5 Mistakes to Avoid in Choosing an Assisted Living Community
by Lori J Larson, CSA
When it is time for families and seniors to select an assisted living community, it’s a significant and life changing decision. You want to get it right the first time. It can be such an overwhelming decision that many families come down with “analysis paralysis” and delay even starting the search process. The decision becomes easier when you work with an expert in the senior housing field. Following are some common mistakes families make:
- Not thinking about the long-term financial consequences. Many assisted living communities will accept Medical Assistance if a senior outlives their assets. This program is referred to as EW. Too often we see families that exhaust their resources in an assisted living community that does not accept EW only to have to move their family member when it is the least desirable time. If they would have only reconsidered in a timely fashion, this could have been avoided. Many times seniors health and well being improves when they move to assisted living due to the quality care and socialization and they live longer than anyone expected.
- Choosing proximity over cares services. When there is one spouse that needs care and another that does not, it is always a first choice to select the community closest to home. While this makes things easier for the healthy spouse in the short-term, it doesn’t assure the spouse needing care is getting what they need in the long-term. You really need to look at the long-term physical care needs so you can avoid a second move down the road, if the first community cannot provide the type of care necessary.
- Deciding too quickly. Because this decision can sometimes feel overwhelming, families can get so excited when they find a community that appears attractive with an opening, they jump at the opportunity without looking further and ensuring they are picking the place with the right services. This can especially occur when a senior is in rehab and they are advised they need to dis-charge within a short period of time. They are often not advised they have other options to ensure they have the time to move to the right community.
- Choosing a community because of its social activities rather than long-term care services. Adult children are anxious that their parents have social options not available at home without considering whether their parents are really interested or able to participate. They should always focus first on the care provided by the community before looking at the activities and really assessing their parent’s interest level in those activities.
- Understanding the costs. One of the biggest complaints from seniors and their families is they don’t understand their monthly bills. Every community seems to charge differently and so you have to be careful up front to know how the communities you are considering work. Some charge entrance fees, some do not, some charge only one fixed monthly fee, but most charge rent and care separately and the care packages vary dramatically.
Many adult children today feel confident researching all their needs on the Internet. While this is a great place to start, it does not offer complete information as many communities do not advertise this way and you cannot obtain full services and pricing from this source. When a decision is this big, it’s usually wise to gather multiple perspectives. Get feedback from as many people as possible: friends who have gone through the process, your loved one’s care management team, a geriatric care manager and a senior housing advisor.
Also, if you find that your loved one is already living in an inappropriate senior community, don’t be afraid to admit that you may have made the wrong decision. It’s better to accept this and make a change rather than prolonging the situation that isn’t going to work out in the long run. This is especially true if you find the financial assets decreasing to a point where there is real risk the senior could outlive them.