Making the Assisted Living Decision: Don't Put it Off Any Longer!
When it first becomes apparent that an elderly loved one is no longer able to live on their own, many families try to remain committed to providing the extra assistance and care themselves. Sometimes, this involves moving your loved one into your home, or spending a portion of each day with your aging relative.
However, there often comes a time when caregivers realize that they are getting in over their heads. Sometimes this can happen as the result of your loved one’s declining health, added family or career stress on you, or perhaps an incident which has made you realize that your loved one’s current living condition is no longer safe for them.
Yet, the assisted living decision is not one which can be taken lightly. Families often struggle with this, and it's easy to see why it’s often put off until the last minute possible. You obviously want to make sure that your loved one is receiving an excellent quality of care, but cost is also a huge consideration for most families. Not to mention the fact that elderly loved ones are sometimes hesitant to leave their homes and their families to go somewhere new.
Here are some ways you can begin to work through this very important transition.
Research and Call Different Communities
Online research is a great start, but assisted living communities are always happy to speak with families and caregivers directly. Your best bet here is to pick up the phone and begin making calls. This may seem daunting because you think salespeople are going to pressure you to move-in when really you are just looking for some top-level information, but if you’re prepared with the right questions, these calls can be extremely beneficial and the perfect first step in your search.
Of course, before you jump onto the phone, it is a good idea to list out your biggest questions. Take some time to discuss this with your family and your aging loved one, and keep these questions handy on every phone call you make. Remember that all questions are fair game. Don't hesitate to ask something because you feel it would be too specific or too "silly." Assisted living communities should be happy to answer any and all questions you have. Is laundry and housekeeping included? How many residents do you have? Who is the Executive Director? How do out-trips work? What are your most popular activities?
Another good idea is to list out some specific needs which must be met for your loved one. Consider how much care and assistance your loved one will need moving forward. There are different types of assisted living communities ranging from active adult neighborhoods, to short-term rehabilitation, to hospice care. Obviously, the specific needs of your loved one will dictate which choice will be the most appropriate for them.
Also, knowing what you do and do not need in terms of services or amenities can help you more accurately pinpoint your price range. For instance, if your loved one is perfectly able to drive, they may not need services such as barbershops, salons or health clubs on site. On the other hand, if your love one does have considerable trouble getting around, a community which offers these services would be ideal. Some more great questions to ask would be: What amenities would my loved one have on the premises? Do you offer a fitness program for free? If my loved one can’t drive but needs to get to the store, what do they do?
Tour the Communities
Once you have your list narrowed down, it's time to tour potential communities in person. Brochures can only show you so much – nothing beats seeing a place with your own eyes. And often times, you may be pleasantly surprised how easy and enjoyable this experience can be.
Among the chief considerations for many caregivers is location. Your loved one may have some preference about where they would like to be (warmer climates, near friends and family, close to shopping, etc.) while you probably have some location requirements as well. Visiting these communities personally will give you a good idea of driving distance, neighborhood, climate, and any other considerations you may have.
An often overlooked aspect of senior health is socialization. Loneliness and depression can quickly become issues for seniors, and placing them in a community that does not seem like a good social fit will only make these problems worse. Look for places with like-minded people, which offer plenty of activities and outings. Ask about the community’s Activity Director, and if possible, speak with them. What types of programs do they organize? How much resident involvement and interaction is there?
Lastly, bringing your loved one to a community for a tour can often be a very eye-opening experience. They may have been hesitant to leave home because they may have been picturing something completely different than what they see before them. Ask your relatives if they can see themselves living there happily, as this is one of the most important aspects of any senior community.
Set a Deadline and Stick to It
While you definitely want to allow yourself some time to make this very important decision, allowing the process to drag on for too long can actually make things more stressful. This can be especially true if your loved one’s health is deteriorating, and you are finding it more difficult to provide adequate care on your own. Additionally, if you wait too long, your loved one may not have the opportunity to enjoy as many aspects and activities of their new home as they would have if they had moved sooner before, say, their physical abilities decreased.
It is recommended that families come up with a deadline and stick to it. This helps to keep everyone focused on the same goal, while also giving you a time frame to plan and work out all of the particulars. Commit and say, “Mom needs to be out of the house three months from today.” That way, you aren’t able to procrastinate and the process will be more organized and efficient.
If you need to list a loved one's house on the market, that can take up a good bit of time. Giving yourself a deadline means you are continually moving toward this goal. You will be able to arrange for cleaning, storage, furniture moving, or even yard sales once you have your deadline date in mind.
Most importantly however, setting a deadline is a great way to keep these important conversations going. Many families prefer to shelve these difficult discussions, and while that is understandable, it is not doing any favors for their loved ones, or for them as caregivers. As the date approaches, you should keep your loved one involved in the process. Open and honest communication is best, because it can allow you to address any concerns or fears that either you or your loved one may have.
The truth is, a senior care or assisted living decision is very personal ones, and many families struggle with the worry that they may be making the wrong call. To that end, gathering up as much information as possible, getting answers to your important questions, and maintaining an open dialogue with your loved one can help set your mind at ease. For a more in-depth look at how to choose the best assisted living community for your loved one, please click here to download our free guide titled "Your Guide to Senior Care Options."
About Chelsea Sayegh
I started working as a Marketing Coordinator for United Methodist Homes in October of 2016. I work on public relations, website management and community planning for their award winning independent and assisted living communities. As a graduate of Ursinus College with a degree in Media and Communications and a passion for serving nonprofits, United Methodist Homes has become my home away from home. I spend my days working in a community filled with smiling faces, helpful hands and wonderful residents. I have a passion for assisting seniors and take great pride in being able to promote a company with such a positive mission and values. As an individual committed to learning and growing, I have jumped right into this exciting career!
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