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March 15, 2012

It’s Not About the Fountain in the Lobby

The decision has been made. All the discussion, negotiation, and stalling is over. A few tears have been shed. But finally, your elderly mom or dad is moving out of the family home. He or she will be going to a facility that offers daily assistance and monitoring.  And you’re relieved.

It’s easy to think that the decision to make such a move—which can be emotional for everyone involved—is the hardest part of the transition. But before the For Sale sign goes up on the house, it’s important to know exactly what your loved one is getting, and getting into. After years of consulting with caregivers and working with elder care professionals, I’ve seen many families judge facilities based on appearances, cost, and maybe a cursory Internet search.  And I have to tell them there’s more to consider.

I recall one woman who moved her mom to a continuing care retirement community (CCRC).  Her mother had moderate-level dementia and she was thrilled to find a “nice” place that would accept her. So, she didn’t ask many questions. I advised our client to meet with the community’s care team immediately.  She needed to know whether her mom would ever be required to move to the next level of care or if that decision remained with the family. She needed to know under what circumstances her mother would be required to move to the skilled nursing facility. And she needed to know what programs were in place for people with varying levels of dementia.  Needless to say, she also needed to know the financial impact increased care would have on the family.

We helped her connect with the CCRC staff.  Our client had to adjust some of her assumptions, but at least now she knows what to expect and still feels the facility is a good fit for her mother.  That story had a happy ending.  I’d love to hear from caregivers who had good or bad experiences looking for assisted living facilities.  What qualities and provisions were most important to you and your family? 

If you're trying to select a senior care residence for someone close to you, and you need help, call our Senior Care Advisors at 855-772-2730.


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Jody, How true your comments are. My Mom had a stroke on my BDay in 2009 and we moved her to assisted living after rehab. In hindsight, Mother probably needed to be in a home where she could get more assistance than an assisted living provides. Mom wouldn't move in with me but I still became her primary giver while trying to maintain a demanding job in corporate America. Long story short, we lost Mom in January 2011 and I lost my job in July 2011 because my performance declined while I cared for Mom. I wish I had known there are people who can assist. I learned the hard way and want to give back to those families during a difficult time of transition.

Jody Gastfriend

Thank you for your comment, Lynda. I am so sorry to hear about your losses. The impact caregiving has on our lives is incredibly pervasive, affecting our relationships, careers, and well-being. At we are working hard to let companies know that their employees need and deserve support and understanding around caregiving, as this is a role the majority of the population will face at some point in their lives. As you experienced, much involvement is required of caregivers, even if their parent is in a senior housing community, and too many of us are learning this “the hard way.” Our senior care advisors help caregivers understand what to expect from assisted living communities so they can ensure their parents get the appropriate care. I greatly respect your desire to want to give back to other families on this journey. This spirit is what will create the cultural shift in our society that is required to put support and education of caregivers at the forefront of the national conversation.

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