Making the decision to move to an assisted living community is stressful enough. Now you’re tasked with finding an assisted living community that’s close to home, within your budget, and offers the level of care your loved one needs.
“Finding the right assisted living community is a very important and sometimes daunting undertaking,” says Jason Rieger, Executive Director of The Ivy at Watertown.
Not only are there nearly 30,000 assisted living communities in the U.S., but there are huge variations among them. What might be right for your mom might not be right for your aunt, and the best assisted living community for your dad today might not be the best assisted living community for him two years from now.
“To make the best and most informed decision, it’s extremely helpful to know what to look for, what questions to ask, and how to compare one community to another,” says Rieger, who has more than 30 years of experience in senior living.
Here are Rieger’s six tips for finding the best assisted living community for your loved one.
1. Don’t Wait Until There’s a Crisis to Start the Search
You don’t need to wait until your loved one isn’t safe at home alone to start the search for assisted living. In fact, many older adults are choosing to live in assisted living because it offers them more independence than when they were living at home.
“One of the most common feedback comments we hear is, ‘I should have done this so much sooner,’” Rieger says.
This is an important decision, and it can take time to find the right fit. By being proactive in the search for assisted living, you and your family can take your time and make sure you find the assisted living community that will best meet your loved one’s needs.
2. Start with the Location
For many families, one of the most important deciding factors is location. “If being close to loved ones and friends or in a familiar area is vital, it helps to start the search for a quality community beginning with the most desired location and working your way outwards from there,” Rieger says.
3. Think About Current and Future Care Needs
When searching for the right fit for your loved one, it’s important to not only consider their current care needs but also what their future needs might be.
For instance, if your mom is just starting to struggle with memory loss, she probably doesn’t need to move into a specialized memory care environment just yet. But it’s better to choose an assisted living community that also offers a memory care community. That way, if your mom does need to transition to memory care, the move is as seamless and easy as possible — she’s simply moving from one apartment to another within a familiar setting.
“Although most assisted living communities offer similar services, no two are the same,” Rieger says. “Make sure you ask what services and care are provided. As your parent’s health changes, how will their needs be met?”
4. Go for a Visit
An assisted living community might have the fanciest amenities, but it’s the people inside who truly make a difference. That’s why touring is the best way to determine which communities offer the best fit for your loved one.
“Environment and culture cannot be overstated,” Rieger says. “In addition to being an attractive, safe, and tranquil setting, how does the community feel? When you walk through the doors and into the community, what does it feel like? Does it feel friendly, warm, and inviting? Do residents look happy and well cared for? Are staff members friendly? Do they appear to enjoy their work?”
5. Ask for a Price Breakdown
When it comes to finding the right assisted living community, cost is probably one of the biggest deciding factors for families. But asking “How much does it cost?” isn’t always the best way to determine if a community is affordable.
“When it comes to analyzing cost, folks don’t realize how expensive it is to maintain a house, even if it’s paid off,” Rieger says. “There’s still property taxes, insurance, utilities, home and yard maintenance. When you look at the cost of assisted living, it really has amazing value, especially when it eliminates so many of those high-risk chores associated with keeping up a house.”
When you find a community that feels like it has the right fit, ask the community representative to break out the total costs based on your current needs and then some scenarios of potential or future needs. Use these same examples when comparing other communities of interest.
6. Let the Staff Help You
Assisted living staff are a great resource for helping families navigate everything from assisted living costs and affordability to downsizing and selling the house.
“One of our main responsibilities is to walk hand in hand with the residents and their families through this transition,” Rieger says. “We want to help you make the best move for your family member, whether it be The Ivy or not.”
If you have questions about whether The Ivy at Watertown is the best assisted living community for your loved one, request more information or schedule a tour today.