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7 Mistakes to Avoid When Looking at Senior Living Communities


By Steve Buttice

If you are looking for assisted living, you know that you cannot afford to make a poor decision when the stakes are high. This is often a very stressful time for all family members, and, too often, just finding a place to start is tough.
Selecting a senior-living community can be made easier if you plan and gather information before a sudden health change or a chronic condition like Alzheimer’s. So, what mistakes should a family avoid making?

  1. Not researching what types of senior communities are available. In Central Illinois, there are clearly four types of senior living communities:  Endowment Homes, CCRCs (Continued Care Retirement Communities), Assisted Living, Supportive Living, and Independent Living (next month the column will cover those differences).

  2. Not being realistic about finances. Take a realistic look at income and if you have long-term care insurance and assets; record those numbers. Match your finances to the communities available. In this writer’s opinion, it is a terrible disappointment to look at communities that are not within your budget. This just leads to disappointment.
  3. Putting too much value in what a friend says. Everyone’s situation is different. While it is very nice if your loved one knows people in the community, everyone’s situation is different.
  4. Not considering current health and future needs. Certain medical conditions will most likely result in future needs. For example, 50 percent of Parkinson’s patients may develop dementia. Do your homework on current and trending medical conditions. Research which communities can best handle that condition and whether or not your loved one could stay within that community or possibly need to move to another community in the future.
  5.  Choosing a community because it fits your tastes, not your loved one’s. He/she is the person who will be living at the community and will be there most of the time. You would be visiting for short time periods, and many times these visits are planned. So, a bit more travel to see a loved one is ok. Your loved one needs to be as comfortable as possible with their living environment.

  6. Not reading the community’s contract. Know what your loved one is signing for. Senior community contracts are usually easier to read than some contracts, but they are still a contract with obligations. There are a few simple questions to address: what is the apartment cost? What is the cost of care? Can an increase in the level of care cause the costs to increase? If so, how? Is there a separate meal cost? Are property taxes payable? Some people ask their attorney to review this contract.

  7. Personally signing the contract for your loved one. Unless you want to be responsible for your loved one’s bill, do not personally sign the senior living contract. This is a legal matter and you should seek legal advice.

As you can see, this process may be a bit more involved than one might think at first glance. There are resources available — now has “star ratings” for many types of senior communities. Gather information before a crisis so that you can be prepared if you need to make a sudden decision.

For more information, contact Living By Your Design, Inc. which focuses on the issues of older Americans:  legal, financial, and free guidance for residential referral healthcare issues. Call:  309-285-8088. Website: Location: 809 W. Detweiller Dr., Peoria, IL 61615.