Time and again we get asked “What are your favorite assisted living communities?” “Which one is the best?” “Do you have a top 10 list?” Or how about, “My mom needs a nursing home.” “Which one is good?” So often we hear, “Oh, I saw that new memory care going up right by my house. That will be perfect for my mom.” But, at Vesta Senior Network, we ask you, “Why is that community perfect for your mom?” We believe is nearly impossible to provide you a list of top communities for your loved one without fully understanding his or her individual care needs, wants, and the ability to pay.

The truth of the matter is, if you have seen one assisted living community, you have only seen ONE assisted living community. At the end of the day, it comes down to three important considerations when choosing an assisted living community, and these are:

  1. Care
  2. Cost
  3. Community

Assisted Living Isn’t A One Size Fits All

It is important to understand that in the state of Wisconsin, the assisted living licensures are essentially those of maximums, not minimums. Yes, minimally, they are required to provide housing and services that allow someone to remain as independent as possible. Typically, these communities are designed to provide help with a person’s activities of daily living: bathing, dressing, toileting, housekeeping, meal preparation, medication management, but depending on the license, and ultimately how each individual management team chooses to staff and provide care, what one may experience within one assisted living community may be vastly different than what one might experience at another.

The state puts a limit on how much care can be offered, but not on how much care must be offered. Gaining an understanding of what the “deal breakers” may be at an assisted living community is essential. What would cause an assisted living community to no longer be able or willing to take care of your loved one is an imperative part of your decision-making process. Will they provide escorts to the dining room? Will they respond to a request for assistance toileting? If my dad is no longer safe to make his own decisions will they keep him after we need to activate his Healthcare Power of Attorney? Plenty of communities will say they offer “end of life care” with the help of a hospice company, but what would that look like? Would they be willing and able to work with a Hoyer lift? Would they be willing and able to feed someone when she is no longer able to do it herself?

The last thing that anyone should want to do is move his mom or dad when she or he need more care than a community is willing or able to provide. At that time, it will be difficult to find another care community willing to do it, and the individual requiring the care will be in a weakened and vulnerable state.

How Much Does Long Term Care Cost in Wisconsin?

Aging and needing care can get expensive. Many of our older adults bought into the American dream of retirement at 65: snow birding, card club, golf, and spending time with grandchildren. All of these activities are the dream, and hopefully, we all get to do some of that.

However, so many our elders are now living well past 80, and that is when the dream starts changing shape: we need help with little things and big things, and how are we going to finance that? In Wisconsin, we have a program called Family Care that is a part of Title 19, or Medicaid. This program will pay for assisted living after someone needing care outlives his assets. The important thing to understand about Family Care, is that participation in the program by individual assisted living communities, as well as home care companies is completely voluntary.

What this means is that an organization may choose to participate in the program with no restrictions, with some restrictions, or not at all. This means that a care community can limit the number of individuals living with them on Family Care, they may not allow anyone on Family Care at all, or they may have an expectation that an individual can pay privately 1, 2, or 3 years before they are out of money and need to take part in public funding. It is absolutely imperative that a family understand the implications of their decisions and make a choice for their loved one that is sustainable.

Selecting the Right Assisted Living Home

Finally, it is also important that we make a choice for our loved one that makes sense. If Mom liked linens on her table, look for a place that serves meals with linens on the table. If Mom liked the holiday vinyl table cloths that change with the seasons, look for a place that has that feel. Does Uncle Joe like to flirt with the ladies, or is it more important that he have some buddies with whom he can play sheepshead? Is Dad going to be comfortable around people with more advanced dementia if his needs are more physical?

It is safe to say that no one ever dreamed of the day they’d end up at “Shady Pines.” This is not part of the retirement plan. Looking for the community that might feel like home, where she may be able to enjoy some quality of life and stay through the end of life should be the goal.

When the time comes, having a solid plan based on Care, Cost and Community is the first step in finding the right home for your loved one. It is never an easy process, but Vesta Senior Network will guide you. You don’t need to become the expert because we already are. As we like to say, we treat families like our own and would never recommend a care community where we wouldn’t want our own parents to live. Ready to learn more? Please contact us to see how our team can guide you through the complex world of long-term care.

Pam Foti, Owner and Elder Care Consultant