5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Searching for Assisted Living for My Parents

Advice from adult children who've been in your shoes
Posted by The Arbors on May 17, 2019 8:00:00 AM

two women, the focus of this photo is on one women holding her cane & her hands on top of the cane

When your elderly parent starts struggling to care for themselves and can no longer live on their own, you’ll be faced with the decision of what to do next. This can be a difficult path to navigate, especially if you weren’t prepared to make this decision so quickly.

There’s no path around uncertainty — every situation is unique and you have no way of knowing what’s going to happen next. However, there are physicians, social workers, case managers, lawyers, and financial advisers with expertise as well as adult children, family, and friends who have been there before.

In interviews with loved ones of The Arbors’ residents, we uncovered five things they wish they had known before they started searching for assisted living for their parents.

1. Your Parents Will Think of Things You Won’t

Bob McDonald’s mom moved into an assisted living community in December 2017. At first, it was great. McDonald’s mother-in-law lived in the same community, and it was easy for him to pop in and out. But it wasn’t as centrally located for his sisters, and Winifred had to rely on her children to supplement her income. She didn’t like that, so they went back to the drawing board.

As an executive in the IT industry, McDonald is business-minded. He built a spreadsheet that included the criteria he and his sisters were looking for in her next home. When McDonald shared the spreadsheet with his mom, she modified the criteria. “She gave us things we hadn’t thought of,” he says. She didn’t realize it, but she was looking for exactly what The Arbors had to offer.

When asked what advice McDonald would offer other adult children who are in this position, he says: “Involve your parent. Don’t make the decision for them.”

2. Companion Apartments Are an Option

When Hannah Delaney’s* mom was told by doctors that she wasn’t safe to live at home, she moved into an assisted living community. A few months later, the staff told Delaney that she needed memory care, which increased the monthly fee a couple of thousand dollars — and that just wasn’t in the budget.

Delaney started Googling memory care communities within a 20-minute radius of where she lived and found The Arbors at Stoughton. She called to get the pricing. Although a single suite was still out of reach, Delaney learned that The Arbors offers companion apartments.

“The price is almost cut in half,” she says. “And she still has a nice apartment with her own bedroom. They share the common area, big family room, kitchen, and a bathroom. We really liked it.”

3. It’s Nothing Like a Nursing Home

John and Christine Farrell knew that they would one day be caregivers for their moms, but they weren’t expecting to provide care for John’s Aunt Margaret. However, deaths in the family left Margaret with no one to care for her, and John was her closest next of kin.

Like many families, the Farrells hadn’t done any research into assisted living communities and assumed they would be just like the nursing homes or retirement homes of the 1960s. They were happy to learn otherwise.

“I learned that assisted living is a really nice place,” Christine says. “I mean, the idea you have in the back of your mind of putting your parent in a home ... it wasn’t what I had envisioned. The Arbors is like a home. I said jokingly to John, ‘If Margaret doesn’t like it here, I’ll stay.’”

John adds: “Three square meals a day and entertainment! It’s one of the best choices we could have made for her both mentally and physically.”

4. It’s Important to Find the Right Fit the First Time

When Teresa Marston’s* mom’s medical and mobility issues started worsening, she found an independent living community, where Rose* lived for three years. Then Rose’s medical problems started to develop more, and she was going back and forth between the community and the hospital frequently. Eventually, the community said Rose wasn’t independent anymore.

After bouncing between the hospital and a skilled nursing rehab facility, Rose moved to The Arbors at Stoughton. “Every time she has a transition, it makes the whole process worse and the recovery much, much longer,” Marston says.

“It’s really hard to find the right place,” she continues. “There are different levels of care at each place. It’s eye-opening as you start to visit these places. You have to figure out where your parent is and then where they can get their needs meet.”

5. Guilt Can’t Stop You

Sisters Carol Dannenberg and Paula Katz knew it was time to start exploring assisted living options for their 92-year-old mother, but they weren’t excited about it. “It’s not an easy thing to talk to a parent about,” Dannenberg says.

Although it wasn’t easy, it became necessary after their mom required hospitalization and then rehab. “At that point, we knew it was time,” Dannenberg says.

When asked what advice the sisters would offer other adult children who are in this position, Dannenberg says: “Don’t feel guilty to the point that you are not proactive. You have to get past your own guilt and realize you have to do what’s safest for your family member. Don't get frozen.”

For more tips about researching assisted living communities, download our eBook How to Choose the Right Assisted Living Community.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

How to Choose the Right Assisted Living at The Arbors find out how by downloading our free guide here

Topics: Assisted Living Resources, Caregiver & Family Resources