Assisted Living Questions and Answers



No one wants to move from their home into assisted living. However, in some cases, it is the best option to keep elderly or aging parents safe and healthy.

To determine if it’s time for assisted living, or if your elderly parent can safely remain at home, take a good look at the present housing situation, health status and medical needs.


Signs that may indicate it’s time for assisted living:


  • Is your parent telling you that he is eating, but you’re seeing food go bad in the refrigerator?



  • Is your parent falling? To determine the answer, is your parent covering up bruises he or she doesn’t want you to see?


  • Is your parent wearing the same clothes when you go to visit? Can they bathe themselves, groom adequately and launder clothes?


  • When you look around the house or yard, is it as neat and clean as it used to be?


  • Is your aging parent remembering to take medications correctly, with the right dosages and at the right time? Are medications expired?


  • Are they able to operate appliances safely? Do they remember to turn appliances off when they are finished cooking?


  • Is the home equipped with safety features such as grab bars and emergency response systems?


  • Do they have a plan in place to contact help in case of an emergency?


  • Are they driving? Should they be driving? Do they have alternate means of transportation?


  • Are there stacks of papers and unpaid bills lying around?


  • Do they have friends, or are they isolated from others most of the time?


  • When you really look at your parent, do you see the bright and vibrant person from years ago, or do you see a more limited person who needs some help one hour a day, or even around the clock?


Making the decision to move a parent into assisted living is one of the hardest and most heart-wrenching decisions of your life. But if it keeps your parent healthy and safe and perhaps even happy, then it is probably for the best for the parent, the caregiver and the family.


When it is time for a family member to move to assisted living, caregivers and family members have lots of questions.


Here are the most common questions that caregivers have about finding assisted living:



What exactly is an assisted living facility?


An assisted living facility is a community for seniors who cannot live independently.


One of the reasons that assisted living centers are appealing to many people is that they offer a relatively high level of independence.


If your parent is in good health and doesn’t require much assistance with everyday tasks, assisted living is a terrific option. In fact, residing in an assisted living center is similar to having a private apartment, complete with private bathroom and kitchen, but you can rest easy with the knowledge that trained staff is on hand to help your loved one when necessary.


Assisted living communities might provide daily living care for bathing, dressing, toileting, grooming, and eating — however be sure to read to contract carefully. In some cases, “personal care” is an additional cost, or an outside home health care agency is required to perform these tasks.



What’s the difference between assisted living and a nursing home?


Assisted living does not provide medical care, such as treatment for specific conditions or diseases like Parkinson’s disease or hospice care. The assisted living facility will assess the elder to decide what kind of care his or her needs require.


Nursing homes, on the other hand, are designed to house and assist individuals who have health conditions that require constant monitoring and the availability of medical personnel.



When is it time to consider assisted living for your parents?


An elder should make the move to assisted living if hiring in-home care is not an option. If your parent is constantly confused, forgetful and sometimes wanders, their safety is at risk. If your parent has severe mobility issues and cannot get around the house safely and on their own, they need assistance.


Are pets allowed at assisted living?



Many allow pets. Check with the assisted living facility.


How much does assisted living cost and who pays the bill?



Although the cost for assisted living varies by the facility, the national average is $2,969 per month for a one bedroom apartment with a private bath. The rate is significantly higher for seniors who require Alzheimer’s or dementia care, with costs of $4,270 per month.


Residents of assisted living facilities use “private pay” to cover the costs. The way in which they pay is up to the individual. Some people use personal savings, pensions and/or social security to cover the costs. Some people also use long term care insurance. Medicaid and other federal programs do not pay for the costs of assisted living. Some states offer waivers for assisted living for special circumstances. Check with your Area Agency on Aging to find out if your state offers a waiver.


An exception to private pay for assisted living is low-income or government subsidized communities. If your parent meets certain income and asset requirements, the government will subsidize the cost of the rent.



What happens if I run out of money when mom is in assisted living?


You have a few options to consider if this situation occurs. First, discuss your situation with the facility. Many times, the facility will be willing to negotiate some kind of agreement. These situations are handled on a case-by-case basis, but they may be able to reduce rent or set up a payment plan to cover past-due payments. Second, check with your state’s agency on aging to find out if there is an available program that may help you. Finally, check to see if your parent has any funds that you may not have tapped into or if they qualify for low-income or government subsidized housing.


Unfortunately, residents in assisted living facilities do not have the same protection as those in nursing homes. Although the assisted living facility is required to give a 30 day notice of discharge, the resident is not protected from involuntary discharge. Exhaust all options to prevent this from happening.


How can caregivers deal with the guilt of moving a parent to assisted living?



