5 Tips for Assisted Living Placement for Couples
What if one of your parents needs assisted living care and the other doesn’t want to leave their spouse’s side?
Read our tips on how to find assisted living communities for couples.
Assisted Living Placement for Couples
There are a lot of how-to guides out there to help you through the assisted living care process, though most of them focus on what it’s like to place one senior loved one into assisted living. What if you are faced with finding a community for both of your senior parents?
As life spans increase, this is becoming a familiar scenario to children caring for their senior parents. The U.S. Census Bureau states that the percentage of those aged 60 and over who reported being married has increased over the past several decades, while the number reporting widowhood has decreased.
Many of these couples find it necessary to look for assisted living care as they age — and they want to do so without being separated.
This can present a number of challenges, especially if one partner has drastically different health care requirements than the other. Will you be able to ensure that both of your parents’ emotional, mental and physical care and needs are met?
Guidelines for Assisted Living Placement
There are a few steps that you can take to make the assisted living placement process run well for you and your senior loved ones:
1. Consider both individual and shared needs.
Different couples have different relationship needs — and, likewise, individuals within a couple may have different health and social needs. If one member of a couple is healthier, more mobile, and/or more sociable, it will help with their day-to-day well-being if the assisted living community offers leisure activities that are appealing and fulfilling for both parties. If the healthier partner wants to take a fitness class, will they feel comfortable leaving their spouse in the care of staff? Can both parties get their social needs met? Be sure to research the amenities and care provided by an assisted living residence ahead of time, to ensure that it will offer a pleasant quality of life for both members of the couple.
2. Have a financial plan in place.
Especially for those without a family that is able to contribute to long-term care, the prospect of putting both members of a couple into assisted living can be financially daunting. Some communities are very expensive, especially for those with differing health status or those requiring memory care, and in many cases assisted living facilities do not work with Medicaid. Properly planning for long-term care can be the key to stretching the resources you do have and enabling your aging parents to continue residing together.
3. Make arrangements for future health changes.
Monitoring not one, but two parents in assisted living can be an added challenge when you throw in the very real likelihood that one or both of them may have unforeseen health changes in the future. In a study, Candace Kemp, Ph.D., an Associate Professor in Gerontology and Sociology at Georgia State University, found that adult children often take on a greater magnitude of responsibility when overseeing two parents in assisted living care, a particularly challenging task when the two parents had different needs at different times. One way to minimize stress in this situation is to familiarize yourself with the community’s policies regarding resident retention in the face of health changes. If you’ll need to pay for additional outside services, or move your parents to a different facility such as a nursing home, be well aware of that possibility in advance.
4. Prepare for the transition.
While more and more couples are entering retirement age together, couples are still the minority in assisted living and most communities are designed with a single occupant in mind rather than two. When there are two-person apartments available, they are often more costly. Beyond the personal space issue are the realities of living in a community environment. “Although each couple had a private room of varying size,” says Kemp’s study, “the comings and goings of care staff, the regulation of daily life and the public nature of assisted living meant, according to one husband, that ‘no one has privacy.’” Being aware of the differences between your parents’ current environment and an assisted living residence can help everyone prepare better for the transition.
5. Research assisted living communities ahead of time.
Health transitions are one of the most common reasons prompting individuals or couples to begin the search for assisted living, according to Kemp. The key to not getting caught off guard by a sudden health change is to start the planning process ahead of time. Being proactive in this way is associated with greater satisfaction in the long run, because it allows families and seniors to take the time to find a community that’s a good fit and it gives everyone more control over the decision-making process. If you’re not prepared and there’s a crisis situation, it limits the residence options available to you.
One last bonus tip: arranging senior care for a couple can be hard, requiring families to consider individual and shared needs of both spouses — but don’t forget to consider the needs of the caregiver and don’t be afraid to ask for help from a Senior Living Advisor or other expert when it comes to finding the best fit for your loved ones.