We know that finding a housing and care solution for your aging loved one is at the top of your priority list.
But where do you start?
There is an overabundance of information available online these days making it an overwhelming task to find the answers you desperately need. There are numerous pamphlets, downloads, and libraries of terms available, but they might as well be in textbook form for all the work it takes to read through them.
We want to make it easy for you.
Here’s a concise and helpful guide of senior living tips without all the excess jargon and explanations you don’t have time for. We hope this will kickstart the journey of finding comfort and relief for both you and your loved one.
Let’s get started!
TIP #1 – DECIDE WHO HAS A SAY
First of all, ask yourself who needs to be involved in the decision-making process. You’ll save yourself a ton of time, turmoil and arguments right from the get-go if you keep the conversation whittled down to only the people who must have a say in the matter.
To avoid including people who will only clog up the process with opinions and emotions, try using these questions as filters:
- Is this person directly related?
- Have they been – or will they be – investing time or money into the care of your aging loved one?
- Have they been actively participating in the workload of caring for your loved one thus far?
- Are they committed to visiting your loved one or will they most likely be too busy?
These questions will help you clarify which friends or family members will either be helpful or harmful to the decision-making process.
Remember, it is best to draw the line over who has a say from the start so that when it comes to making the best decision for your elderly parent or grandparent, unnecessary voices are not clouding the decision.
TIP#2 – ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR LOVED ONE’S FEELINGS
There’s no way around it: this is an emotional process. There are going to be feelings involved. Whether it is you or your loved one, this transition is often difficult and emotions are to be expected – rather than ignored.
Think about it. Your elderly sibling, parent or grandparent will be experiencing several types of loss:
- Loss of a home.
- Loss of proximity to where all their memories were made.
- Loss of daily interaction with family members.
- Loss of their familiar schedule of activities.
- Loss of a neighborhood and faces they are used to seeing every day or week.
Even if change is for the good, change always includes some sort of loss, and loss brings along the conflicting emotions of grief.
Here’s a key to navigating your loved one’s intense emotions: validate them.
This doesn’t mean that you are swayed from making your decisions when you’re dealing with feelings of loss and grief. That will most likely be unavoidable. But your loved one will be more willing to move forward with necessary changes if they feel validated.
This means you need to do 2 things:
- Take the time to listen to your elderly loved one express how they are feeling without interruption or justification.
- Once they have shared, reassure them that their feelings have been heard and are valid by nodding, verbally validating them, and/or offering a warm embrace.
Things to avoid while they are expressing their feelings about a difficult transition:
- Interrupting them
- Explaining why things need to change
- Telling them that other people have it worse
- Asking them to just be strong and ignore their grief
Whether or not these things are true, they will prevent your loved one from feeling heard and validated. There will be a time to discuss with them why things need to change or other factors, but doing so while they are sharing how they feel is not the time.
The likely result of validating your loved one’s feelings:
- They’ll be much more compliant in the discussion and process of transitioning to senior living. Once they see that their thoughts and feelings are not being overlooked, they’ll be more likely to hear and work with what you have to say.
- This will not only help care for your loved one’s heart during this difficult time, it will also make the hard decision-making discussions much easier for everyone.
TIP#3 – WEIGH THE FINANCIAL COST vs THE TIME/ENERGY COST
One of the biggest issues when it comes to assisted living is the price tag. Most people simply look at the numbers and forget to weigh in the amount of time or energy an assisted living establishment may save them.
Some questions to help you determine whether home care or assisted living is the best option for your situation are:
- Is there someone in our circle who has the necessary skills, time, energy, and willingness to care for our loved one?
- Will an assisted living arrangement free me up to earn more money which can help ensure a better life for my loved one?
- Will I be more valuable and enjoyable to my loved one as a their care-taker or as caring visitor?
- Do all the costs of keeping my loved one at home truly add up to less than an assisted living option?
Working through these questions will help you decide whether it would be more beneficial to care for your loved one at home or to transition them to an assisted living home.
Sometimes what seems like the cheaper option will actually cost you more in time, physical exertion, emotional strain, and even finances.
TIP#4 – CLARIFY NEEDS vs WANTS
Finding the ideal living situation for your elderly parent or grandparent will be much easier if you write out a list of things that your loved one absolutely needs, versus the things that they would prefer.
That isn’t to say they won’t find things that they desire in their new living situation, it simply means that you will check off the items on your “needs” list first before you start looking at the “wants” list.
Here’s some things you probably want on your “needs” list:
- Care services specific to your loved one: daily assistance, memory care, physical therapy, etc.
- Specific dietary needs can be accommodated
- Specific cost that you can’t go above
- Quality of care
On your loved one’s “wants” list you may add things such as:
- Activities: group outings, exercise classes, clubs, etc.
- Amenities: pool, sauna, hair salon, etc.
- Apartment size: studio, one bedroom, two bedroom, etc.
- Location: climate, proximity to loved ones, outdoor atmosphere, etc.
