After my mother had fallen in her home a couple of times, it was time to have the difficult conversation about how we would keep her safe, providing the best quality of life as she aged; it was obvious she could no longer live alone.
Knowing that she might have to move into an assisted living facility someday ( she was adamant that she would not live with any of the “kids,” we started researching facilities long before we needed them. My thinking was that if she suddenly became ill. I would know her preferences, and she would be able to have control over where she lived and be comfortable with the decision. It also removed a huge burden for me since the decision would have been made with her input, and the expectation was that she would be happier with the result.
After ruling out any locations that would not allow moving with a dog, we toured facilities, tasted the food, attended some events, and put out results on a spreadsheet ( yes, we are “old school”). We only visited one facility a day, so it was an “outing,” not a burden. I did not want her to feel tired, frustrated, or confused during the visit. I wanted her to feel encouraged that these were reasonable alternatives. We put her name on the waiting lists of the ones she liked, of which there were several, each with long long long waiting lists. Each of the facilities required a small deposit which was fully refundable at any time. Openings were available before she was ready, so we put her name back on the waiting list. We annually repeated the rounds of visiting facilities, amending our spreadsheet to reflect changes in the quality of the services and infrastructures. I strongly suggest you consider this approach for your loved ones or even yourself, as this was a complete eye-opener for us.
- Do your homework ahead of time, the differences between facilities can be HUGE.
- Look for a facility that has escalating levels of service so that they can age in place.
- Check the complaints filed for the facility. Check to see if there is a pattern and how frequent they are.
- Eat the food and as about the menu.
- Check the activities calendar.
- Do they offer transportation?
- Figure all the costs and anticipate increases.
- Investigate if there is financial assistance available.
- Read online reviews, chat with residents and visit the restrooms to check for cleanliness.
Much of the leg work that we did can be accomplished through the assisted living facilities resources available online today but DO make the personal visits. The most important thing is to start your research long before you need to move your loved one. Be patient! This is not an easy transition to make. Make them part of the process and a BIG part of the decision. The right decision can improve their quality of life and might even lengthen their life, so start today!