Your mother, in our example, is in her early to mid-80s and the thought of her moving into an assisted living community has crossed your mind, and perhaps often. This is an enormous decision for any family and there are many things that should be considered before you start calling various communities.
Here are some things to think about in terms of the decision to move in the first place:
- Who initiated the conversation about moving? Did mom mention the idea to you, or did you bring it up? Will she even consider a move? Unless she is incapable of making her own decisions, it’s really up to her. There are strategies for broaching this subject that will be featured in a subsequent blog post, but know that “the conversation” is often not an easy one.
- Is mom safe in her house or does she need support? Has mom fallen lately? More than once? Is meal preparation too much for her to handle these days? Can she still drive to her appointments and run errands?
- Is she becoming more forgetful? If so, she might need help in the home or a more serious look into a community. Are bills piling up – unpaid? Is she getting lost while running errands?
- Can mom manage her medications? Have you noticed that at the end of a refill cycle there are leftover pills in the bottle? Or, does mom need refills before it’s time; meaning she is taking the medication too often.
- Have you considered bringing care into the home? Would mom prefer to stay home and have a companion or an aide help her instead of making a move? Perhaps she can start slowly with only a few shifts per week.
- Does she have any pets? Many people have pets that are very dear to them and some communities do not allow them.
- Is mom a social person? Some people are just built for living in a community. They are action-takers, doers, talkers. Others are not. However, just because mom might not be overly social, I would not exclude a move to a community. I have seen somewhat introverted people move in and choose to attend meals with other residents – absolutely nothing else – and it fulfilled their need for socialization. You don’t have to attend the activities or out trips if you don’t want to. You can decide how much interaction you want and when.
- What is her financial situation? This is a very important question and one that needs attention, really, before all others because if mom can’t afford to move, then other options need to be considered. Most assisted living is private pay ~ meaning out of pocket (unless mom has long term care insurance) ~ so you need to do some financial projections.
- Is she a candidate for Independent, Assisted, or Memory Care? (The community will assess her to make a final determination.) There are various types of communities so it’s important to know what mom’s needs are and that you are looking for the right type of community. Some communities are stand-alone Independent Living. Others have Independent and Assisted, and Memory Care, while others have just Memory Care. Some, called Life Care Communities, have a continuum of care from Independent through skilled nursing (nursing home). These are the communities where you “buy-in,” and this choice is cause for a different type of financial analysis.
- Geography: don’t underestimate it. Does mom live near you now? If not, is she willing to move closer to you? Things to think about here: the closer you live to her, the more you will be able to see her and also provide “boots on the ground” advocacy for her if/when she needs it. Having said that, mom may not want to move across the country to be near you and that decision has to be respected. She may have a circle of friends, a place of worship, etc. that she’s not willing to give up. Plus, all her doctors are established where she currently lives and she has the familiarity of her surroundings. If you (or she) genuinely want to move closer to one another, that’s great, but if it’s not right for all parties concerned, then it shouldn’t happen.
If and/or when you and mom decide you want to start looking at assisted living communities, there are many questions you should be asking either over the phone or during the in-person tour. To help you with this often-confusing journey, I have come up with a free Guide, entitled: Choosing an Assisted Living Community for Your Aging Parent: 10 important questions to ask to make sure your parent is cared for, comfortable, and financially secure.