Are You Putting Off a Move to Assisted Living?

A move to assisted living may be one of the best decisions a family can make for an aging relative’s happiness and health, particularly when a loved one needs more care than we can provide on our own. Yet, lots of families delay this all-important decision, feeling helpless as their loved one’s care needs escalate and their own caregiving stress increases.Are You Putting Off a Move to Assisted Living?

Making a decision about senior housing is not easy or straightforward, and there are a variety of reasons why families and seniors may try to avoid discussion of this difficult topic. Learn more about the top reasons families delay moving to assisted living.

Why Families Delay a Move to Assisted Living

We surveyed A Place for Mom readers to pinpoint their most pressing concerns about a move to assisted living – and the results might surprise you.

Here are five of the most common reasons families might delay a much-needed move to senior living, along with some possible solutions for tackling each obstacle:

1. “I’m concerned about the cost of assisted living.”

With the median monthly cost of assisted living rising to almost $3,600 this year, according to the Senior Living Price Index by A Place for Mom, it’s no surprise that sticker shock is one of the reasons many families and seniors delay the move into assisted living — 13% of those we surveyed cited budget uncertainties or high expenses as a delaying factor.

Possible Solution: First, one important fact to remember is to check what is included in the monthly cost of senior housing: the sticker price may cover amenities such as meals and housekeeping — or it may not. The key is understanding what the costs mean and what you get for your money, so make sure to do your research about each facility, consulting with your Senior Living Advisor if you need additional help.

2. “I live too far away to make a decision.”

Of our survey respondents, 12% cited reasons of geographic distance for delaying the search for senior housing — living in another state from their loved one, living at a distance from the family members doing the decision making, and so forth. This reflects the data collected in a 2004 study conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, who found that 15% of family caregivers live one or more hours away from their care recipient. Living at a distance poses extra challenges to those searching for senior housing, making logistics and timing difficult and adding stress.

Possible Solution: Even if you are looking at the very real possibility of managing your loved one’s care at a distance, you are not alone. To make the process easier, schedule family meetings with other involved loved ones to discuss decisions ahead of time. Make sure to organize all the important documents and paperwork you might need, so everything is in place in case your loved one’s health situation changes unexpectedly. Seek help from online and offline resources and referral services in order to determine what will fit your loved one’s needs and your family’s budget. And this bears repeating — don’t be afraid to seek help from family, friends, or even concerned neighbors.

3. “I still need to talk with my loved ones about senior care.”

Fully 22% of those surveyed said they delayed the move to senior housing because of needing to talk to family or friends first. We may put off the decision because it is difficult to coordinate with other family members, or because we want to talk with experienced or trusted friends before figuring out what to do. Of course, it is painful to think about an aging loved one’s declining physical or mental health, which makes it easy to delay having those tough conversations. But doing nothing about it may put our loved one’s health at greater risk, so it is important to discuss issues such as scheduling, health, and logistics before they become real concerns.

Possible Solutions: First, be honest with yourself about your own feelings and why the delay is occurring. Are you afraid of acknowledging your loved one’s frailty? Are you worried about losing control of their care? Think realistically about what will happen if you do nothing about their situation versus what will happen if they move into senior housing. Don’t be afraid to seek help from a counselor, a support group, a spiritual adviser, or a trusted friend, and don’t forget to involve your loved ones when it’s time to make a decision — but don’t put it off forever. If it’s pre-existing family conflicts getting in the way, remember that the focus should be on the welfare of your loved one, and set a good example by trying your best to rise above sibling rivalries and making sure everyone’s viewpoints are heard.

4. “I still want to do more research.”

Of the readers we surveyed, the greatest number (27%) said that their top reason for putting off the move to senior housing was in order to do more research and information gathering — from looking at websites to driving by the property to calling communities directly. Families worry about the ratings of the community, and about what they offer residents.

Possible Solutions: Researching senior care can seem daunting, but there are numerous reliable resources out there for families to utilize in evaluating specific communities as well as different types of care. Those worried about ratings and quality of care should visit websites like and A Place for Mom’s State Guide to Assisted Living Records and Reports. Consulting with one of our own Senior Living Advisors can also provide you with invaluable advice on senior housing in your community. The key is taking that first step toward seeking out help.

5. “My senior loved one is not ready to leave home.”

There are a number of specific reasons why a loved one might be reluctant or even afraid to move into senior living — they may worry about losing their independence, they may fear that others won’t care for them properly, or they may worry about being bored. They may not feel they need to be in a “nursing home,” or they may be attached to their current home or pets and be understandably reluctant to consider the idea of parting with treasured possessions and memories in order to move into a smaller space.

Possible Solution: If your loved one is throwing up roadblocks to the discussion of senior housing, get informed about the most common fears associated with assisted living and other retirement housing options, and learn what you can do to openly acknowledge and discuss these fears rather than letting them derail the conversation. Once your loved one can articulate his or her worries and feel like they are being heard, you can take steps to assuage their fears. Then you can work together to discuss senior living options that value residents’ independence, privacy, and dignity. Talking to a loved one about downsizing their possessions can be difficult, but once the conversation is open, you can encourage them to enlist trusted family and friends to help, or even a professional move manager.

While these aren’t the only reasons families delay a move into senior housing, they are some of the most common — but being prepared and having realistic expectations will help you avoid potential roadblocks.

Caitlin Burm is an award-winning editor and writer who has written extensively about education, health and senior care, most recently at A Place for Mom and previously at Arizona State University and the City of Tempe, Arizona. She thrives on content strategy and storytelling and resides in Phoenix with her daughter and husband.


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