Guilt is a feeling that many caregivers experience when they move an elderly parent into an assisted living facility. Don’t let guilt get the best of you! Always keep in mind that the move was the best option for your parent.


You can still be a caregiver even when your parent moves. For example, you can make sure their apartment has personal touches. You can be a liaison between the assisted living staff and your parent. You still make sure that your parent’s needs are being met. Remember that you are doing your best to make sure that your parent is receiving the best care possible.



What can mom or dad bring with them to assisted living?


Your parent can bring any of their personal items that can fit in the apartment. Your parents can bring furniture, too.



Can a senior be denied by an assisted living community?


It is possible. Once the facility assesses your parent’s health, they will decide if he or she is a good candidate. If your parent needs more care than assisted living provides, they will most likely refer him or her to skilled nursing, also known as a nursing home. Also, you or your parent needs to be able to pay for the cost of assisted living. If you or your parent cannot afford the costs, then the elder can be denied.


Many assisted living communities have waiting lists (usually the reputable ones), so, although your parent may not have been denied, it may be awhile before they can actually move into the community.



How do I know they’re getting good care at assisted living?


Find a good assisted living community and make yourself a regular presence in the facility and develop relationships with the staff, if possible. Ask questions. Monitor your elderly loved one’s behavior, what they say, and pay special attention if you notice any bruises or cuts on his or her body.


By asking questions and maintaining communication with staff, it is easier to keep tabs on the care your parent is receiving. If you suspect elder abuse or neglect, talk to a supervisor or contact an ombudsman.



What happens when mom’s Alzheimer’s worsens? Will she have to move?


Usually people who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia can stay in assisted living. Again, Alzheimer’s and dementia care is handled on a case-by-case basis. Many assisted living facilities offer a secure unit for residents with limited memories. If you do not want your parent in a memory unit, you can always hire a private duty nurse. Private duty nurses allow seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s to stay in their current apartment, rather than in a secure unit.


Check with your parent’s facility to learn its policy. Finally, when seniors can no longer function without 24 hour assistance, the move to a nursing home may be required.



How big are the rooms? Can couples live together?


Room sizes can vary. There are studio apartments and one, two or three bedroom apartments. They have private bathrooms (nursing homes usually have shared bathrooms). Some even have kitchenettes. Couples usually can live together, but it is best to check with the facility first.


Can mom or dad socialize with others?



One of the benefits of an assisted living facility is that there are group activities available for residents. Everything from games to exercise classes to happy hours are offered. However, if your parent does not like to participate in group activities, social interaction can still happen at meal time, since meals are usually eaten in the community dining room.




What if they don’t want to socialize? Is there privacy?


If your parent desires complete privacy they have the option of staying in their apartment and even eating meals in their apartment.


Sometimes privacy cannot be given though, if your parent needs assistance with certain things. For instance, if your parent wants privacy during meal time, but he or she needs assistance eating, they may opt to eat in their apartment, but a staff member will still need to be with them to assist. However, assisted living communities encourage residents to socialize and engage with other residents. Staying in their room alone at all times can lead to loneliness and depression.


What will mom do all day?


A vital part of quality of life is social interaction and assisted living facilities aim to provide a means for that interaction. A variety of activities are offered to ensure that your parent has something to do that fits their interests.



There are many kinds of games offered, such as bingo, board games, puzzles and cards. There are social parties. There is usually some kind of physical exercise activity. There are movie nights. Also, entertainers of all sorts come in, and there are usually one to two different entertainers per week. There may be musical entertainment one night and a magician another night. Good assisted living facilities offer many different activities to suit people’s needs and interests.



If you are concerned with a facility’s activity schedule, talk to the activities director. They are open for suggestions!



Are assisted living residents kept on a daily schedule?


Yes and no. Elders in assisted living still maintain some sort of independence and can decide which activities in which they wish to participate. For example, if your parent usually plays bingo, he or she can decide not to play one day. They do not have to go with activities schedules. Your parent will be on a daily schedule when it comes to things like meals, medication, bathing, dressing and grooming, and housekeeping.


Your parent will eat three meals per day: one in the morning, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. There is a window of time allowed for certain needs. For instance, if your parent needs assistance with bathing, he or she will know that a staff member comes to their apartment on a certain day between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.


What if they don’t remember to take their medications?



If a resident does not remember to take medication regularly, staff can assist with that. A staff member may call the resident to come to the nursing station to take medication or someone may visit the resident’s apartment and administer the medication. If you feel that your parent needs assistance with remembering medication, talk to the staff at the facility.



Does mom or dad need a car? How do they get to the doctor?


Many facilities allow residents to have cars if they are able to drive. It is not imperative that your parent has a car. Assisted living facilities have transportation available for residents for doctor appointments, shopping, banking needs, etc.



