Questions to Ask on the First Call to Assisted Living

Questions to Ask on the First Call to Assisted Living

Dear Donna:

Last weekend, my brother and I talked with our mother about moving to an assisted living community. It was just a preliminary conversation to gauge how receptive she would—or wouldn’t—be to this idea.

Mom gave up driving a few months ago and we feel like she is spending too much time alone. We also worry that something might happen to her while she’s by herself, and she won’t be able to call for help.

Much to our surprise, mom was amenable to learning more about assisted living communities and visiting a few. My brother and I created a list of nearby communities and researched them online. Our next step is to call those that seem like a good fit for our mom. We’d like to narrow our list down to four communities to visit in person.

What questions should we ask on our first call to these communities? I want to make sure we don’t forget something important!

Sincerely,

Denise in Midland, MI

Questions to Ask to Learn More About Assisted Living

Dear Denise:

How great that your mother is interested in moving! Adult children are often surprised when things go this way. It sounds like you and your brother are very organized and off to a great start. I’m happy to suggest some questions that will help you and your brother make an informed choice.

If I were calling assisted living communities on behalf of a senior loved one, here are a few questions I would make sure to ask:

  • What is the ratio of team members to residents?
  • How long has the average team member worked at the community?
  • Is there a wait list? If so, how long is the anticipated wait?
  • How much is the monthly fee?
  • What services and amenities are included in the base fee? What additional fees should you expect to pay each month?
  • Is the resident required to sign a long-term contract?
  • Can the community’s dining staff accommodate special diets?
  • What types of activities are there for residents to participate in and how often do they occur?
  • Are transportation services available for doctor’s appointments and other outings? Is there a cost involved for utilizing it?
  • Where/how can you access the assisted living community’s most recent state survey? (Note: these are often viewable on the state Department of Health or Department of Aging website.)
  • Are residents able to decorate their apartments with their own belongings?
  • Do apartments have safety features (grab bars, fire suppression system) and an emergency call system?
  • Does the community offer medication assistance under the supervision of a nurse?
  • Are there on-site fitness activities and wellness programs?

While you will likely have your own questions specific to your mother, this should give you a baseline understanding of a community.

Best of luck to your family! I hope this transition goes smoothly.

Kind regards,

Donna

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How to Start a Conversation about Assisted Living with a Parent

How to Start a Conversation about Assisted Living with a Parent

Dear Donna:

My mom has been living alone the last five years since my dad passed. While she did well the first few years, her health has been declining over the last two. She lives in an older home with a lot of stairs, outdated bathrooms, and a detached garage set back from the house. It’s not a great environment for a senior who is struggling.

My husband and I help her as much as possible, but we both work full time. My worry is something will happen to her, and we won’t know until it’s too late. I’m also concerned that she is lonely and isolated. She deserves a better quality of life.

I would like to talk with my mom about moving to an assisted living community, but I’m not sure how to start the conversation. I really have no idea how she might feel about it. Do you have any advice?

Sincerely,

Cindy in Holland, MI

Tips for Talking with an Aging Parent about Assisted Living

Dear Cindy,

It sounds like your mom would be an ideal candidate for a move to an assisted living community. Too often we see families waiting for a crisis to occur before considering a move. Doing so overlooks how much an assisted living community has to offer, such as good nutrition, fitness opportunities, friendship, and the chance to participate in activities.

Take the following steps to learn about assisted living and to start the conversation with your mom:

  • Learn about the benefits: Spend some time researching the benefits assisted living communities offer to residents. From safety features, like grab bars and barrier-free showers, to socialization, assisted living communities support an improved quality of life.
  • Explore local options: Adult children may decide to visit local assisted living communities to see what is available. It will allow you to better understand pricing structure, availability, and each community’s unique personality. You can rule out those that aren’t a good fit. Once you talk with your mother about moving, you can visit communities that seem like the best options.
  • Create talking points: Before you sit down with your mother, think through what you’ve learned about assisted living communities. How will this move allow your mom (and you) to enjoy a better quality of life? Also, consider potential roadblocks she may bring up. For example, is your mom likely to think it’s too expensive? Be prepared to talk through the cost of remaining at home—insurance, groceries, utilities, lawn care, snow removal, and more.
  • Be realistic: It’s rare that a senior will agree to give up their home and move during a single conversation. Unless her safety is immediately at risk, this will likely be a series of conversations you have before your mom begins to visit communities. Forcing a timeline can result in her refusing to consider moving at all.

I hope these tips are helpful to you, Cindy! Please let me know if you have any more questions.

Kind regards,

Donna

Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan and Indiana

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How Do We Start the Process of Downsizing Our Home?

How Do We Start the Process of Downsizing Our Home?

Dear Donna:

My husband and I have decided it’s time to move to a senior living community. We have a large home in northern Michigan that we raised our family in. Now it’s too much to maintain. It’s costing us too much time and money.

Our goal is to start downsizing our house in preparation for a move this summer. Because we’ve lived here for so many years, the task feels overwhelming. We are hoping to find a two-bedroom apartment in a senior living community, so I know we will have to find new homes for a lot of our belongings.

