My Search For Assisted Living: An Interview

The search to find the perfect assisted living location for a loved one is a daunting task. If you are facing such a search, you undoubtedly feel the weight upon your shoulders to make wise decisions that best fit your loved ones care needs, personality, location, and budget. Below is an interview with Tracy J (abbreviated per her privacy request) who recently faced such a search.  


Interviewer: “Thanks for agreeing to do this interview Tracy. Our hope is that others who are facing the task of finding the right assisted living location for their loved one will find comfort in relating to your real-life search.”


Tracy: “Of course. I’m happy to do it.”


Q: “So, tell me, when did you come to the realization that your mother was in need of assisted living?”


A: “Well, I remember it well because it was just before Christmas, 2015. My father had passed two years before in 2013 and I felt the need to check in on mom at her home more often…. which I did about 3 times a week. But it wasn’t until Christmas time, when I was able to spend larger periods of time with her, that I really became alarmed about her living alone.”

Q: “What specifically do you mean? What was it that alarmed you?”


A: “Well, it started with small things that, now looking back, I wish I had paid more attention to. For instance, I remember mom telling the same story at the dinner table that she had already told us earlier that day. My husband and I made eye contact as she told it again but I just discounted it to old age. Then, later, she forgot to take her medications which I reminded her about. But again, I reasoned in my mind that it was an honest mistake. Really, I wasn’t truly alarmed until we began cooking Christmas dinner. That’s when I noticed her clumsiness around the oven and stove. In fact, I had to insist that she sit down after mishandling a pot of boiling water.”


Q: “Wow. So when did you decide to begin your assisted living search?”


A: “Well, when the holidays were over, mom went home and our busy lives picked up where they left off… husband and I went back to work, kids went back to school, homework, soccer practice, gymnastics, planning dinners….you know… But at night I just couldn’t sleep. I was worried. I mean, we had a home health company doing groceries and laundry for her but those couple of hours a day were a far cry from the 24 hour care I knew she needed. I had a string of anxious nights when my husband and I finally made the decision to approach her about assisted living.”


Q: “How did it go? What was the conversation like?”


A: “Well, my husband and I knew enough not to come on too strong with the idea. My mother is very strong-willed and I suspected she would be resistant. First I contacted my sister because I knew she would want to be involved. With her on board, we decided to continue with the frequent visits but now with a plan to intentionally steer the conversations towards her plans for the future. We really wanted it to be her decision and not ours….you know….but change for her is difficult to digest. That’s why we made an effort to bring up the subject as naturally as possible – over time.”


Q: “How long did it take for your mom to warm up to the idea of assisted living?”


A: (laughing) “Not as fast as I would have liked! Like I said, I was such a wreck with her home alone so much, so I wanted to move forward right away…..But I knew that would not be respectful of her feelings so I tried to put myself in her shoes, you know? I think that served me well. Had my sister and I sat my mom down and voiced all of our concerns and told her what was best for her, I think she would have felt disrespected and miserable no matter where we placed her….No, I think we spoke to her increasingly about options and what she wanted for the future over the course of 5-6 weeks or so.”


Q: “So, at what point did you see that she was open to assisted living?”


A: “Well, it wasn’t like a light came on so to speak and suddenly she wanted to make the move. She was open only….and I mean only…to taking a look at assisted living properties after about 5-6 weeks of heart-to-heart conversations. We did our best to help her see the true nature of the situation and when we felt it was appropriate, we voiced our own concerns in a loving way as well.”


Q: “Okay. Well, how did you decide what locations to show her?”


A: “Well, during that 5 or 6 week time that we were trying to get an idea of mom’s level of resistance and having conversations about her future, I was trying to research online to be prepared for that moment …..when she might agree.”


Q: “How did the research go?”


A: “Like I said, my husband and I were very busy with our jobs and kid activities and visiting mom so most of my research was done late at night. It was exhausting but after about a week or so I had found a few locations online that looked good to me. I called a couple and made plans to visit both.”


Q: “And what happened?”


A: “Well, the first assisted living facility I took a look at was about a mile from my home. I met the manager but I could tell right away that it was not going to work for mom.”


Q: “Why?”


A: “It was a small group home with very low-functioning residents. The manager was very nice but the residents did not look especially happy and the caregivers didn’t seem especially happy – one caregiver had such a thick accent that it was difficult to understand what she was saying.”


