Is it time Mom (or Dad) moves to an ALF? If so (or you’re unsure/have questions), read on for a step-by-step guide to helping Mom make the move to an ALF.
The Four Moves You’ll Need in Moving Mom to an ALF
1. Get an assessment and understand Mom’s level of care needs.
If you aren’t 100% sure Mom needs an ALF (or she isn’t), the assessment provides clarity. It helps everyone have a full picture of the situation. How is Mom handling various ADLs and IADLs (basic and practical daily tasks)? Does Mom need help with medications, nutrition, or transportation? And, exactly how much help does she need?
Even if both of you are in complete agreement that it’s time for an ALF, an independent assessment is essential. ALFs vary greatly in the level of care they can provide. Additionally, independent living, continuing care facilities, home/community care, or specialty facilities could be more fitting for Mom's needs.
Without this thorough understanding, you really can’t begin the move to an ALF properly. The assessment provides a factual basis for decision making. It directs you to the most appropriate options. Thus, it saves you lots of time and headaches.
During this process, the care manager can also mediate the conversations. Mom may have some concerns or objections. She may be on a different time frame than you. The care manager provides valuable insight, an objective viewpoint, and an empathetic ear for you both. A note from our experience: start conversations early. Most elders need time for these major decisions. They need to process complicated feelings about leaving their homes, which can be frustrating as the child worried about Mom’s safety. The sooner you talk about care needs, the less you’ll both feel forced into a quick decision.
2. Get your financial ducks in a row.
Can Mom afford to move to an ALF? What do facilities cost and what’s included? Does Mom qualify for any help? And, if so, how long will it take and can she go where she wants? Will Mom be selling a home? Does she need to reorganize some finances for this move (or to simplify)?
Finances are an important part of the ALF equation. Now’s the time to get those finances in order. Don’t ignore the practical question of money...it has a big impact on the choice. And, with a little help Mom will be much better off now and in the long run.
There are a couple important sub-moves to make here. First, get finances organized. At this point, many families have no idea what Mom has. Accounts may be disorganized and things may or may not be set up properly. This is the time to set up a visit to Mom’s financial advisor. Or, if she doesn’t have a financial “point person” it may be time for one. Mom needs to make sure her legal documents and paperwork are up to date. Money can be a touchy subject, so feel free to reach out to us for tips on approaching this. Mom will need to have her finances straightened out for the decisions and transition.
Next, you’ll need to understand what she can afford, what things cost, and what help might be available. This is where your care manager can coordinate with your family and professional advisors. They’re the experts in care costs and assistance programs.
3. Identify ALF options and start looking.
With moves one and two accomplished, you and Mom are ready to start checking out places. Your care manager can help you identify facilities that meet Mom’s care and budget needs, along with other factors. Considerations include location, size of facility, style, types of rooms, activities, etc. And, of course, the quality of care and good management. This narrowing of the list will really help. You and Mom would be overwhelmed going to every facility. And, many can be eliminated based on your criteria.
Now, you and Mom will want to visit the ALFs. It can help to have the care manager set up the visits and attend with you. That way, you can be sure you get all the information needed to make an informed choice. It’s Mom’s preview of what life there could be like. Additionally, it’s the chance to get a feel for the staff, residents and the lifestyle. We suggest eating a meal there too since food can make or break the experience.
For digging deeper, you should review the facility’s inspection reports, talk to various staff and other residents/families. It’s great to ask what it's like working/living there. Even positive answers can be revealing about whether this is a good fit. Take notes and go over them together after to see if there are any unanswered questions or concerns.
You and Mom need to be comfortable with the decision. Don’t let marketing staff pressure you, and take your time as much as possible. Allow Mom to process things. Your care manager can help with conversations around any worries or objections. Also, Mom can always bring in temporary help at home or set up something short term if needed.
4. Now it’s time for the big move...and all the logistics surrounding it.
The fourth and final move is planning the actual move. There’s a lot to “unpack” here. Tasks include: selling/giving/throwing away items, deciding what to take, packing, preparing the home for sale and selling it, hiring movers, etc. Then there are all the little logistics like changing addresses and dealing with paperwork. Honestly, it can be completely overwhelming. Often, it’s one of the objections (perhaps unspoken) that cause elders to hesitate.
You can bring in help for many parts of the process. Often, families really benefit from having someone help coordinate it all. This is especially true if you don’t live nearby. You want someone who knows the best people to hire and local resources. Someone who’s been through this before and knows where to turn and what to anticipate. Your care manager can outline a reasonable timeline and coordinate the tasks.
The actual move day should be handled with utmost care too. You want Mom to feel welcomed into her new home...not exhausted and frustrated. Take time to plan out the day. Think about details like the best time to arrive and how to keep it relaxing for Mom. It’s an emotional experience, so your family shouldn’t physically exhaust themselves doing everything.
If you’re starting this process, you might want to read “A Tale of Two Transitions: My Divergent Stories about Helping Aging Parents Move to Assisted Living”. This client story will give you an idea of potential pitfalls and ways to avoid them.
Make the smartest move for your family
Discuss your concerns, schedule an assessment, find out about programs and care options. You don't need to do it alone.