The Move to Assisted Living – Avoiding the Guilt

There’s nothing worse than feeling guilty about your parents. It starts in junior high school when you begin keeping some things from them, and moves swiftly to high school and college when you start keeping everything from them! Throughout your life as an adult, guilt is omnipresent when it comes to your parents: Did you visit enough? Were the holidays too stressful? Should you be helping them more? As they get older, the weight of the guilt gets heavier and climaxes with the decisions around independent living and Assisted Living options. Make no mistake, the guilt surrounding the decision to move parents into Assisted Living can feel crushing. Understandably, this decision is rarely reached overnight (except in the case when there is a sudden and unexpected event, such as a devastating stroke or fall). More commonly though, it builds up over a period of years with nagging worries about their safety. A fall on the unsecured throw rug. A fire from the teapot left on a hot burner. The house that looks like the city recycling center. These are panic moments for adult children. While everyone understands that daily oversight, assistance and guidance of a senior facility may be required, the guilt floods in. Suddenly, you are moving to extract your parents from everything comfortable that they know and love.

An Assisted Living Facility Provides Community and Health

Assisted Living is a broad category (also known as Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly: RCFEs). It can include accommodations for people who are fairly independent all the way to highly supported living situations, like Alzheimer’s Care. However, it does not include Skilled Nursing Facilities or Medical Rehabilitation Hospitals, which are regulated more like regular hospitals. A quality Assisted Living Facility does a good job of creating community among its residents and their families, providing increased social connections, oversight, and activities for seniors. It also should guarantee better safety and nutrition for its residents. Assisted Livings vary in price, but all of them are expensive; ranging from about $3000-$8000 per month depending on amenities and services. This is unaffordable for many families who do not have Long Term Care Insurance or savings to cover this cost. As an alternative, many families rely on other family members to provide in-home care to keep costs down. Needless to say, this isn’t an option for everyone either. Another option is to hire paid caregivers to provide in-home care. Many people do not realize that when someone requires 24 hour paid in-home care, it can be more expensive than most Assisted Livings. Furthermore, families now have to worry about increasing regulation and overtime pay for in-home care providers, making it an even less affordable option. A compromise many families make is to opt for a smaller private home which is licensed as an RCFE. These homes are commonly called board and cares. A “board and care” is a more affordable option and provides the intimacy of a private home, but usually does not have many of the amenities or services of a larger facility. Like the larger facilities, the quality and price of board and cares varies significantly.

When Your Parents Just Can’t Live at Home

It is impossible for me to say don’t worry, it will all work out, because that is not always the case. But, carefully considered, and given some time for adjustment, a move from independent to Assisted Living can bring great relief to both parties: the adult child and their parent(s). Consider, for example, the relief of the parent who was letting important tasks around the house go because they can no longer physically do them. They may not feel comfortable driving at night, driving on the highway, or driving in traffic. They may physically hurt, so doing just the basic tasks of day to day living becomes harder each day. In Assisted Living, transportation, housekeeping and meal preparation are done for them. By removing those areas of declining capability and potential danger, you are providing them with house cleaners, chefs and chauffeurs! Furthermore, becoming immobile, losing friends to illness or dementia and watching a neighborhood change toward a younger demographic lead to feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

Despite these advantages, the guilt you may feel about pushing Assisted Living on your parents may remain, and even be fueled by them. Be prepared for them to say that they are not happy and are not glad that they moved. This is common and understandable. Making the move to Assisted Living is a loss of autonomy, something that should not be dismissed lightly. The most important thing is to remember is that you made the decision thoughtfully, carefully and together. Although they may continue to and complain, keep in mind that done right, the decision was made carefully and with love for all your sake.

Assisted Living Planner

  •  Draw up a budget and know how much you can afford to pay per month.
  •  Review the clauses in any Long Term Care Insurance policies your parents may have.
  •  Visit facilities at different times on different days.
  •  Eat meals there. At least 2 at different times and days.
  •  Look at the activities calendar. Sit in on an activity, if possible.
  •  Talk to some residents to assess their mental and social capabilities compared to that of your loved one.
  •  Meet with the Director of the facility and ask about staff training and retention.
  •  Ask about dementia care options and rules for remaining in Assisted Living versus Memory Care (if available).
  •  Consult with an Elder Care Attorney if quality Assisted Living seems out of reach financially.
  •  Check the state Long Term Care Incident Reports for the facility you are considering.
  •  Have a lawyer review the Resident Contract before signing anything.

Tia Small is a Senior Housing Specialist in the SF Bay Area and founder of Lucille’s List.

Tia has no financial relationships with any Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly.

If you have further questions about finding a quality Assisted Living, contact Tia through her website:

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