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SeniorsForLiving.com is a great site that I have worked with for over two years. We did several Baby Boomers and Seniors: News You Can Use blog carnivals together and as a result, I got a chance to get to "know" Gina LaGuardia and Michelle Seitzer. I have been very blessed by them and by working with them in the area of caring for the elderly parents in our families and consider them and their site a terrific resource for all of us in the Sandwich Generation.
Therefore, I am so pleased to tell you that today I am featuring a guest post written by SeniorsforLiving.com’s Michelle Seitzer. Before committing to life as a full-time freelance writer, Michelle spent 10 years in the senior living and advocacy world, serving in various roles at assisted living communities throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland, and leading the charge for Alzheimer’s as a public policy coordinator for the Pennsylvania chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association. She has blogged for SeniorsforLiving.com since November 2008 and currently resides in York, Pennsylvania, with her teacher husband and two Boston Terriers. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook. So, without further ado…
Caring for Elderly Parents? Choosing the Best Assisted Living Community for Your Loved One
By Michelle Seitzer
At some point in the life of your senior loved one, you may have to help them make a big move…and it might be one of the most difficult decisions you will ever make.
Are you a homeowner? Think back to the days of looking for your first home: securing loans, submitting paperwork, driving around neighborhoods and writing down phone numbers, asking residents about the local school system, getting your first home inspection done, etc. Not an easy process and not one that moved too quickly, right?
Choosing the best assisted living community for a loved one should also be a complex process, a decision not to be arrived at in a hurry. Unfortunately, many families find themselves in crisis situations, needing a higher level of care as soon as possible, and the process must be expedited. This often leads to rushed decisions that don’t always work out in the best interests of all parties involved.
It doesn’t have to be a long and painful process, but there are a few things you should keep in mind when you begin the search to avoid future complications…
First and foremost, if you don’t already know what your loved one has in mind, ask! Ask Mom what she envisions as the best community setting for her golden years. Ask Grandpa what his ideal living situation is. Their desires should fully guide the decision-making process. If there are cognitive impairments that limit the ability to talk freely about what they want, do your very best to get their thoughts on the matter. Bring them along for visits and watch their non-verbal responses closely. In fact, even if there is no Alzheimer’s/dementia symptoms, bring your loved one along to every visit, even if it means taking a day off from work or scheduling a tour at a time that might not suit you: remember, it’s not you who will be living there.
Definitions of assisted living vary by state, as do the costs and the state regulations enforced therein. Do a little research to find out what the state regulating agency is, and check out the community’s record of code violations (often available on the agency’s website). Don’t just look for a clean record, look closely at the severity of the violations, how they were (or weren’t) resolved, and make your decision accordingly. (Very few communities, even the best ones, have a completely spotless record – keep that in mind.)
Here’s a big one: Don’t just go on appearances. You’ll see some absolutely beautiful facilities and some that leave much to be desired in terms of aesthetics. But chandeliers and plush carpet do not always imply quality care, likewise, outdated tile floors does not equal poor care. Choose your battles. If appearance is important to your loved one, consider it, but don’t let it be the sole basis of your decision. The lobby might not be the prettiest room you ever saw, but that doesn’t mean Mother’s room can’t look smashing if the senior living community’s the right fit otherwise.
Visit lots of senior housing communities. It might seem like a hassle, but it’s worth it to find the best fit.
When it comes to costs, read the fine print and ask lots of questions. Specialized services, like meal/medication reminders, are often charged a la carte. Make sure you know all the hidden costs before signing on the dotted line.
Visit on off-hours, like Friday nights and Sunday mornings, when the staff complement is not quite as robust as the Monday 7-3 shift. Staff coverage is very telling of a community’s ability to provide quality care for your loved one WHENEVER they need it.
Talk to the direct care staff. The receptionist, activities director, and nurses’ aides are going to have a much clearer picture of how things flow on a day-to-day basis, even though you’ll likely meet with the marketing director for the official tour. Even better: talk to the residents. That being said, be sure to take what each resident and receptionist says with a grain of salt. There may be bitterness on the part of a resident who didn’t want to move, which may cloud their perspective of the facility. Some front-line staff members may not agree with all of management’s decisions, but if they are happy in their job, it will show.
Finally, think about the things that will change dramatically for your loved senior parent after the move-in day dust settles: privacy, independence/autonomy, possibly a loss of their car, the downsizing process (many seniors who make this move are going from large homes filled with decades of stuff into a one-bedroom apartment). Be sensitive to these massive life shifts, and support them through each challenge, even after the papers are signed.
Start searching for local communities now at SeniorsforLiving.com.
