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A Step-by-Step Guide to Searching for the Right Assisted Living Option

When is the right time to consider assisted living? It’s a question and a concern that many families wrestle with. The answer might be now if you’ve been noticing new challenges in your day-to-day routines, or those of your loved ones. Assisted living communities offer the ability to maintain independence, while offering just the right amount of assistance with daily care.

So where do families begin once they decide it’s time to seriously consider assisted living? When embarking on the journey to learn about, and search for, assisted living options, consider the following:

Identify the need for care

Families looking for senior care options could be at different stages in the process when they begin their journey and reach out to an assisted living community. Individual circumstances are different and will drive the type of information you seek and the urgency with which a solution is needed.

“Most families contact us when they begin to notice their loved one is starting to have some kind of trouble living completely independently,” said Elderwood Community Relations Coordinator Krista Savage. “That might be with mobility for example, they could have stairs in their home that are becoming more difficult to navigate.”

Difficulty can also come from managing medications. Families might notice their loved one missed a dose of medication and are becoming concerned. Seniors may be feeling lonely living at home alone. Isolation and lack of intellectual stimulation can lead to changes in mood and cognition. Even if physical abilities are still strong, socialization and the opportunity to make new friends are also important reasons to consider an assisted living community and to investigate options.

Search for the perfect fit

When it comes to searching for an assisted living community, many families have criteria in mind. Families approach their initial searches differently, but most families are seeking communities that can provide exceptional care and safety.

“We often will talk about what a wish list of things looks like to each family,” said Savage. “If safety is on their list for example, not everyone may have the same definition of 'safety’. For some it may mean the physical security of the community, so that a loved one living with dementia wouldn't be at risk for getting lost in the neighborhood. For someone else it may mean having staff available in times that their loved one needs some help with daily tasks.”

By discussing needs and expectations with your loved one openly and honestly, you will be on the same page with a care plan. Families seeking assisted living information have many sources at their disposal. “We are living in the age of technology of course, and many people find us online. Someone they know may share the name of our community with them whether it be a friend, family member or medical professional, and naturally we all usually go to our smartphone or computer to look into things a little more,” said Savage.

The Internet allows an opportunity to research and search through a vast amount of information available to families who just want to get started with obtaining information. Then, when they are comfortable, they usually reach out to assisted living communities on the phone with questions and to seek additional details for their family.

Make a decision

Many families will work together with an aging parent to make decisions about assisted living. “I'm usually working with adult children of our future residents initially. They often start the process, do some research and then talk with their parent about what they learned. It is always important to involve your loved one in the process and explain to them your perspective and how assisted living could benefit the whole family,” said Savage.

Families may also involve their medical providers or care managers in the decision-making process. By doing this, you can ensure your loved one's healthcare team is on the same page regarding their ongoing care.  

One of the first steps in decision making process is visiting an assisted living community that fits your needs for a guided tour. “At the tour we sit down in a private space to have an open conversation about the current situation, resident needs, preferences, and of course answer a lot of questions,” said Savage.

After that, families have an opportunity to walk around the community and share a conversation about how an assisted living community might be able to meet those needs that were identified throughout the conversation. “We’ll look at a model room, the dining room, activity area, outside common areas, or any place that might be important,” said Savage. 

Apply to join a community

After the completion of a private tour the next steps are typically determined by the urgency of the situation and how soon a loved one may want or need to move to the assisted living community. Most communities with available space can accommodate the timetable needs of a resident and their family for move-in.

For example, a future resident who is currently in the hospital and in need of care upon discharge will move in a lot sooner than someone who is living at home independently and planning ahead. 

There is a medical component to the move-in process as well. “We will connect with the primary care physician who is caring for the future resident to learn about their medical history and associated needs. We also will have a financial discussion to talk about the cost of care and provide information about financial options,” said Savage.

For families that have planned rather than finding themselves in a more urgent circumstance, the experience of moving into assisted living is often much smoother. “My best advice to families is to start talking about and learning about senior care options before you need to,” said Savage. “It can be an overwhelming process but don't be afraid to reach out for help. We are here to help, no matter what your circumstances.”

For specific questions regarding assisted living care options near you, click here.

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