5 Hard Truths About Moving Your Parents Into Assisted Living
When I toured the assisted living community with my parents, I cried into my complimentary soup. The sun was shining brightly in the atrium dining room, but I felt a darkness closing in as my parents told me, once again, that they weren’t ready. The elevators were slow, my dad complained. There were a lot of old people, my mom noted (without irony.)
“We’re fine,” he said.
They weren’t fine. And I was exhausted from the tension of waiting for something bad to happen to them at home. Frustrated, too. They had devised incredibly narrow criteria for what they’d be willing to consider: it couldn’t be a one bedroom, had to be near their current home, and couldn’t be an assisted living facility that required them to have help (even though they were hardly independent.) As a bonus, several specific properties were excluded out of hand for obscure reasons. It was hard to find a match. Especially when I added my own criteria that it be closer, not further, from my own home.
So when they refused the only place that matched their criteria, I broke down.
Balancing their needs and desires with what we could afford, and cross-referencing that with what was appropriate and available cost me lots of sleep and time. I hope sharing my lessons learned will help you in your moment of need!
Hard Truth About Moving Your Parents into Assisted Living #1: It’s Not Your Choice
Unless your parents are already fully financially and physically dependent on you to maintain their lifestyle, it’s their choice where they live. Your choices include if, when, and how to help. That’s a hard pill to swallow when you see them going down a path you wouldn’t choose for them. On the upside, accepting this can improve these sometimes difficult conversations with your parent(s).
Hard Truth About Moving Your Parents into Assisted Living #2: They May Not Have Enough Money
Senior living communities offer expensive services, and as a result, they cost a lot of money to live in. The median cost of a one bedroom apartment in an assisted living facility was $4,051 in 2019. That’s the national average; the average cost in your area may be much higher. And unless you have very few assets or have long-term care insurance, these costs will be out of pocket. Start by figuring out what’s financially possible and your options will narrow — in a good way. The choices can be overwhelming in some areas of the country.
Hard Truth About Moving Your Parents into Assisted Living #3: It May Not Even Be an Option
After you figure out if they can afford it, you’ll need to find a place that offers what they need. In some cases, your parents may already need more care than an assisted living facility can provide. This could be the case if they need medical care like blood monitoring or injections for diabetes. Or if they need memory care and the community they choose does not offer it. There isn’t a national standard that defines what services an assisted living community offers, so try to be clear about what your parents need. Ask questions to verify what’s included in the monthly fee (and what’s not included, but available at additional cost.)
Hard Truth About Moving Your Parents into Assisted Living #4: It May Take an Emergency
If your parents have been resistant to moving from their home, prepare for them to continue to be. They may not ever be ready. That leaves you to do research and understand the options ahead of time, in case a medical crisis or safety issues force a crisis. So while it’s not your choice now, it may be eventually. If your parents won’t talk or take action, it doesn’t hurt to think about what you would do if you could make the choice for them. This can help you feel more prepared in case you are one day forced to address their housing situation quickly and with minimal warning.
Hard Truth About Moving Your Parents into Assisted Living #5: It May Not Be the Last Move
Moving can be stressful for anyone, let alone seniors moving late in life. It would be nice to think that after all you went through to get your parents moved that they could plan on being there indefinitely. You may get lucky like that. There’s also a strong possibility that as their needs change they will need to move again. That might be to a different unit in the same facility, to a skilled nursing facility, a memory care facility, or somewhere else entirely. My mom has moved twice since she moved out of our family home, and if her health declines there may be one more move in her future, to a skilled nursing home. Try not to stress about this. It’s just something to keep in the back of your mind. Hope for the best, and plan for the worst.
Ok, But What Now?
If you’re looking to move your parents to assisted living and they don’t want to or can’t, there are several things you can do to shore up their life at home so they can stay there safely for as long as possible (if not forever.)
Common reasons that may force seniors to move are:
- Inability to maintain their home
- Difficulty managing daily activities like eating, dressing, and bathing
- Inability to drive or get transportation to events and appointments
- Difficulty managing medications
- A medical event or an illness makes it impossible or unsafe to stay at home
- Social isolation
If you put your creative hat on (and look at some of my other blog posts and products) you’ll see that you can preempt many of these issues by getting organized and putting some additional supports in place. Whether you take care of it yourself or hire help for them, I wish you the best. This stuff is HARD!
Don’t forget to breathe.
About the Author
Karen Purze is the author of Life In Motion: A Guide for Gathering Life’s Vital Details, a workbook to help people get their affairs in order. She blogs about end-of-life and emergency planning at lifeinmotionguide.com.