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The Best Time to Start Your Senior Living Search is Now

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It’s difficult to know the right time to begin searching for a home for a loved one. Do you start when your mom or dad is relatively healthy but could benefit from some daily assistance? Or do you wait until they show obvious signs that they can no longer live on their own?

While it might be emotionally safer to wait for your loved one’s health to force the decision, more often than not an event or crisis will force the need for a transition from home to a more supportive environment. When that happens, the search for a facility is made under stress and with time constraints—definitely not ideal conditions for making such a life-changing decision.

As we outline the typical process below, we hope you’ll understand why preparing ahead of time can benefit both you and your loved one.

Take tours

The only way you will get a true feel for whether or not a facility is right is to take an in-person tour. Observe how the staff operates, how they interact with you, the food they serve, and the overall culture. Ask prepared questions about staff training, nurses’ certifications, and outcomes of state or local inspections. If you are able, bring your loved one along or arrange for them to tour the facility at another time. Ideally, you should tour a minimum of three facilities so you can make an informed decision.

File an application

When you and your family decide which facility is right, you will need to submit an application that will include financial information, medical records, copies of trusts, and other documents. Generally speaking, once an application is submitted, approval can take a few business days; however, keep in mind that facilities are at the mercy of other entities requiring several days or even week or so to process an application.

In-person clinical assessment

Once you submit the application and all necessary records, the facility will likely schedule an in-person clinical assessment. Depending on mobility, this will take place either where your loved one resides or at the new facility. The assessment helps staff get to know your loved one, what his or her clinical needs are, and in what type of environment he or she will need to live and thrive – whether assisted, independent, or memory care. This assessment is crucial in determining how much your loved one’s care and housing will cost.

Additional factors

Once a facility is selected, the process typically takes two to three weeks from application to move-in date. In the case of nonprofits, like Wentworth Senior Living, a board may need to assess the application, so all the previous steps outlined above will need to be complete. Once the board approves the application, a contract is signed and the resident can move in. This process can take a few business days.

Other factors might slow the process down. For instance, the facility you choose may have a waitlist. For those selling homes or those with other challenges, the process could take up to a couple of months, depending on what your loved one needs to arrange before moving.

When residents come directly from a hospital, they likely will need a hospital bed or some other type of durable medical equipment. In this case, you may need to consult insurance, Medicare, or another plan for payment. This takes time as well.

Many people have the misconception that signing up to live in a senior living facility is like renting an apartment—once you’ve decided on the location, you just sign a lease and move right in. In reality, it takes much more to ensure your loved one receives the proper care he or she deserves. So don’t wait until a crisis occurs; start the process early, get the information you need, and remove some of the stress from an already stressful situation.