The search for an assisted living community that can meet the needs of your loved one is a crucial part of securing your senior’s safety and comfort. If you are properly prepared, you are better equipped to make the right decision, the first time. You can learn from a few common mistakes made by other families and be ready to find the right community for your loved one.
Many seniors will need daily assistance at some stage of their lives, but few families are willing to discuss the many different options and details of senior living until it’s too late. Families are often afraid to make the wrong decision, or fear that they will make a loved one feel unwanted. Once a parent or loved one is no longer able to take care of their own needs, the situation becomes even more difficult and fraught with emotion.
There are several mistakes that families commonly make when they are searching for a senior living community. Here are some suggestions to help you avoid them:
1. Consider Your Senior’s Preferences
We often let our own preferences or opinions guide us through the decision making process. Sometimes it’s hard for a senior to tour with you, or you think you can save them the trouble by choosing for them, but seniors need to be involved in the process to feel happy and secure. Keep your loved one involved in every part of the search process. Ask questions and listen to their reactions rather than stating what to look for, and take care to make sure that your decisions reflect what they want rather than what you might prefer.
2. Know Your Senior’s Needs
As we get older, our needs may change and what we need to be happy and comfortable may be very different from when we were younger. Your father may once have been the life of the party, a social butterfly, and that image would lead you to pick a community that supports an active, out-going personality. However the man you remember may have changed over time – he may now prefer quieter activities and more intimate visits, or he may even be frightened and confused within large social gatherings. Be honest and assess your loved one’s needs in order to choose a community that is dedicated to meet their expectations.
3. Listen to Good Advice
Families often feel as if they are completely alone in making this very important decision, but there are resources that can lend experience and provide a better understanding of the many facets of senior living. Senior Living Advisors and other helpful resources can help you to research amenities and services, and can explain factors like care requirements and financial arrangements.
4. Care Comes First
There are a lot of different kinds of senior living communities, but they should share one important requirement above all others – quality of care. Resort style communities and small private assisted living communities alike should be managed efficiently, and residents should be the focus of staff and management.
Trust your instincts and take time to observe interactions between the care team and residents: Is the team caring and conscientious? Do they listen and take your senior’s needs as seriously as you do? Do residents appear to be comfortable, happy, and well provided for?
5. Give It Time
Joining a senior living community is a life changing decision. This may be your loved one’s final home. It’s important to make a thoughtful decision that will address your senior’s needs and assure you that they will be happy and healthy. Make time for both of you to think after each tour and carefully consider each community. Visit several locations and revisit places you like best on several different occasions – attend a social gathering, take your senior to dinner there, and talk to the management and care staff. You need to know everything you possibly can before you decide, and that is likely to take more than a single visit.
6. Think Ahead
Keep the future in mind as you make your decision. As your senior’s needs change, it may become more difficult to move your loved one again. Discuss any health issues with your senior and their doctors, what you can expect and how health needs might progress. Ask the senior living community how they handle progressive care and what type of financial arrangements are involved. Make sure that your loved one’s needs can be met now and as they age.
7. Understand the Details
Senior living contracts are generally not very complicated, rarely containing a series of difficult legal issues. Make sure you understand pricing and fees – different communities are created to meet different needs and may employ different billing methods for services. Make a list of services currently needed and be clear about how they are billed. All-inclusive care may not be necessary for several years – can you pay for services “a la carte”, or is every resident charged the same fees, regardless of the services administered? Get a clear understanding of all possible expenses and how they can change with time.
8. Preference Over Proximity
Many families try to choose a senior living community that is near home or work with the belief that they will visit every day. Proximity is of lesser importance as compared to finding a community that will keep your senior happy, engaged, and active – a place where they will be happy with or without daily visits from you. It is unrealistic to hope that you will be able to visit every day, or that your visits will be all that your senior will require to be happy. This will be even more true if the community they live in doesn’t suit them. It’s always nice if the right community is nearby, but the community that meets your loved one’s needs is essential, no matter the location.
This is an important decision, and in spite of your hard work and careful planning, the community you choose might not be the perfect place, or your senior’s needs might change over time and present new concerns. If you see a problem, be willing to discuss it with your senior right away. Your compassionate and prompt response will let your senior know that you are ready to do whatever is necessary to ensure their safety and happiness in their new residence.
And most importantly LISTEN to your senior and trust yourself. The love and care that motivates you to help them is your best guide.