Assisted Living: Top Tips for Starting Your Search

Posted on: August 28, 2023

We get it: Choosing the right place for your loved one is a big decision. It can be an overwhelming process, especially if you’re completely new to the terminology. If you’re just beginning your search for assisted living for your parent or loved one, our guide can help you get off to a good start.

What Are My Assisted Living Options?

When you first begin to research assisted living for your parent or loved one, the terms might be confusing or unfamiliar. Some of the most common terms you might run across in your search are listed below. These describe not only assisted living but other levels of care.

Independent living

Independent living homes are often part of a continuing care retirement community (CCRC). These locations are for residents who are still fully independent but are looking for a chance to downsize, as well as be part of a care system as they begin to age. The newest CCRCs are modern, stylish ranch homes and condos, much like any other neighborhood.

Two senior women in assisted living playing checkersAssisted living

Assisted living provides personal care and support services, such as meals and transportation. Residents retain independence over most tasks but can get more help as they age or as their situations change.

Skilled nursing

These facilities provide medical care by professionals, like doctors, nurses, and physical therapists. Residents may also go to a skilled nursing center for rehabilitation or other types of therapy.

Memory care

Memory care is a setting specifically designed for residents with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. These services are often housed within a larger skilled nursing center. Special protections help residents stay safe.

How do I Pay for Assisted Living?

You’ve probably heard all sorts of numbers thrown around when it comes to how much Senior woman reading bookyou need to pay for assisted living. The truth is, there’s no replacement for sitting down and running the numbers for your loved one’s specific situation, including age, income, assets, the kind of lifestyle they need, and other factors. You can use the Genworth Financial calculator to check the average monthly cost for assisted living in your area.

Costs for assisted living vary widely depending on location and the options your loved one chooses. According to AARP, many residents pay out of pocket. Funds like Medicaid and Social Security may also pay for a portion of the cost, but typically don’t cover everything. Learn more at the National Institute on Aging’s website.

Once you and your loved one have chosen a few locations, it’s best to meet face-to-face with a counselor and discuss the costs. If you have questions, be sure all parties are on the same page about the terms before signing anything.

What Should I Look for in an Assisted Living Location?

Senior woman talking with assisted living counselorWhich option is right for your loved one? We can’t answer that, but we can help make it easier to choose. When you’re evaluating options, consider some of the following tips:

  • Visit in person. Websites and catalogs are nice, but they can’t tell the whole story. Meeting staff members and touring the facility for yourself are the best ways to get a feel for the environment and services offered there.
  • Ask around. Coworkers, friends, and neighbors have likely gone through this same process. See if they have any recommendations on communities – or know which ones to stay away from.
  • Talk with your loved one. They’ll be the ones living there, so ideally, they should have input in the choice. Discuss what’s most important to them and look for communities that match their expectations.
  • Don’t be dazzled by bells and whistles. A brand-new building looks nice, but are the staff members qualified? Do the residents receive personalized, one-on-one attention? Do other families rate it highly?
  • Take stock. Use a checklist to make sure a location meets all necessary rules and regulations, as well as is Medicare- and Medicaid-certified.

Learn More About Choosing an Assisted Living Community

Download our free guide to learn more about how to choose the right assisted living community for yourself or a loved one. You can even read a few pages before you download to see if this guide is right for you! 

Choosing the Right AL Community