Do you have any tips for helping us through this process? We could really use some advice.

Sincerely,

Kelly in Glen Arbor, MI

Tips to Downsize Before a Move to Senior Living

Dear Kelly:

You aren’t alone! In fact, older adults often say downsizing is one of the leading reasons they delay moving, even when they are more than ready for change. My first piece of advice is to take your time downsizing, whenever possible. Since it sounds like you are already planning ahead, you are off to a good start.

Keep the following suggestions in mind when downsizing:

  • Decide what matters most.

Which pieces of furniture and belongings mean the most to you? Are there items you just can’t part with? Create a list of things you treasure most. Keep in mind that a senior living apartment won’t have as much space as a house. Also, create a separate list of important items that will need to be rehomed with a friend or loved one.

  • Secure treasured possessions.

Downsizing and moving can be a hectic, messy process. Before things become too rushed, find a place to securely store family heirlooms and other valuable possessions. Smaller items might be best placed in a safe or safe deposit box. Bigger items might need to go to a climate-controlled storage unit or a friend’s house that has extra space. This step can prevent important items from being misplaced or damaged. It also makes the closets and drawers look more spacious to potential buyers.

  • Start in least used rooms.

The process of downsizing usually goes more smoothly when you work through the house room-by-room. Start in rooms that you don’t use often, such as your children’s old rooms, the attic, or basement. Sort items into boxes according to their final destination, such as “give to family” or “donate to charity.”

  • Explore local charities that accept donations.

Another item to put on your to-do list is to explore local nonprofit agencies that accept donations. You’ll likely have clothing, household items, furniture, and outdoor items that need to be donated. Having a plan for unneeded items before you begin downsizing can make the process easier. Some nonprofits have pickup services for furniture and multiple boxes of smaller items, which can be especially helpful.

Create a Floor Plan

Finally, once you’ve chosen a senior living community to call home, you can plan more specific details. Create a floor plan that shows the dimensions, doorways, and windows for each room in your new apartment.

Measure each piece of furniture or household item you’d like to take with you. Map out your new home’s floor plan on graph paper or use a free online tool like Roomstyler or HomeByMe. This will give you and your husband a good idea about what will or won’t fit in the new space.

I hope this helps, Kelly! As you and your husband explore senior living communities in Michigan, please keep Heritage on your list. With locations throughout Michigan, you’ll likely find a community that best meets your needs and interests.

Kind regards,

Donna

How to Identify and Address a Parent’s Fears about Senior Living

How to Identify and Address a Parent’s Fears about Senior Living

Dear Donna:

My 92-year-old mom has been living alone in the home she’s been in for decades. Until recently, she’s been fine doing so with the help of an in-home caregiver. Lately, however, it seems like her quality of life is declining.

Because I live four hours away, I can’t visit every week, especially during winter. While her caregiver does a great job tending to her physical needs, my mom is isolated and lonely. During my holiday visit, I tried to talk to Mom about moving to a senior living community. It seems like that would give her an opportunity to participate in activities and make new friends.

Before I could begin the discussion, my mom got upset. Though I believe she doesn’t feel safe on her own, she seems afraid of moving to senior living. I dropped the subject and am looking for advice on how to identify what might be holding her back. Can you help?

Kind regards,

Wendy in Holland, MI

Why a Senior Might Resist Moving

Dear Wendy:

What a good observation. Sometimes adult children become frustrated with a parent who won’t consider moving because they don’t understand how tough the decision can be. And an aging parent might not be willing or able to identify just what is making them so resistant. By understanding some of the common fears older adults have about moving, you might be better able to help your mother make an informed decision.

Here are a few reasons seniors cite for not wanting to move to a senior living community:

  • Giving up the family home: This generation of older adults often live in their homes for decades, just like your mother. She likely has many happy memories attached to her house. Selling it and moving anywhere may seem like she is leaving a piece of the family behind.
  • Fear of change: Many people fear making a change at any stage in life. But for older adults, change often seems even more difficult. As you talk with your mom about moving, try to keep this in mind and move slowly.
  • Believing the myths: There are a variety of myths and misperceptions about senior living communities. Many are based on the old, institutional style nursing homes that were so common when this generation of older adults was young. They don’t understand how vibrant today’s senior communities are.
  • Perceived losses: Your mom may resist moving because she fears losing aspects of her home life. Loss of freedom, privacy, and independence rank high on the list of concerns for many seniors.
  • Running out of money: Many people believe senior living communities are expensive and only for the rich. An older adult might worry that they will run out of money if they move. In reality, senior living communities can be an affordable solution as many of the older adult’s current home expenses are included in the base fee.

I hope this helps as you try to come up with a solution that will improve your mom’s quality of life. Please let us know if you have any additional questions.

Kind regards,

Donna

Consider Heritage Senior Communities

With communities throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, you’ll find a variety of options from which to choose. Whether it’s the resort area of Traverse City or a community in southeast Michigan’s popular Saline, we extend an open invitation to you to tour a Heritage community today!

Should I Take My Mom with Me on Assisted Living Tours?

Should I Take My Mom with Me on Assisted Living Tours?

