How to Choose the Best Living Option as an Older Adult

Over or underestimating care needs, failing to consider geography, and putting too much emphasis on amenities and decor are all common mistakes.
May 6, 2024
min read
Share this GUIDE
Key Points
Table of Contents

The Top Mistakes People Make in Evaluating Options

Once you have a good understanding of the types of alternative living options available, you can begin the journey of finding the right facility. But for those who haven’t gone through the process before, it’s easy to fall into some common traps. These are mistakes to watch out for when you’re looking for the right facility for your loved one.

Underestimating Care Needs

Often, adult children are involved in selecting new living accommodations for their parents without having lived with them for some time. Social gatherings and other non-challenging settings don’t offer a full picture of how a parent is functioning. Often, it's only when a spouse or other caregiver steps aside (either temporarily or permanently) that the full extent of impairment becomes unmasked, as that person may have been quietly filling in the gaps for some time.

Overestimating Care Needs

The flip side of this coin is overestimating care needs and placing a loved one in a living environment that provides more support than they require. Families often believe getting their loved one “the most care possible” is the considerate thing to do, but this also may put them in an overly restrictive environment. Patients who are “over-assisted” sometimes see their skills decay; the best example is when a person gets a new wheelchair and then stops walking because it’s easier than physical therapy. It’s critical that your loved one enters an environment appropriate for their particular needs.

Overemphasizing Amenities and Decor

In an ideal world, all alternative living options would be beautifully decorated. But some of the most clinically impressive long-term care facilities are not much to look at, while some of the most “well appointed” facilities leave much to be desired on the medical front. It’s not to say that amenities and decor aren’t important, but they should be a secondary consideration to services and support.

Failing to Consider the Impact of Geography and Social Networks

Having to make new friends due to a move at any point in life is difficult and anxiety provoking — ask any child who has had to make such a move during the school year. Moving as an older adult can cause similar stressors.

When we move, we leave a familiar physical dwelling, our nearby friends, daily contacts, and established routines, risking social isolation. Sometimes, faraway moves are prompted by the well-intentioned wishes of a child who wants to visit mom or dad more, but this might mean that other family and friends may now visit less. One strategy is to make a list of all the people your loved one sees now and how frequently and “guestimate” how that will change at their new address.

Overall Poor Due Diligence

This is a big decision — one of the biggest you’ll ever make for yourself or a loved one. It’s often made in a moment of acute need or stress. Don’t relegate it to a referral service, which are essentially brokers' paid by facilities to bring in new “customers.” They don’t know you or your loved one, and cannot vet facilities the way you can. Sometimes there is no choice due to the timeframe you’re operating within, but some advanced groundwork can make a world of difference if you have time. It’s also always a good idea to write down the name of a facility that a trusted source has been happy with, even if you don’t need it at the moment.

How to Find the Right Option

Choosing a new living option is a decision you only want to make once, so it’s essential to get it right. After gaining an understanding on what mistakes to avoid, the next step is to learn how to choose the best living option. It’s a big decision, and this guide can help equip you properly assess the quality of a facility and what questions to ask before making the commitment. 

What To Do Next
The Bottom Line
About The Author