My senior mom and I faced one of those specific family crisis situations Michelle referred to with my senior dad when he was in the end stage of Parkinsons Disease. This would have been great advice for us then and it's great advice for all of us who are caring for elderly parents right now. A terrific help for each of us in the Sandwich Generation. Thank you, Michelle, for such an interesting article. 🙂
P.S. SandwichINK is also joining Bev for PINK SATURDAY. Lots of pink sites full of interesting and encouraging pictures and information for those of us in the Baby Boomer and Sandwich Generation, dealing with the issues of caring for our elderly parents while also babysitting grandchildren (and yes, they'll find fun pinks of interest to them as well. 🙂 ).
Thanks for visiting Kaye and yes, we must remember to honor our parents and I can’t think of a better way. Blessings Terri
Thanks Terri – have a blessed weekend! 🙂
Hi Diann, Very wise planning! I tried really hard to do that when we moved last year, but our area is mostly two stories. I was, however, very blessed to find a two story with a bedroom, kitchen, and laundry all on the first floor (NOT easy!), so my senior mom has all that, and I take the stairs to the extra two bedrooms and bath. As I keep telling her, it’s great exercise for me as long as I am physically able to keep it up. 🙂 But someday, like you, we’d like to go all single floor. 🙂 Have a blessed week.
Very good and informative post. It isn’t a subject I like to think about regarding my parents but, it is a real idea. My husband and I plan to move into a new house within the next year. One of our priorities is to make sur we have a main floor room that an become a room for my parent(s) if the time comes they cna’t live on their own.
Great information. I trust my family never has to make this decision. I have all my earthly affairs in order and in writing. Now I have to work on my heavenly ones.
Good for you LaVoice – and what a great example you are setting. My parents were good about that as well and it has been such a blessing to me. 🙂
My father in law passed away a year ago this month. Just over a year before he had his stroke, we finally talked him into down sizing and moving into a low income senior apt complex. One he had been to several times and had picked out himself. There were a lot of plusses being in a complex of only seniors, but there were also draw backs. The constant fires alarms and having to be evacuated in extreme temperatures without a coat in the winter or shade in the summer. They were so annoying to him.
Pop inspections and bugs! They were constantly spraying. Everything in his kitchen was tossed when he died, we didn’t want to bring anything home.
Google the complex name. Anything negative will pop up. You would be surprised at the complaints that make it online.
I talked to several residents before he moved in. Not one was very excited about being there, but my father in law insisted this was the one he wanted.
Assisted living around here is very expensive- sometimes 3x the cost of a nursing home.
Another thing to consider is how close it is to you or where you work, so it is easier for you to pop in more often. No one is going to check in on them like you will, and it must be something that you can fit into your schedule as well.
You need to consider how social they are and what the facility offers. My father in law was very social where my mother would have wanted to be left alone. Ask what they do and if they have church services through the week.
And remember, if it isn’t the right fit, keep looking. You can always move them again if the first move had to be done quickly. If they aren’t happy with it, let them know that you are trying to find something better. Let them help in the looking, but be firm if you believe in something and know deep down this is where they need to be. They need to be safe first and foremost.
Oh Tete, I’m sorry for your loss! And thank you so much for all these suggestions. You’ve made such great points! I’m going to add them to my own list if I ever need to do this for loved ones, near and far. Thank you!
We have had to do this….in a hurry and it’s a very hard hard thing to do. We were fortunate to have a very nice and good one near our home. It was a blessing for her last months with us. Wonderful article!
🙂 RT @sandwichink: Mega thanks to Michelle @Seniors4Living for the outstanding guest post she did at SandwichINK! http://bit.ly/i0YkqD
Nice to see so many comments here! Glad many of you found the post helpful. Even if you do choose to care for a loved one at home – which is a fantastic option and if at all possible should be the first choice, in my opinion – please share this info with those you know who might be seeking residential care for a loved one. I agree with many of Tete’s points too – especially this one: if you don’t find the right fit, keep looking! Best to all of you as you care for your aging loved ones.
Thanks so much for popping in, Michelle. And for your very interesting and informative article. It’s a great resource for all of us in the Sandwich Generation dealing with the various issues of caring for the elderly parents in our family! 🙂
You’re so welcome, Kaye! I enjoyed writing the article and hope that many in the Sandwich Generation find it helpful. Thanks for your great work in connecting SG members to useful resources and encouraging them along the way! 🙂
Excellent point, Carol. What a heart-wrenching thing to go through for both the person moving and the loved one assisting them.
Kaye, what’s harder than choosing an assisted living is seeing one’s loved one move through the process of deciding to leave their home. How horrific. I saw this with my own Dad… it was heart wrenching for him and me.
Here is another post that might be helpful for your readers:
Carol @ Carebuzz
Help for the Hard Sandwich Generation Issues: Choosing the Best Assisted Living Community for Your Loved One http://t.co/7QTFHmGR