The conversation surrounding assisted living, whether you’re discussing how to choose an assisted living community or how to pay for it, can be a hard one. If you or a loved one are thinking about that next chapter in life, and how assisted living can help ensure health, happiness, and longevity, keep these three essential steps in mind:
1. Make Your Checklist
Choosing the right assisted living facility for yourself or your loved one comes down to a handful of important factors. As you start a dialogue about where to transition from home, ask yourself these questions:
- What level of care do you require now, and what will you require in the future? For example, if you are primarily independent but need help with light housekeeping, laundry, and accessing nutritious meals, independent living in a dedicated senior community is a great option.
If you require a little extra care, like help with daily medications, grooming, dressing, and other personal care items, assisted living is more the ticket. For round-the-clock skilled nursing care, a nursing home is a more suitable fit. And for older adults with a progressive illness like Alzheimer’s, MS, or Parkinson’s, moving to a facility where you can start in assisted living but transition to more skilled care at a later date is also worth considering.
- Where would you like to live? Do you want to be close to grandkids, or do you prefer quick access to entertainment and conveniences, like the store, movie theatre, or golf course? Your desired location can strongly impact your choice of assisted living, but you may also need to find assisted living options that keep you near a support network and make the most sense for your wallet.
- What is your budget? Based on your income, assets, and medical insurance, what is a realistic budget you can set for assisted living? While the national average for assisted living is around $4,000/month, depending on where you are looking and the conveniences and amenities offered, the price may be slightly lower or much higher.
- How much space, privacy, and social interaction do you want/need? Assisted living facilities can vary greatly when it comes to unit size, layout, design, and privacy. The types and frequency of activities offered to seniors may also influence your decision.
- How quickly do you need to move to assisted living? If you can’t wait for a residence to become available at your first choice, are you willing to lock into a contract at your second or third choice?
2. Know Where to Look
While a quick Google search for “assisted living” in your area might give you thousands of results to sift through, it can be difficult to navigate through the “online weeds.” In addition to assisted living facilities advertising at the top of search results pages, you may also find listings for generic senior care websites that serve as brokers or affiliates of certain assisted living locations.
When looking online, don’t forget to scroll down past ads and third-party broker sites to access the websites for actual local assisted living communities.
In addition to looking on the internet, you may want to:
- Ask at your area Council on Aging if they have any information or literature about assisted living facilities in your region.
- Check with friends, family, and other acquaintances (i.e., from church, clubs, etc.) for recommendations for assisted living communities where their loved one has had a good experience.
- Visit a friend or loved one who is already in an assisted living facility so that you don’t receive the typical sales tour but instead get a first-hand experience of what life is like for residents.
3. Schedule Tours at Multiple Locations
Did you know an estimated 10,000 people in the U.S. turn 65 every day? As this “silver tsunami” sweeps the nation, more and more resources are becoming available to the increasing population of older adults; these resources include a growing number of assisted living communities. Chances are you will have multiple options for choosing an assisted living facility where you live, and it is worth vetting each and every one.
As much as possible, take a tour of all the potential assisted living candidates on your list. Not only can view and evaluate the facility, but you can try the food, attend a social programming event, talk to current residents, and more. Take notes and don’t be shy about asking questions about:
- Current room availability
- Care and medical services
- Transportation options
- Ability to come and go
- Pet policy
- Proximity to hospital and ability to keep own doctor
- How emergencies are handled
- Dining options
- Room hold policies for extended hospital stays
- Ability to transition to skilled care on location
- How services are billed
- Training and background checks of staff
- Anything else you want to know!
Time to Choose!
If you’re wondering how to find an assisted living facility that is perfect for your care needs, lifestyle preferences, and proximity to your family and care network, follow the three steps above for success.
Making a checklist before you start your search will ensure that you keep all your significant wants and needs in mind as the brochures and tours start piling up. Asking around to doctors, friends, family, and local senior organizations (in addition to searching online) will help you gather more data points to make an informed decision. And touring multiple locations will help you better evaluate all your options before you finalize your choice.
Transitioning to assisted living isn’t always easy. Still, with proper planning and extra time to tour and assess various residency options, you can simplify the process and feel even more confident in your final decision.