Should I take my 80-something parents with me to check out assisted living facilities for them or go alone?

6 answers | Last updated: Feb 28, 2013
A fellow caregiver asked...

I'm beginning to search for an assisted living facility for my parents. My mom, who's 82, has type 2 diabetes but is in relatively good health. But my 84-year-old dad had a stroke a year ago and needs a walker to get around. Should I plan on bringing them along on tours so they can choose for themselves, or should I go alone and only involve them once I've found the right place?

Expert Answers

Both. Generally speaking, the best strategy is first to tour all the facilities you're interested in by yourself. Then, when you have two in mind that you think are the best, take your parents along to visit just those two. That way, you don't overwhelm them, which can easily happen if they're barraged with too many choices.

That said, it's important to involve your parents in the choice right from the start. The best way to do this is to set up a series of short family meetings to agree on a decision process and to get a sense of what your parents' priorities are. Do they care most about being close to friends or family? Having a spacious apartment? A full schedule of activities? Top-notch food? Do your parents prefer a quiet, rural environment or an urban setting with good public transportation? Each meeting should have a set beginning and ending time; if meetings drag on and on, fatigue will set in, minds will start to wander, and your family may resist attending future meetings.

Once you've clarified what your parents want, your list of options will grow shorter and more focused, and your parents will be more likely to approve of the final two choices you present to them.

By the way, if your parents are reluctant to move, it's tempting to exclude them from both the meetings and the tours, but getting their opinions -- even if their preferences are voiced in terms of what they don't want -- will increase the chances that they'll be satisfied with what you find.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

I am a professional geriatric care manager and agree with Pamela's recommendations.  It is important to include your parents in the process as much as possible.  In addition to the considerations listed, don't forger to consider the type of residents in the facility, and whether your parents will feel comfortable, with the people they will be living with.  For example, if  they did not live in "high society" most of their life, they may not be comfortable living with this crowd, and may prefer a more modest, middle-class type of facility.  Jeannie Krause-Taylor

Eldercare advisor answered...

These are some great tips... a major consideration is always the financial landscape. There are many things to consider and timing is critical. Consider working with a Geriatric Care Manager, [and/or] Elder law attorney.

Cbs answered...

What Jeannie said bears repeating. "In addition to the considerations listed, don't forger (sic forget) to consider the type of residents in the facility, and whether your parents will feel comfortable, with the people they will be living with. For example, if they did not live in "high society" most of their life, they may not be comfortable living with this crowd, and may prefer a more modest, middle-class type of facility." That is so extremely important. Remember you are helping to choose where THEY will live, not where YOU will live. My older brother kept insisting that this one particular assisted living home was the only place for my Mom - it had a swimming pool, a bowling alley, a movie theater, daily card games, etc - etc - etc. My mom was horrified at the thought - she doesn't do any of those things - she has been a stay-at-home mom/wife all her life. She attends church and is involved with activities such as quilting and helping out in the church office. She is NOT a social butterfly. My brother no longer speaks to me because I supported her desire NOT to go where she would be among people she felt were her "superior" - I didn't agree with her inferiority thinking but that is how she has been all her life and at 87 y/o we are not going to change her now. HE would have been totally at home at that assisted living home. Unfortunately he was and is unable to understand that SHE must be comfortable, not him. I, as my Mom's primary caregiver and POA, chose to honor my Mom's wishes and kept her at home with assistance. Again, my brother no longer speaks to me because I chose to honor my Mom's preferences instead of his. He is the oldest and a son, so has always gotten his way and at 65, I guess we aren't going to change him either. So I go it alone. I have another brother and sister but neither one has the backbone of a worm. "What ever you want" is the only comment from them - and it is said to whomever is talking at the time. No real support there. Sorry, I digressed. Anyway, just as Jeannie said, consider your parents' feelings about the type of persons they will be living among. That is just as - if not more so - important than the care given.

Coffeehouse answered...

cbs is soooo right! I'm having the exact same issues with my mother. She won't attend adult day care (couldn't they call it something else) or do anything without me. My brother is absolutely useless. He and my sister-in-law no longer speak to me because I have refused to allow them access to my mother's bank account. He tended to help himself when he was a little short. No matter that she lives on SS alone with no other assets. Wish I could send cbs a hug or prayer or email.

Clubkeller answered...

When I saw my dad would really be better off in Assisted living (receiving help) vs living alone, I knew my dad's temperment would not even allow a discussion of this type. He was set in his ways and he was always right and he could take care of himself.

I had to come up with a different way to approach this sensitive topic. I started casually stating small things that were obvious that would be a benefit for him. Some topics were: wouldn't it be nice if someone else was cooking your meals. Wouldn't it be nice if bus service was right at your door. Wouldn't it be great to have laundry service. All these items were true and he agreed. Then I dropped the topic. A week or more later I'd bring up more information, I mentioned there was a senior community that had small apartments and all those benefits that we discussed. Then I ended the conversation.

One day I took my dad to lunch and one of the facilities was right next door. I said why don't we go check it out. We could look at one of the apartments. He agreed and he loved the place. He liked the apartment, the main dining room, and all it had to offer and he did not feel threatened because he wasn't moving in. He was just checking it out. In the end we checked out 3 or 4 facilities so I knew which one he liked the best and would feel comfortable living in.

Not even a year later he had heart surgery and I was told he couldn't live alone. I mentioned he would be going for rehab at the facility we looked at earlier that year, the one he loved. He welcomed it with open arms, because he already knew what to expect. After rehab he became a full time resident and he remained there for the next 2 years.