Depending on your situation, some of the items on the “wants” list may actually be a “need” and vice versa. This is just a basic format to get you thinking about what would be “deal breakers” for a facility, and what you might be able to adapt to if necessary.
TIP#5 – LOOK INTO ALL FUNDING OPTIONS
Most people will fund their loved one’s assisted living through personal funds or savings, but for many this simply isn’t an option. Before you start touring facilities, it is helpful to already have a good idea of all the funding options available, and have plan in place for how you will pay for the care.
Here are some funding options for senior living:
- Family Funds: Many seniors have savings or retirement funds for assisted living costs, but if this isn’t enough, family members often pool resources to pay for their loved one’s care.
- Selling Assets: Moving into assisted living may mean that your elderly parent’s home or property is being vacated. This property, as well as other major assets such as vehicles, boats, and stocks, can all be sold to help fund senior living care.
- Long-Term Care Insurance: Unfortunately very few people think about this option in time. According to the American Association for Long Term Insurance, the prices of these policies are directly related to a person’s health and age when they apply. In order to receive a policy that will actually be cost-effective, it is important to find a care plan as early one’s 50s.
- Veteran Benefits: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers some benefits for those who have served, and sometimes even for widowed wartime spouses. If your loved one served their country it is worth looking into whether any of these Aid and Attendance benefits apply to them.
- Reverse Mortgage: This option allows you to get a loan based on your home equity, and is paid back once you sell the property. However a reverse mortgage requires that you live in the home while the loan is in effect, so this option is primarily useful for aging couples where one spouse needs to live in assisted living and the other is able to remain at home.
- Selling a Life-Insurance Policy: A little known option is selling a life-insurance policy, also known as “life settlement.” This basically means that another person or company buys your policy from you and continues to pay the premiums, then receives the benefit when you pass away. Be sure to clarify the effect this will have on your family before choosing this route.
TIP#6 – USE A CHECKLIST WHEN TOURING FACILITIES
This tip is often overlooked but can save you a lot of frustration and confusion when trying to choose an assisted living facility. The last thing you want is to go through the whole process of paying, moving and adjusting, only to discover something about the facility that could cause real issues for your loved one.
Using a helpful checklist can guide you through every tour and assure you and your loved one that the facility you choose has the quality and services necessary.
Here’s some tips before you even schedule the tour:
- Map out the facilities to visit: You can save yourself a lot of time and mileage by doing some research online before ever venturing out to tour a facility. Spend some time researching the facilities in your preferred area, then look for reviews of these facilities. You should be able to narrow down your list to 3-5 facilities to visit just by looking over the reviews and comments of residents and their family members.
- Schedule the visit during a community event: This gives you the advantage of seeing for yourself what the community and social interaction is like at each facility. Many of the residents will be around for your loved one to meet, and they’ll get an idea of the new friends they could make, as well as how well events and activities are organized.
- Make a surprise visit: During the initial visit the facility will be on their best behavior and ready for people from the outside to see their mode of operation. But if you’ve already had one tour and think this might be the right facility, find at least one other time to stop in unannounced. This will only confirm whether the facility is at their best 24 hours a day, or whether they simply up their game for tours in order to book new residents.
Once you’ve done the research and made a list of senior living communities to visit, here are some items to add to your checklist so that you can compare your top facilities:
- Are you greeted by the staff?
- Are the interactions between the staff and residents kind and courteous?
- Does the staff address residents by name?
- Are the meals healthy, appetizing and accommodated to seniors’ eating challenges (such as dentures)?
- Are staff and residents tidy and well-kept?
- Are residents engaged and interested in activities and interactions?
- Is the facility clean and free of stains and odors?
Once you’ve worked through the questions that you can answer for yourself, here are some to pose to the staff member helping you along your tour:
- What type of activities are offered, and how frequently?
- Do residents have individual care plans established and tended to?
- Are there resident or frequently visiting physicians?
- How are medical emergencies handled?
- Is there an appeals process for resident concerns?
- How are outside care provider appointments handled?
- Is there a waiting list?
- Does the facility require renter’s insurance?
- Are there any move-in specials or other financial incentives?
- What exactly is included in the monthly fee?
- Are there any services or utilities not included in the monthly fee?
Aside from observation and asking the staff valuable questions, it may be worth the time to strike up a conversation with some of the residents.
Ask about their experience with the facility and the staff. It’ll be easy to tell whether they are truly enjoying their stay, or whether they are less than enthused with their experience. This may just be the best indicator of the facility’s quality and effectiveness.
Remember, the more research you do, questions you ask, and observations you make beforehand, the less unhappy surprises you’ll find once you’ve already signed an agreement or gone through a laborious moving process. Taking care of the details and your loved one’s feelings up front will help smooth the process, and set you up to sustain a healthy and enjoyable plan for everyone involved.
Use these tips to find a senior living option that both you and your loved one are confident in and happy with, and that protect the health, finances, and relationships that matter most.