Utterly Overwhelmed? 5 Questions to Ask When Starting the Senior Living Search

The search for the right senior living communities can be daunting and overwhelming. Are you avoiding the search because you don’t know where to begin? Have you started the search but quickly found yourself in a panic of endless options? Having trouble coming to terms with the realities of the task at hand?

Whether you’re starting to plan for yourself or for a loved one, the task of selecting senior living accommodations is stressful and emotional.

To make things as smooth as possible, let’s start by breaking the search down into manageable steps. The first step is to take a realistic and thorough look at where you are now—a “situation analysis” of sorts. The best way to start figuring out where you need to go is by figuring out where you are currently.

Here we have it. For the easing of your nerves and commencement of your planning:

5 Questions to Ask When Starting Your Senior Living Search

1. What is the state of your loved one’s physical, cognitive, and emotional health?

This is a vital starting point, and a question that needs to be answered honestly albeit the emotions that may arise.

Why? There are three main categories of senior living communities: Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Memory Care. As suggested by their names, each caters to different groups of seniors depending on their physical and cognitive abilities.

Once this question is answered in detail, you will be able to know which category to explore. The answers to this question will also come into play as a checklist for your later search. Is there a physical therapist on site? What type of security is in place? Are there opportunities to socialize with others? Now you’ll be prepared with the right questions to ask.

2. What are your financial realities?

It is definitely not groundbreaking news that senior living can cost more than one might think. Like with all money matters, cost can be one of the most stressful parts of the process.

However, one way to mitigate the stress is to get organized and write down the financial realities of your individual situation. Then, you can begin your research on financial assistance and funding options.

Another part of knowing your financial realities is having open and honest conversations with your family. Are you and your spouse willing to dip into your personal finances to fund senior living of a parent? Where is your family willing to compromise? Have a solid foundation of financial understanding at the start of the searching process. It will serve as a point of reference for future decisions.

3. What are your non-negotiables?

Non-negotiables affect all decisions moving forward. They are hard guardrails that will result in tradeoffs when selecting senior living.

Do the accommodations need to be within an hour from your loved ones? Is having transportation to doctors and activities important? Your non-negotiables will be influenced by personal wants and realistic needs. The financial and health realities answered in the previous questions will also influence this list.

If the search is for a loved one who still has his or her cognitive abilities, make sure to have an open dialogue with him or her to determine these items. It will likely take more than one sitting to determine this list and come to terms with tradeoffs. If you’re able, take your time. If your search is more urgent, it is still crucial to take a moment to determine these points to ensure you’re making sound decisions.

Write these non-negotiables down. It will serve as a tangible point of guidance when starting the actual search for communities.

4. What is your timeline?

This seems like a pretty straight-forward question. However, it is especially important to ensure all involved parties are on the same page.

Why is this question so important? All parties involved may not have the same answer. If you and a spouse are starting to look into independent living facilities for your future care, you need to be aligned on a general timeline. If you’re starting the search for an aging parent, it is important to be having the timing conversations with them–even if the conversations are difficult. 

Whatever your timeline, one thing holds true: communication is everything.

5. Who is part of the decision-making team?

decision making

Wrapped into answering all of these questions is this: Who is involved in the answering?

Selecting a senior living community, more often than not, involves more than one person. The makeup of this team usually involves the senior(s) plus family members. On some occasions, that senior’s cognitive health is not well enough to make the decision.

Know who in the family is involved in these decisions. Often the answer will be all or some combination of siblings. However, each sibling may only weigh in on certain parts in the decision-making process. Nobody can tell you what is right in your unique situation. What can be advised is that including everyone who needs to be part of the decisions avoids stress to family dynamics.

Now that you know 5 Questions to Answer When Starting Your Senior Living Search it is time to start asking–and answering–these questions.

Taking the time to answer these five questions is the first step to making the senior living search less daunting and overwhelming. Have a solid foundation of understanding, and you’ll feel more secure in your future decisions.

This is the first of a new series of blog posts guiding you through your search by taking it in bite-sized pieces. More to come to shepherd your journey. How did answering these questions help you? Let us know in the comments section!

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