When's The Right Time To Consider Assisted Living?

A dear friend named Helen recently moved into an assisted living facility and shares her experience with us.
An attractive older woman holding a white coffee cup looking at beautiful trees out her window

As more Baby Boomers age, the number of older adults in the United States is growing. Estimates are that by 2050, the older population will be more than 80 million. This is up from 35 million in 2000.

To keep up with the needs of this increasing population, more assisted living facilities are likely to arise. These may range from tiny facilities to stand-alone locations to housing within a larger care community.

Helen’s Story

A few months ago, my friend Helen* told me she was starting to get serious about moving into an assisted living facility.

Honestly, I wasn’t surprised. More sad, because I know I’ll miss her. We’ve had a habit of meeting for a walk or chatting over the fence.

But, it’s a good sign. Helen’s husband had passed away a few years ago. She was living on her own. And, I’d wondered how things were really going. It seemed like we’d been skirting the topic for some time.

Helen is aware that she is not as strong as she used to be. While she can ‘manage’ there are issues affecting her quality of life. She isn’t driving anymore. Lifting a carton of milk is tough. And, while she loves her home and her freedom, she’s told me she often feels lonely.

Rather than living alone and struggling with some daily activities, she was being clear-headed.

My hunch is that she’s been coming to this decision for some time. It helps that Sally*, one of her dear friends, moved to a local facility a few months back.

Sally keeps telling Helen how she enjoys having someone to share a meal with. She is taking watercolor classes, doing yoga and is more active at 86 than she had been in years.

In Helen’s case, she didn’t have to worry about the cost. She knew someone in the facility already. And, she had personal recommendations, and liked the place from visits with Sally.

Three female seniors make goofy poses

Planning for Peace of Mind

To ensure peace of mind, many people rely on personal recommendations and referrals. If you have a friend or acquaintance in a local facility, stop by and get their take. Most people are happy to give you a candid, no-nonsense assessment of the pros and cons of each place.

Some specific criteria can help with sorting out options:

  • Get personal recommendations
  • Check online for reviews
  • Evaluate care needed
  • Understand levels of care available
  • Check for waiting lists, space availability
  • Review costs and payment plans
  • Visit the facility in person

In finding the best facility, experts note it’s not only about what’s on paper or online.

A facility is going to become your new home, and place of care, comfort and ease. Finding the best match for you means the place must line up with your personal values. This may be values such as: community, location, orientation, and focus on well-being.

  • Proximity to family and friends
  • Religious or spiritual orientation
  • Culture of the facility
  • Features of the grounds and building
  • Programs for health and well-being
  • Facilities for active seniors
  • Offerings for different levels of care
  • Community: friends in the facility

Finding the place that works for you and your loved one may take some intensive work and consideration.

Once you decide on the top few, many experts advise contemplation and reflection. This is going to be the next home for you or your loved one. Making sure this is the decision that you feel is right for you can make the transition easier and smoother.

Update from Helen

I talked with Helen the other day. She moved a few weeks ago to the assisted living facility and is down the hall from Sally. She is happy with her decision and more than a little surprised that she doesn’t miss her former home as much as she expected. “I’m enjoying being around people. I’ve talked more, played cribbage, gone for walks and the day just doesn’t seem to be long enough.”

If you are considering an assisted living program, take some time to get to know people who live in the one you’re thinking of. You may find a new community of friends waiting to welcome you.

Assistance Club Summary

The #1 success factor: Find the place that works for you.

With a clear list of your personal criteria, making this decision can be easier and smoother than you may have imagined.

* Names changed to protect privacy.