What happens if an elder has an emergency at assisted living?


There are a variety of ways for staff to be informed of an emergency. Many assisted living facilities have emergency pull-cord systems. A pull cord would be placed in every room of a resident’s apartment and if he or she needs assistance, they can pull the cord and the receptionist will be alerted to send for help.


Another emergency device is a panic button. Residents may wear a necklace with a panic button that alerts the receptionist that there has been an emergency. Panic buttons are particularly useful for falls.


In assisted living, residents are checked on multiple times per day since they need care for different things. Often, if a staff member has not seen a resident for awhile, he or she may pop in the room just to check on them and make sure everything is okay.



How do I know mom or dad will be safe?


Security is available in the form of emergency security and general community security. Guests are required to sign in so that the facility knows who comes in and out of the building. Also, to ensure caregiving safety, staff members must pass a background check prior to being hired.


Recommended Reading:

America is getting older. Baby-boomers are confronted with the problem of helping their elderly parents find the best living situation for their old age. It won’t be long before they and their own children will find themselves in the same situation.

One of the most promising retirement alternatives today is the Assisted Living Facility, a residence in which elderly people can live autonomously yet be provided with essential services like food, housekeeping, on-premises medical attention and social activities.

Most of the information available to prospective residents and their adult children comes from the brochures of these very enterprises and a handful of books on the subject. None of these publications were written by a resident of one of these facilities.

Carol Netzer has been a resident in assisted living facilities for over four years. She is also a trained psychologist, naturally inclined to observe human behavior wherever she goes. She is uniquely qualified to write about the difference between a successful and unsuccessful experience for the new resident in assisted living.

This book is a unique combination of descriptions of day-to-day operations in assisted living, personal impressions, and observations of fellow-residents and how they interact. It is sure to be a valuable resource for people who are either considering making the commitment to assisted living or are urging an aging parent to do so. Read the reviews



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Convincing Your Parents to Transition to Assisted Living

 Convincing Your Parents to Transition to Assisted Living



One of the most asked questions regarding senior care involves “the conversation”…or  how to talk with your parents about assisted living.


Many caregivers dread having this discussion and with good reason.



How will mom or dad respond? Are they going to think you are trying to take away their independence? How can you communicate your concerns to them without making them defensive or angry?


So how do you have this conversation? Is there a manual, script or rule book to consult to help guide you through this sensitive topic and addresses the dos/don’ts of going about it? Here are some of our thoughts which may help:


Conventional wisdom says that we all want to stay in our own homes for as long as we can. That is likely how most of our elders feel; however it’s not always in their best interest to do so.


How do we talk with them about the realities and dangers of staying at home once their health is failing, and how do we convince them that a move to an assisted living center could be a very good – and positive option?


I believe that part of the problem with convincing elders, and many younger people for that matter, is that people haven’t been inside a modern assisted living center.



“Old Folk’s Home”


Deep inside their gut, they harbor the outdated image of an “old folk’s home.”


They consider a move from the family home one more step away from independence and one step closer toward death.


They think a move to assisted living signifies to the world that they now have the proverbial “one foot on a banana peel and one foot in the grave.” This image and mindset is stubborn.


For many elders, some in-home help and a personal alarm can be enough. They are able to stay in their own home for years with a relatively small amount of help.


Then, a spouse dies. The survivor is now truly alone.


There’s no one to get help for them should they fall and can’t set off their alarm. There are few opportunities to socialize. Meals become a chore, so they don’t eat well. Memory is failing, and the stove doesn’t get turned off. The single elder, stubbornly clinging to the idea that their familiar home is best, can often be a sad and lonely sight.


Contrast this life with living in a good assisted living center, whether it’s a stand-alone building, one connected to a nursing home or a small family operation where only a few seniors board.


In any of these situations, seniors can thrive because:


  • They don’t have the responsibility of keeping up a home, so they are relieved of the need to hire help or let the house deteriorate.


  • They have people around should they need medical help or other assistance.


  • They have choices of food and snacks with nutritional value and, in most cases, good quality.


  • Perhaps most importantly, they make new friends and have an abundance of activities to choose from.



Okay, you are convinced. You know that you can’t keep providing the constant oversight for your parent that has been taking over your life, and by extension, taking over the lives of your spouse and children. How do you go about convincing your parent that it’s time think about moving to assisted living?


  • First, plant the seed. Don’t approach your parent as though you’ve already made the decision for him or her. Just mention that there are options that could make life easier and more fun.



  • Next, offer a tour of some wonderful local assisted living centers, if he or she is willing, but don’t push it. Drop the subject if necessary, and wait for another day.


