With more than 32,000 assisted living communities in the U.S., according to the National Center for Assisted Living, finding the right one for your aging loved one can be a daunting task. You know that you’ll need to make some calls and schedule some tours, but what are the mistakes families make when searching for assisted living, and how can you avoid them? If you want to feel confident that your loved one ends up in a place where their quality of life improves, here are five most common types of mistakes people make when researching and choosing assisted living for loved ones.
- Choosing a Community Based on Current Needs
If you’re just getting started researching assisted living communities, you might not know the difference between independent living and assisted living. In independent living communities, residents live in separate dwelling spaces, and there aren’t full-time staff dedicated to providing medical or nursing care. In assisted living communities, residents typically live in apartments, and they need some assistance with activities such as bathing, doing laundry and keeping track of their prescription medications. Staff members, including some kind of medical professional, are on call 24 hours a day.
When determining the best living situation for an elderly loved, be realistic about their current care needs as well as their anticipated needs. It’s better to choose an assisted living community that can handle those future needs rather than having to move your parent independent living to assisted living in the near future.
- Overplaying Location Over Services
Having your parents in an assisted living community right down the road might be incredibly convenient, but it might not always offer the care your loved one needs. Instead of prioritizing proximity, put an emphasis on the health care services and community offerings. Although you might intend to visit your parent every day, that’s likely an unrealistic expectation. Plus, if they’re in an assisted living facility a little farther away but it offers activities your loved one enjoys, they’ll be engaged in the community. Go with the best fit for your parent, not you.
- Not Doing the Proper Research
Fancy furniture and beautiful landscaping are enticing, but they’re not indicators of high-quality care. When you go for a tour, pay close attention to how you feel and what is going on around you. Is the community clean? Are the stairs and hallways well-lit? Are there enough common areas, such as dens and living rooms? Are the residents groomed and dressed appropriately? Spend time with the staff and residents. Ask them what they like and dislike about the place.
How is the care? Is the staff attentive without being intrusive? Are the doctors and nurses helpful and accommodating? Is there anything missing?
But don’t stop there. Also look into the official backgrounds of the communities that you are exploring. Verify each assisted living community’s safety regulations and operating licenses, and check to see if there have been complaints filed against the community. Before committing to a long-term contract, ask if you can arrange a temporary respite stay to confirm the atmosphere is as positive as it was during your tours.
- Making a Decision Too Quickly
Choosing an assisted living facility can be overwhelming, but don’t let it stress you out so much that you rush into making a decision. Start your research early so you have the time you need to make the right decision with your parents. You should plan on visiting at least three assisted living communities at least twice before making a decision.
On the other hand, don’t put off making a decision until it’s too late, either. Many families don’t start exploring their options until they are overwhelmed by care responsibilities or there is a crisis. Then, they’re stuck with wherever a bed is available — whether it’s the right fit for their loved one or not. You want them to be happy and safe, so take your time and make sure you find the assisted living community that will best meet their needs.
- Ignoring the Fine Print
If you think you’ve found the right community, spend some time reading through all the documentation carefully before signing on the dotted line. Make sure you understand the discharge policy, the monthly rate for housing and care, and what services that rate includes. Some assisted living communities offer all-inclusive pricing, which includes a private residence, three meals per day plus assistance with dressing, grooming, bathing, and medication management and administration if needed. But many communities offer tiered pricing or a levels-of-care agreement. Not paying attention to the fine print can lead to unexpected fees or pricing structures for which you weren’t properly prepared.
To avoid the most common mistakes when researching assisted living communities, remember that your parents’ needs override your own, do your research early, anticipate their future needs and take the time you need to make the right decision.