elderly woman gardening at a senior living community

There may come a time when your aging parents may not be able to live on their own. If living at home or living with you is not an alternative, then your parents may need to move to a retirement community, assisted living facility, or nursing home.

The best scenario is when they choose their own senior living facility. There are many options for senior living. There are resort-like facilities and facilities that meet the needs of the progressive aging stages such as independent living, assisted living, and nursing homes with memory care facilities.

If you can, encourage your parents to check out local senior living options. Your parents will immediately get a sense of what they like and don’t like. Convince them it is like picking out a college. They helped you with that decision, now you can help them. Make a fun day of it.


Check out the facility, take a tour, and try the food. See what activities and amenities the facility offers. Find out what recreational, cultural and enrichment programs they have. Observe how the residents are dressed. Are they clean and well-groomed? Do you detect any unpleasant odors? Are the residents engaged and happy? Are the caregivers professional and friendly?

When visiting assisted living and nursing homes, take notes of what you observe. Come prepared with questions.


  • Is the facility accredited by JCHAHO (Joint Commission of the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations)? JCHAHO is a not-for-profit organization that inspects and certifies healthcare organizations.
  • If you rely on Medicare to help with expenses, is it a Medicare approved facility?
  • Is there on-site access to health care?
  • Do you have to use their doctors?
  • Is the facility located near medical facilities?
  • Does the facility provide transportation to medical appointments, shopping excursions, or cultural activities?
  • What are the monthly expenses and fees for the facility?
  • Can Long-Term Health Care Insurance, Medicare or Medicaid offset the fees?
  • Are there large upfront fees or contracts?
  • Is there a waiting list?
  • What happens when the parents become terminally ill? Can they stay there, or do they have to move to another facility
  • What are the policies about visiting hours, pets, smoking?
  • (If you have a parent with dementia), is there a dedicated wing or secure area to prevent wandering or injury?


Before signing up for any living arrangement, know the costs and fees. Understand what services are provided for your parents.  If your parents do not have a lot of income or assets, they might qualify for Medicaid to cover nursing home expenses. However, some who don’t yet qualify for Medicaid can “spend down” their assets to meet Medicaid eligibility requirements. Medicaid “spend down” accounts are extremely technical and have many regulations, so it is best to consult with an experienced Medicaid planning attorney.


Even if your parent is in favor of the idea of moving into such a facility, the transition may be difficult. Some people who enjoy their privacy may not appreciate the spirit of a larger communal facility. Other people have a hard time with a change of situation.

Recognize that the first few months may be the most challenging. Try to make their new surroundings familiar by bringing their favorite objects to have in their room. Visit them regularly and encourage their friends and family to visit as well. Try to get your parent involved in the day-to-day activities of the facility. Send change of address cards so their friends can keep in touch. Some facilities host family dinners or special events that you can attend. Send your parent care packages or something to brighten their day.

When my grandmother moved into a retirement home she was reluctant to make friends which was very uncharacteristic of her. I would stop by on different weeknights for dinner at the communal dining room. A visiting grandchild always sparks interest and residents would come up and talk to us. Pretty soon my grandmother had a full table of new friends.

If you find your parent becoming depressed or withdrawn upon moving to a new place, consult with the management for suggestions on handling the transition. Some facilities have resident mentor programs to help with the adjustment.

By researching your options, asking the right questions, and preparing for the transition, you can reduce the stress of moving into a new senior living facility.

Written by Catherine Hodder
Catherine Hodder, Esq., estate planning attorney turned author, writes about estate planning issues for the Sandwich Generation on her blog, HodderInk.com. Her book Estate Planning for the Sandwich Generation: How to Help Your Parents and Protect Your Kids is available on Amazon and other booksellers.

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