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Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing Assisted Living

Discover some of the most common mistakes families make when they choose an assisted living community and how to avoid them.

By Seniorly Editor · Updated Dec 2, 2022
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Choosing an assisted living community is such a life-changing decision that many families feel intimidated by the prospect. According to the National Center for Assisted Living, there are more than 30,000 assisted living facilities in the United States, and with so many options, fear of making the wrong choice often stalls the process. The key to making this process easier is to arm yourself with knowledge. Learning more about the most common mistakes families make when choosing senior care and how to avoid them can help you enjoy better results in your search for the perfect place for your loved one. 

Mistake #1 – Failing to be realistic about your loved one’s current and future needs

One of the big mistakes families often make as they help their loved one choose an assisted living property is failing to be realistic about current care needs as well as anticipated needs in the future. Studies show that 46% of assisted living residents have at least three chronic conditions while only slightly over half of the surveyed facilities have a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN) on staff. For seniors that have multiple medical conditions, a community with limited medical personnel may not be able to care for a senior if their care needs become more complex. Unfortunately, this problem can leave families with the difficult problem of moving their loved one to yet another facility in the near future, which can be costly and both physically and emotionally detrimental to your parent. 

Mistake #2 – Making quick decisions 

Even if your loved one needs assisted living quickly, it’s still important to do your research. Spend plenty of time considering your options so you don’t miss out on opportunities to make your senior’s experience more personalized. Sometimes families make the mistake of going with the first open room they find, and this often leaves seniors in an environment that doesn’t meet their needs. Take your time, learn more about your options, and help your parents make an informed decision. 

Making a quick decision often happens when a loved one ends up in the hospital and is required to have an assisted living community picked out before discharge. There are other scenarios that may make you feel like you’re forced to make a quick decision. This is when it’s beneficial to reach out to a company like ours that’s familiar with properties across the United States. If you’re forced into a hasty decision, it’s crucial to have the guidance of a professional that can help you make the best decision.   

Mistake #3 – Failing to get your parents involved in the decision 

As you’re considering assisted living properties, it’s easy to think about how you’d feel if you lived there. However, you need to think about what your parents want and make sure they’re involved in the decision. Failing to get them involved and making choices based upon your own preferences can result in frustration and placing them in a community that doesn’t really fit them. Get your parents involved by talking to your loved one. Some great questions you can ask include: 

  • Do you want to live with a roommate or would you prefer to have a room to yourself?
  • Are there special dietary restrictions or preferences we need to keep in mind?
  • Would you like a classic, simple menu or a menu that’s large and varied?
  • What types of activities and hobbies do you want to keep doing once you move?
  • Would you like to have your pet with you if it’s possible?

Keeping your parents involved will help them feel better about the decision and less like you’re making all the choices for them. Having a good understanding of their needs and wants can also help you work with them to find a location that offers the best fit. 

Mistake #4 – Not understanding the pricing structures of communities 

If you don’t fully understand the pricing structures of communities, the cost of assisted living can come as a huge surprise. Understanding the care available and fees associated with it can help you determine which properties will work best with your budget. Click here to read more about the costs associated with assisted living. 

A-La-Carte or Levels-of-Care Pricing

This pricing structure begins with a base fee that covers meals, room, and housekeeping. Then there are additional care options, which may include:

  • Continence management
  • Medication management
  • Personal care

These options will incur additional fees. For residents that need only basic care, this option may be an affordable option. 

All-Inclusive Pricing

This pricing structure may seem a bit steeper up front, but it means you’ll pay the same amount no matter the care level required. The benefit of this option is that even if your loved one needs additional care in the future, you’ll pay the same fees. 

Mistake #5 – Not taking time to tour multiple communities 

Every assisted living community is different, so it’s helpful to tour multiple communities before making a decision, although it may not be possible in every situation. Facilities vary significantly in terms of quality of care, staff attrition, food quality, atmosphere, and available activities. Take tours of multiple properties armed with a checklist to evaluate each community. Try to visit a minimum of 3-5 facilities in the area you’re considering. Ask questions, stay for a meal, and get involved in the available activities to make the most of the time you spend there. Get a good feel of what it would be like to live in that environment. 

Mistake #6 – Overemphasizing the importance of proximity 

Although you definitely want to find a community that’s easy to visit, PBS notes that it’s even more important to make sure you choose a suitable property. Don’t make the mistake of choosing a place that’s a few minutes closer just because it’s a shorter distance away. Sometimes adult children pick the closest option because they want to visit daily, even though a community a bit further away is a better fit for their parents. Go with the place that offers the best fit – that’s what will make your loved one the happiest long-term. 

Mistake #7 – Doing the searching alone 

Finding the right assisted living community is a huge decision – don’t do it alone. Gathering various perspectives on your available options can help. Get feedback from friends who’ve been through the process, a senior living advisor, and your loved one’s medical professionals. Professional help can save you a lot of stress and time, helping you narrow the available options to the ones that best fit your needs. Seniorly offers free, local support with our Seniorly Guides.  Use this service. There is no charge for you. The more knowledge and support you have, the better equipped you’ll be to help your parents make a decision that will keep them safe and happy in the long run. 

This piece is part of our Healthy Aging Handbook, read the next one to learn more about helping aging parents: How to Manage a Difficult Sibling During Your Parent's Move
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