care and what sort of financial arrangements should be considered. Make certain that your loved one’s needs will be met now and in the future.
7. Read the Fine Print
Senior living contracts are usually not complicated and do not involve a series of difficult legal issues. Be sure that you understand pricing and fees – each community meets different needs and may use different ways to charge for services. Make a list of the services needed now and find out how they are billed. You may not need all-inclusive care for several years – can you choose services “a la carte”, or are all residents charged an identical fee, regardless of the care administered? Make sure you understand all possible expenses and how they might change with time.
8. Preference Before Proximity
We often choose a senior living community that is close to home or work, believing that we can visit every day. It’s more important to find a community that will keep your senior engaged, happy, and active – a place where they can be happy without daily support from you. It is unrealistic to assume that you can visit every day or that your visits are the only thing your senior requires to be happy. This is even more true if the community they live in makes them miserable. If the right community happens to be near you, that’s an extra benefit, but the community that fits your loved one’s needs is your chief focus, no matter where it is.
This is no small decision, and in spite of your best efforts, the community you choose might not be the best fit, or your senior’s needs may change. When you see a problem, be open to discussing it with your senior immediately. Making a change will tell your senior that you are willing to do whatever is necessary to keep them safe and happy in their new residence.
Above all else LISTEN to your senior and believe in your instincts. The love and care that inspires you to help them is your best guide.