Q: “What about the second facility?”


A: “Well, the next location I visited was a similar situation. In fact, I remember a terrible odor as soon as I entered. I knew that this location would not work either but I felt obligated to sit through the whole sales spiel again. I remember the manager there mentioning that there were over 2000 assisted living locations in the Phoenix area and that’s when my heart sank into my stomach……because I knew I was in trouble. I felt like I needed a friend that knew the market or something……someone to help point me in the right direction.”


Q: “So what did you do?”


A: “Well, I remembered in my research that there was a local company in Phoenix called Transitions Assisted Living that helped people find quality assisted living in the Phoenix area at no charge to their clients. I looked them up and submitted my information online the next-“


Q: “No charge to their clients? How does that work?”


A: (laughing) “Yes, I was skeptical too at first but their fee is paid by their participating partners – a ‘bird-dog’ fee you might say.”


Q: “So, I imagine the facility pads your monthly fee to cover the finders fee expense then?”


A: (laughing) “You and I think alike……I thought the same thing…..But actually, no. I asked (senior living associate) about that myself. As it turns out, they (Transitions) have gone out of their way to make sure the prices quoted are the same whether I used their services or not.”


Q: “Ok. So then what? Were they helpful to you?”


A: “Absolutely. They were amazing. They called me the next morning and we had a short discussion about my mom’s care needs and personality. They asked me about my target area of town and price range and how I wanted to proceed. Within a matter of about 48 hours, I had detailed information on a handful of assisted living properties that were highly recommended for my mom.”


Q: “What do you mean by ‘highly recommended’? What did they do that you couldn’t?”


A: “Well, for one, they had already physically toured the facilities in my area, interviewed the administrators, and knew what each facility had to offer. That was huge to me because the one thing I knew was that I didn’t want to continue stretching my schedule to make time to visit locations that were a waste of my time… know? Another eye-opening thing for me was when I mentioned my poor assisted living experiences to (senior living associate). I told him the names of the facilities and it turned out that they both had been recently cited for health and safety violations. That’s really when I knew I was finally on the right track.”


Q: “Ok. So was there a difference in the facilities they recommended and the one’s you toured on your own?”


A: “There was a difference. I had 5 locations to see at first. They were all highly ranked by the Transitions touring team and I could see why right away……because the administrators were gracious and the residents appeared happy and very well cared for…..playing board games, laughing……I remember one older gentleman liked to paint and there he was painting away. It was different for sure.”


Q: “What about the price?”


A: “That’s a great point. I’m a price hound myself. I like to get the most for my money but at the same time I didn’t want to sacrifice mom’s happiness. I mean, I knew we needed to stretch moms money as far as possible but she wasn’t going to be okay with any old property. After speaking to (Transitions) about the budget, he was able to really focus in on a “sweet spot” you know? I guess what I mean by that is that the locations he recommended were amazing balances of my “must haves” such as budget and care quality while being flexible on other things that were not so important.”


Q: “I’m not sure I know what you mean.”


A: “Well, for instance, the location where my mom ended up would have never been on my radar….. had I gone at it alone I mean. I realized that my initial location requirements were selfish and I needed to be more flexible for my mom to be happy and comfortable.”


Q: “Interesting. So how does this story end?”


A: “Well, we toured about 6 or 7 places and mom decided on an amazing assisted living group home that my sister and I could not be happier with. The care givers are great. The facility is beautiful with a covered patio in the back. There’s no work for her to do around the house or reason for me to worry at night. You know…there’s a small elevated garden in the back she likes to tinker with….She plays board games and watches her shows. And it’s close enough for my sister and I to visit often.”


Q: “I’d say that’s a great outcome….wasn’t it?”


A: “Yes, it definitely was.”


Q: “Tell me, would you recommend Transitions Assisted Living to others in a similar situation as yours?”


A: “Absolutely. I know in my heart that I could have never found such a perfect fit for mom without the help of Transitions. My greatest fear was to have to move her more than once and lose her spirit in the process. Transitions was the advocate I needed. I’d recommend them to anyone.”


Interviewer: “That’s great Tracy. Thanks again for your time and I wish you and your mom the best.”


Tracy: Of course. It’s my pleasure.

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