  • Watch for a “teachable moment.” Did Mom fall, but escape getting badly hurt? Use that as a springboard. You may want to wait a bit, or immediately say something like, “Wow, that was close. Once you’re feeling better, maybe we could go look at the new assisted living center over by the church. We’d both feel better if you had people around.” Go with your gut on the timing, but use the “moment.”


  • Again, don’t push unless you consider this an emergency. It’s hard to wait, but you may need to. Wait for, say, a very lonely day when Mom is complaining about how she never sees her friends anymore. Then, gently, try again.


  • Check with your friends and friends of your parents. See if any live happily in an assisted living center nearby, or if their parents do. Just like your first day of school when you looked for a friend – any friend – who may be in your class, your parent would feel much better if there were a friend already in the center.


  • Even if they won’t know anyone, you can still take your parent to watch a group having fun playing cards or wii bowling.


  • Show off the social aspects of a good center. Keep it light and don’t force the issue. Tour more than one center, if possible, and ask your parent for input. Big center or small? New and modern or older and cozy?



  • Show interest in how much privacy a resident has. Ask about bringing furniture from home and how much room there is. Take measuring tapes and visualize, if you can see some rooms, how your parent’s room(s) would look. Show excitement, as you would do if you were helping your parent move to a new apartment, because that’s what you are doing.



  • Stress the safety aspects


  • Stress the fact that there’s no yard cleanup, but flowers can be tended to. There’s no need to call a plumber if the faucet breaks, but there are plenty of things to do if people want. There’s plenty of freedom to be alone, but company when they desire it.


Then wait.


Let it all sink in.


Sorry to say that if you want your parent to make the decision, you could have to wait for another fall or something else before they will be willing to take that step. However, if your family is close-knit, have a meeting with the parent at this point and tell him or her how much better the family would feel if the move were made.


Enlist a family friend or spiritual leader to chat with your parent and state the case for this move. Third parties often can make headway when family fails.


Be sensitive to your parent’s feelings. Leaving a home where he or she lived with a life partner, raised kids and once had friends among the neighbors is emotionally difficult. Whittling down a lifetime of possessions is hard. Be kind, be sensitive and try to make it be about your parent and not about you.


However, if you must – let your parent know that it will help you to know that he or she is safe. Play the “we are worried about your care.” It’s the truth. It’s just easier if you can swing it, to let the parent make the decision.



Here are some do’s and don’ts for your talk on assisted living:


  • Do Laugh – This sounds like an out of context piece of advice, but it is one that is desperately needed during this time. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry; find humor even in the most bizarre circumstances and let it RELAX you. It’s okay to laugh. The last thing you want to do is approach your parents with pent up emotions, expecting the worst and feeling ready for combat. Instead, lighten up! Follow your loved one’s lead and calmly let it guide the conversation.


  • Don’t Judge – Don’t use the fact that you and your parent(s) may not have gotten along in your youth to force the idea of alternative care upon them. Think about how you would want to be treated if you were in their position (some day you will be!).  Leave your judgment at the door and go in with an open mind. Be prepared to accept your loved one’s choices. Support them in the decisions they make.


  • Do Have Empathy – The only way you’re going to know exactly how your parents are feeling is if you could crawl into their brain and sense their emotions. The next best way is to actively listen to their fears and concerns, not speaking but focusing on their message; putting your emotions aside. Also, consider that your parents may already be receptive to this change and merely want to use this forum to be heard.


  • Don’t Go into the Talk Unprepared – If for all of life’s challenging moments you had access to a script that could magically smooth away the bumps in the road, then moments like these would be predictable and the outcomes pleasant. But you don’t. The closest thing to a script is preparation.


Be ready to offer information on:


  • Assisted living communities in your neighborhood and the maintenance-free lifestlye that is offered


  • How the senior care services can make life easier for both of you and meet your love one’s changing  needs


  • What assisted living is and is not (it’s not a nursing home!)


  • How you will continue to be involved and support them


  • The peace of mind you both can enjoy


Last, but not least have a professional guide you through the process if at some point it becomes too overwhelming, even with siblings by your side.


Remember, you never had a dress-rehearsal for this role, so be easy on yourself and root for the best outcome!

Key Takeaways:


  • One of the most common questions caregivers have is how to talk with their loved one(s) about assisted living.
  • The next most common question is: Is there a manual or rule book to consult that handles this sensitive topic?
  • Try to lighten up before the talk! Follow your loved one’s lead and calmly let it guide the conversation.
  • Regardless of your past relationship with your parent(s) or loved one, don’t judge them. Be prepared to accept and support their choices.
  • Don’t go into the talk unprepared; be ready to provide all the necessary information about care options that will help put your loved ones at ease.


Recommended Reading:





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