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Eric Dewhirst Eric Dewhirst
February 9, 2018 ● Assisted Living 5 min read

7 things Assisted Living Residences won’t tell you – but we will

NOTE: My Father was in a facility that suited his needs and the staff were wonderful. The purpose of this article is to give you a perspective that helps you stay rational with your decision making process. You are more than likely in a vulnerable and stressed out state and sometimes it helps if someone sits you down and give it to you straight. Nobody told me and my family about this side of the business and each residence is different so please do not think that ALL residences are like this. Just from me to you – keep some of my advice in mind when you are making a decision.

  • Assisted Living sometimes is a short term solution and we know it.

For some Assisted living does not last long, definitely not as long as residence living when you or your loved one is able bodied. Unfortunately the assistance part signals declining health and when your health or the health of your loved ones fails too far the next step will be either the Hospital or a Long Term Care Facility, (Nursing Home);

  • As your health fails, we charge more money.

When you or your loved one is starting out at an assisted living residence typically the level of care is moderate to light, however unfortunately that does not stay that way. Often residences have services “A-La-Carte” where are you require more care you simply pay additionally. That is why it is important that before you or your loved one moves into any assisted living residence, you need to know what will the increases in costs be when more care is needed. What you do not want to have happen is that the additional “A-La-Carte” options are too expensive and you are then forced to move your loved one to a difference residence.

  • The advertised amenities are for show, we know you won’t use them.

This is possibly one of the hardest parts that makes the selection of the right assisted living residence a challenge. So many amenities and your gut instinct is to want to provide an environment with as many options as possible. It is understandable that in a Assisted Living Home there may be some use for an indoor mini-putt or a lap pool – but realistically your loved one will never use those features and possibly many of the features provided. Residences know that, however they are often times selling to the grown children of the resident – not to the resident themselves. What was most important to my Father was the food and the care from the staff. When you are visiting pay close attention to the Personal Support Workers (PSW’s) and see how they treat everyone. Also have a meal at the residence and see what the food is like – better yet ask some of the people there.

  • Assisted living residences are not charities.

It is a business, in many cases a compassionate and caring one, however first and foremost it is a business that needs to make a profit. This can be a challenge because often the people who work and interact with your loved one on a daily basis are there because they love what they do and they want to help. But their employer knows that left to their own free will they would go above and beyond each time and then not get all of their work done. The residence owners and managers understand the ebb and flow of this business and they cannot always be the good guy and lose money out of compassion – because if they did then the residence would go bankrupt and that is not good as well.

  • Senior Living Advisors get a finders fee.

There is an entire industry setup around exploiting the vulnerability of people like you, looking for the right place for yourself or your loved one by acting as your “Senior Living Advisor“. Here is the rub if you will, these Senior Advisors get a finders fee for introducing you to your new residence, typically one months rent (2K-4K). The residence pays these advisors because they want you to come live with them, and if they don’t then they lose out on potential customers, because these Senior Advisors are so pervasive online – anyone who searches online for information gets sucked in by their offer of free help. What happens is that these “Senior Living Advisor‘s” don’t refer you to the best solution, they refer you to the solution where they can make their finders fee. For more information on this topic – read my write-up about it HERE.

  • Ratings? Reviews? There are none, but there are incident reports.

In Canada as of today there really are no reliable Ratings or Reviews that you can look at to help weed out the Assisted Living Residences that have a bad reputation. If there are reviews they are so biased because they are either put in there from the residence themselves or someone working on their behalf, OR they are from jilted employees or competitors. However there are incident reports, because all licensed facilities have to report to the provincial licensing agency when there are any infractions, falls, injuries, deaths or complaints. This as well does not provide you with the complete picture – but it is a good to do some background checking on the residence that you have chosen prior to you or your loved one moving in.

  • When you start costing too much, you may have to leave.

They are Assisted Living Residences and not a Long Term Care or Nursing Home and there really is only so much they can do within the time budget they have allocated to provide care. Speaking from personal experience and from speaking with people in the industry, there comes a tipping point where the level of care that is required will cost the home too much to provide and realistically the home cannot have their staff spend so much time with you or your loved one. When someone requires a two person lift to get in and out of bed each time, or someone with moderate to sever incontinence and requires either assistance to get to the bathroom every hour or needs to be cleaned up every hour, this takes up too much time of the personal care worker at the residence. If a support worker is spending a quarter of their day dealing with you or your loved one then the rate for that support would be very high, (read 4K per month on top of what you are already paying), and so it is easier for them to free up your room and rent it out to someone with less care needs. Again, they are not charities and they have to look out for their bottom line – absolutely they care about you or your loved one – but they can’t support this scenario. So what typically happens is that if a resident goes off to the hospital for an illness for an extended period of time, then before they can return to the residence the Head Nurse of the residence needs to do an evaluation. If the Head Nurse or whoever is in charge of care, cannot recommend you or your loved one to return to the residence then one must look at the next stage which is a Long Term Care facility (Nursing Home). Have that conversation with the residence and ask – what happens if my Father or Mother require increased care, are you equipped to handle that and are you willing.

Final Thought

This is a hard process and I do not mean to make it harder, there are many wonderful homes so don’t be suspicious of them all, but do ask the tough questions. I know from personal experience it is emotionally very hard and you are going through a lot already, but that is your job and you want what is best for your loved one.