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The Life Transition Blog

Aging Parents: Strategies For Choosing A Retirement Community


So, the day you've been dreading has come. You, and perhaps your siblings, have decided that Mom or Dad simply can't live in their home a moment longer. For whatever reason, moving in with one of the kids isn't an option. It's time to find the right place for the next chapter. If you are like many adult children of aging parents, your parent doesn't agree with your decision, and thinks he can stay at home just fine. She doesn't want to hear about moving into a "facility." And you feel, well, guilty. Sound familiar? Here are my top ten strategies for choosing (or helping to choose) a retirement living option for or with your aging parent.

1. Scout ahead of time - In most areas, there are many options for independent or assisted living. It can be overwhelming to figure out the best situation for a particular person. Spare everyone, by doing the leg work without your parent.

2. Understand the math - Money does matter. Your parent's resources (and maybe yours) will determine the range of available options. Don't confuse the issue by bringing your parent to see a place that is outside of your family's means.

3. Narrow the choices to no more than three or four using the Five S method - Once you have a list of possibilities that are within your budget and in the geographic area you desire, it's time to narrow the choices to a few where you think Mom or Dad will be happiest. I suggest you use the Five S method, considering size, sights, sounds, smells, and services. What you are really doing is looking for a good match based on a sixth "S" - similarities.

4. Ask for and check references - Before you decide that a particular community is on the short list, be sure to ask for and check a few references.

5. Visit with your parent - Finally, it's time to bring your parent around on a tour of the three or four best options. Only have them visit communities that fit their needs and budget and that you feel good about. If at all possible, it's best to let your parent make the final decision about which community and which living unit will be their new home.

Once you have arrived at a decision, it is important that you move ahead with it quickly. As the saying goes, "time kills all deals", and this one is no exception. You, or your parent, will always be able to come up with a reason why the right time for this move isn't now. But the truth is, if you have reached the point where you have even started visiting communities, you probably know in your heart that this move really is in your parent's best interest.

Do you have suggestions for choosing a retirement community? Please share them with us!
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