Downsizing from your home is a major life event, so proceed with great care.
You are seeing the need for a change.
Taking care of that big old empty house with its second floor master bedroom, endless household maintenance, and labor intensive gardening is no longer an option or fun anymore.
In short, it is high time to downsize and make a move.
Enter assisted living.
For many seniors, assisted living is an attractive alternative to remaining in their homes.
After all, the entire facility is designed to make life easier, more physically accessible, and enjoyable for season citizens.
Assisted living is not to be confused with the institutional setting of a nursing home, but rather think of assisted living as a place where you can more safely and securely age in place.
According to Consumer Reports in an article titled “5 Steps for Choosing the Right Assisted Living Community”, finding the right assisted living arrangement requires due diligence before signing any contract and moving in.
As you can imagine, paying for all of the conveniences and services is not cheap.
How expensive is it?
A 2017 survey by long-term care insurer Genworth found the median cost for a private one-bedroom apartment was $45,000 a year, most of which was paid by residents out of pocket
Note: Medicare generally does not cover long-term care services.
Aside from the cost, the facilities themselves are having a difficult time retaining reliable caregivers.
Consumer Reports surveyed state long-term-care ombudsmen in 2017 and found that the most common complaints filed by residents were directly related to understaffing.
One of the big complaints was delays in response to calls for assistance.
Were complaints unique and limited to 2017 for some reason?
Ombudsman data reveal that complaints against assisted living facilities have gone up fully 10% in recent years.
Against this sobering backdrop, how should you conduct your own due diligence before taking the leap into assisted living?
Consumer Reports recommends asking five key questions:
- What Kind of Care is Required? Different facilities offer varying levels of care. Is there a registered nurse on staff? Without this basic level of care, you loved one might end up going to the ER more often.
- What is the Quality of Care? Review the licensing and inspection records of the facility. Are there any issues? Make several unannounced "I was in the neighborhood and thought I would drop by" visits, in addition to the more formal "tour" conducted by a representative of the marketing department. This includes dropping by at mealtime and on weekends. What is the atmosphere when fewer staff members are on duty. Talk to residents and their families about their experiences. Insider information is only a problem when it comes to stock tips.
- What are the Real Costs of the Care? Get a written schedule of fees and charges from the residence. Ensure that they are included in the contract. Engage an elder law attorney to review any contract before signing. Sometimes what is not covered is more important than what is.
- Can You Age in Place? What scenarios might trigger an involuntary discharge? If more care is required than provided under the contract, is hiring private aides an option. If an involuntary discharge were needed, what assistance does the facility provide?
- Is There an Advocate? How are complaints processed and addressed by the facility? Even after you have selected a residence, it is important that family and friends visit regularly. They will be better able to spot problem areas more readily than you will. Kind of like the story of the frog in the pan of water. The water may be boiling before the frog notices the subtle changes in time to act. If you ever become frail, ill, or confused, then you will need a loved one to advocate for your interest.
An elder law attorney can be an invaluable resource in this entire process.
He or she likely knows the skinny on all of the assisted living centers and can save you time (and heartache) as you make this major move.
For a directory of elder law attorneys near you, visit the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys website.
Reference: Consumer Reports (April 16, 2018) “5 Steps for Choosing the Right Assisted Living Community”