Dear Donna:

My brother and I have recently started the search for an assisted living community in Michigan for our mother. She is reluctant to consider moving, so we are trying to narrow down the choices to those we strongly believe would be a good match.

Based on our research and phone calls, we have a list of assisted living communities that seem to meet our criteria. Our next step is to visit the communities. We can’t decide whether we should take her along. Should we wait until we’ve found what we think is the best community?

Can you offer any advice?

Elizabeth in Holly, MI

Visiting Assisted Living Communities for a Parent

Dear Elizabeth:

This is a great question that comes up quite often among adult children. When a senior isn’t fully onboard with moving to an assisted living community, having them go along on tours of communities you haven’t seen yet can be risky. If a community is obviously not the right fit, it can put your mom off moving. While you want your mother to feel like part of the decision-making process, screening out communities that don’t seem to be a good match is probably helpful.

Another factor to consider is your mother’s health. If she has problems with mobility, for example, limiting the number of assisted living communities you tour together might be the best approach. She will still feel involved in the process and have an opportunity to see communities without being overly taxed.

Whatever you decide, there are a few questions I recommend you ask:

  • How long is the tenure of the average caregiver?
  • What types of activities are available? Are there activities on weekends and evenings?
  • What is included in the monthly fee? What additional expenses should you expect to incur each month?
  • How did the community perform on its last state survey? Ask to see a copy of the survey if it’s not available online.
  • If your mother’s care needs change, can the community accommodate them, or will she be required to move again?
  • Can family members visit at any time or are visiting hours restricted?
  • What steps are the community’s staff taking to protect residents from COVID-19?

AARP created a comprehensive checklist of questions to ask on an assisted living tour. You can download and print it here.

If your mother continues to be resistant to moving, you could take advantage of short-term stays. Known as respite care, it’s a good way for a senior to try out a community. Respite Care as an Assisted Living Trial has more details on these services.

I hope this information is helpful! Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

Kind regards,

Donna

Visit a Heritage Senior Community This Winter

With communities throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, we encourage older adults and their families to make Heritage a part of their search for assisted living. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more today!

How Can I Better Organize My Dad’s Medical Information?

How Can I Better Organize My Dad’s Medical Information?

Dear Donna:

My dad was diagnosed with a chronic health condition last spring. It’s a fairly complex illness with multiple physicians involved in his care. Because his condition came on suddenly, I never had an opportunity to come up with a system for organizing his medical calendar and onslaught of paperwork.

While I’m more of a technology person, my dad isn’t. He wants a system he can use instead of an online platform or app. Maybe it’s because our stacks of paper are so high, but the task feels daunting. Do you have any suggestions for organizing his health information?

Sincerely,

Dana in Saginaw, MI

Keeping a Senior’s Medical Information Organized

Dear Dana:

I understand your predicament! Keeping up with all the information health care providers pass along can be challenging. And the calendar can be equally difficult when a loved one has a variety of physicians on his care team. The key is to create a system that is easy to maintain and update. That will make you more likely to use it. These tips will help you get started.

Begin by sorting all your dad’s medical information by topic or category. Then place it all in a binder you take with you to appointments. Getting organized will make your role of family caregiver easier. A few suggested categories to include in your file are:

  • Calendar: It’s convenient to store appointments in an app. It lets you set reminders and quickly view your dad’s schedule when you need to make physician appointments. But having a physical calendar as a back-up is important, too. It’s also easier to plan your entire week when you can quickly glance at all your dad’s appointments.
  • Medical history: This broad category is a good place to include your dad’s visit notes from medical appointments, hospital discharge orders, and any health summaries a physician may have provided. It might also help to keep a chronological list of milestones in his diagnosis and treatment.
  • Test results: While health care systems use electronic medical records, not all systems interact with one another. For older adults like your dad, who see multiple physicians, keeping hard copies of test results is a good idea. That makes it easier to share among his doctors during visits.
  • Family medical history: When seeing a new patient for the first time, providers ask them to review their family medical history. This information helps physicians assess a patient’s predisposition for hereditary conditions. Having this information typed and saved on your computer makes it easy to update and print when you need to make changes.
  • Medication list: At every medical appointment, you’ll likely be asked if your dad has started or changed any medications since his last visit. Create a list that includes medication name, dosage information, and the prescribing physician. Remember to include over-the-counter medications, too, as they can impact the effectiveness of prescriptions.
  • Physician contact information: Create a list with your dad’s current and past physicians. Include contact information, such as office addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and fax numbers.

Make sure to create backup copies to store in a safe, secure location.

Finally, if you would like to utilize an app to make your role of caregiver easier, consider Healthspek. Apps like these are often a good solution for families, especially where multiple siblings are involved in care.

Good luck getting organized, Dana! I’m sure you’ll be happy you made time to do this.

Kind regards,

Donna

Get to Know Heritage Senior Communities

Planning for the future is important when you are a caregiver for a family member. An essential part of that plan is exploring local senior care resources, including senior living communities. For seniors in Michigan and Indiana, we encourage you to make Heritage a part of your search. Call a community near you to learn more!