Many of you have been asking: “How can I convince my parents to move to an assisted living facility?” There is no easy answer to this question. Many people say it takes a crisis to convince a senior that it is the right time to move to assisted living. Does that mean you should wait for the crisis and then begin? No, definitely not. An experienced nurse recently told me one should just wait for the crisis and then do it all. I do not agree. In a crisis (often called “the sentinel event”), you will be busy enough dealing with the emergency situation. Is mom in the hospital? You can’t be with her making medical decisions and at the same time out somewhere looking at living facilities.
You can be ready when the time comes to move your parent into assisted living. It may take a crisis for them to make the final decision, but maybe not. Either way, you have to do some homework first. You need to know what options are out there before you decide where to move your parents. Or perhaps you have to present those options to your parents and let them decide using the information you have gathered.
First make a list of the possible facilities in the area where you expect your parents will be living. If it is far from where you live, you may decide to do the preliminary steps locally first. If you live near your parents, or visit frequently, you can begin right where they are.
Determine if you think they need assistance with the activities of daily living or not. These activities include bathing, dressing, etc. See:Does your Beloved Elder Need Help? There are also many websites available that give lists of questions to ask at an assisted living facility. I really suggest you read as much as possible if you have time before beginning to tour facilities. I began looking for an independent living situation because I didn’t believe my parents would need the help available in an ALF. But, by the time they were ready to move, they definitely did need help with medications and other tasks like bathing and dressing.
I began in my hometown, looking first at advertisements in the local senior newspaper. I called several independent living facilities and asked about a tour. I visited two facilities for the tour and free lunch they advertised. I wanted to be familiar with assisted living before I began seriously looking for a location for my parents. Then, of course, I had to look again in the area where they would be living. But I had some experience in touring senior facilities already and knew more about questions to ask.
I strongly suggest bringing a camera and photographing the entrance with the sign for the facility as well as taking many interior shots of the dining area, activities area and model rooms. After awhile the facilities may seem to all look the same, so these photos will help you remember which was which. I kept each set of photos in a separate directory on my computer labeled by facility name and date.
After your initial tours, evaluate your parents’ needs again and confirm the facilities you explored would meet their needs. Watch the local papers and senior papers for articles about special events at senior living facilities. Sometimes they have seminars on “Choosing a Medicare Plan”, or “Caring for a Family Member with Alzheimer’s”, etc. Some even have genealogy meetings or other club meetings in their meeting rooms. The facilities do this to get their names out in the community. The community benefits from the availability of the public meeting rooms. But you and your parents can benefit too. Suggest to mom or dad that they go with you to one of these meetings and help you “determine a good question to ask about Medicare” or whatever the meeting topic is.
You don’t even have to suggest to your parent that you are looking over the facility. You are just going to a public meeting that is taking place at that facility. I went to a meeting about Medicare Drug Plans at an Independent Living Facility. Unfortunately, my parents were thousands of miles away, but it did give me a chance to look around the facility and see if the residents were satisfied with their living situation.
You might want to return to the facilities that you liked best. By this point you should have enough experience to know more about what you are looking for. Does your parent want a lot of activities? Do they have special meal requirements? Do they want to be on a bus line? Prepare a grid like checklist to evaluate all the facilities and compare them. I asked how many nurses they had on staff and what hours. What is the staff to resident ratio? Is laundry service included in the monthly fee? Is telephone service included? What about television cable? Can they keep a cat or dog if they want to? Can dad use his motorized scooter inside the building? Do they have a waiting list for new residents? Is there a fee to be on the waiting list? Do they have respite beds so new residents can move in immediately should such a move be necessary? Do they have furnished units or will your parents have to bring in their own furniture?
When talking to mom and dad, you can mention friends that are in assisted living and how happy they are with it. If they have friends who already moved to an assisted living facility, see if you can arrange for a visit. Your parents may surprise you and suggest moving sooner than you thought. If not, you will be ready for the crisis.
When mom or dad ends up in the hospital or unable to continue to live independently at home, you will be ready with a suggested living place. You might have to start with furnished respite rooms in order to place your parents immediately. Then, as you are able, you can move them in with their own furniture to their new apartment.
If you need help with the actual move, ask the assisted living facility for suggestions on transition movers. I found this service to be a life saver for me and my parents. For a total cost of less than $1000, they moved my parents furniture and clothing and hung the pictures on the walls in a similar fashion to where they had been in the mobile home. They took the excess furniture and belongings to the thrift store for us and the remaining garbage to the dump. They even boxed up the items I had set aside and shipped them north to my home for me. The actual cost will be dependent upon how much work is involved — how much furniture and belongings, etc. Moving from a mobile home was much less expensive than it would have been to move everything from their 4 bedroom home.
Before your parent agrees to move to assisted living you might feel discouraged that this quest will be successful. However, advance preparation will give you a backup plan if they aren’t ready now. There isn’t a guaranteed solution to this problem. Parents realistically worry about the financial aspects as well as the social aspects of this change. Be prepared to give them reasonable well researched answers to their questions.