It’d be nice if moving to an assisted living center could be boiled down to 10 easy steps. In truth, these all have multiple sub-steps. It’s a complicated process and can be uncomfortable at times.
Careful planning will help smooth the transition. Each person’s decision is unique, but if you’re just getting started for yourself or a loved one, consider these 10 steps. They’re not necessarily in the right order.
1. Understand the different types of living centers
You’ve got five basic types to pick from. Larger and more integrated facilities may include several of these.
- Retirement and independent living communities — These typically have a minimum age requirement, for example 55 and older. They offer no special health care services. Instead, they focus on providing a strong sense of community among people who want to enjoy retirement among peers.
- Lifeplan communities — Also called continuing care retirement communities, these places offer a high level of independence including a focus on camaraderie and activities plus a medical component. So if you need or want access to regular medical care, consider one of these.
- Assisted living — Assisted living is for people who can’t reasonably live alone. Some specialize in memory health support for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
- Skilled nursing — This is the highest level of ongoing care. People in skilled nursing facilities, also called nursing homes, may require round-the-clock care.
2. Talk to your medical provider
Your doctor may be your best ally in understanding what level of support you need, if any, when making choices about where to live. Remember that the decision is yours to make under the guidance of a medical professional. While you can be your own best advocate, a doctor can help you work through questions and steer you in the direction that’s best for your condition.
3. Talk to your support network
Do you have family or friends you can rely on regularly?
Get their take on what to do and recruit helpers. At the very least, moving out of your home might require a few yard sales and someone with a truck. You want the people whom you count on to be ready and included in your planning.
4. Evaluate your finances
How much you can afford will have a direct effect on your final decision. Since this element is so unique to each individual, we won’t spend a lot of time here.
Long-term care insurance can potentially open some doors for you if you start early enough. If you’re reading this now, for example, in your 40s or 50s, speak to a trusted financial advisor about the right plan for you.
REMEMBER: Medicare or Medicaid only kicks in after you’ve exhausted all your savings. To verify your benefits, ensure you speak to your funding sources directly.
5. Pick a neighborhood
Narrowing your search to a geographic area will help you parse out the specific community you want to live in. Think about how far or close you need the people in your life to be.
Ultimately, remember it’s your choice. If it’s financially and otherwise reasonable, go where it makes you happiest. Just because you’re entering a retirement community or assisted living center, it doesn’t mean you have to quit adventuring.
If you’ve always dreamed of living near the Pacific Coast, at least explore whether going there is an option. Your family members may grumble at the distance, but they’ll come around.
On the other hand, if family and your people are most important to you, try to keep the distance short.
6. Build a list of all the living centers in your neighborhood
This part should be pretty easy, thanks to the internet. Just key in the type of living center into a new Google search and add “near Santa Barbara” or “near Cape Cod” or “near Chicago” — wherever you want to go!
Watch out for the ones marked “Ad” at the top of the search results. Somebody paid for that spot. You generally want to click the search results that come up naturally; it’s not always the case, but those tend to be more trustworthy.
You can also use a website like assistedliving.org to find precisely the type of living center you want, down to whether it has a library or not. We’ll have more ideas about picking the facility below.
7. Check out the reviews
They’re not the ultimate guide, but public reviews offer some perspective on what life might be like.
Your state’s rating system for assisted living facilities might also get you closer to a decision. Check with your state’s health and human services department for guidance there.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Care Compare tool shows you five-star ratings based on health inspections and staffing. The ratings also include data on vaccination rates and whether the facilities have been penalized.
8. Plan to tour the assisted living centers on your list
Never decide to move somewhere without seeing the place first. This goes without saying. Take a tour, try the food, lay down on a bed, try the bathrooms. This is going to be your home — possibly indefinitely. Make sure you like it.
9. Decide what you’ll do with your old house
Are you leaving the family homestead behind? For financial reasons, you may wind up selling it.
If you’re fortunate enough to keep it in the family, make sure your family understands your wishes for the place. It will make the task of managing it much easier if you’re clear at the outset and have a plan that everyone agrees to.
10. Speak to a financial advisor
This advice perhaps belongs higher up in the list. If you’ve accumulated any wealth in your lifetime, either real estate or otherwise, find a trusted expert for guidance on how to manage it properly and protect it.
With the right amount of planning and deliberate moves, you can find an assisted living center that makes you feel safe, supported and connected. As always, please be sure to consult with the appropriate professional(s) before making a decision.