Critical Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing Assisted Living Facilities

Critical Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing Assisted Living Facilities


Assissted living is supposed to make everyone’s lives easier. However, if we don’t make our choice of facilities wisely, things often crop up over time that give us more stress than freedom. Hidden health costs, Inadequate health care and fine print fees in contracts are just a few of the issues that come up. Luckily for you, this article will detail the 7 most critical mistakes to avoid when Choosing Assisted Living.

We’ve all made choices that we regretted. 

Messing up is an inescapable part of the human experience and sooner or later we all have some big ones. Now of course, messing up isn’t always a bad thing. In theory, mistakes are often some of the best things for us since we’re able to learn from them and improve as humans. 

At the same time- there are some mistakes that you’re better off not making. Like forgetting to wipe during diaper changes or leaving a roast FAR too long in the oven. 

To help you make the best choice of assisted living facilities we’ve put together this guide that will help you avoid some critical mistakes that are surprisingly easy to make when choosing a facility. 

In this guide, we’ll be covering the 6 most common mistakes to avoid when choosing assisted living, and how you can avoid getting stuck making decisions. 

Let’s dive right in to mistake number 1. 

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Mistake #1 - Judging by Impressions

One of the most common pitfalls when choosing assisted living, is assuming that looking “good, clean or happy” is the most important criteria for choosing a facility. It’s all too easy to assume that because something looks good, it is good for you. 

It’s part of our hardwiring as human beings.

In order to make surviving easier, our brains have developed a mechanism for automating as many thoughts as possible. By making thoughts and actions automatic, we spend less time thinking through simple things, allowing us to spend more time gathering food, avoiding danger and building our family groups. 

Over time, these “automated thoughts” become ingrained in us, and an example of this is our tendency to judge a book by its cover. Before we developed modern medical technology, one of the ways our ancestors chose mates was by appearance.  Of course, this wasn’t 100% fool proof, but for the most part if a mate looked healthy, they were healthy. 

This phenomenon of thought is the basis of “implicit bias” and it’s another one of those unavoidable parts of being human. Again, our brains are hardwired to simplify our basic thinking as much as possible, since this allows us to judge threats sooner and hopefully stay out of trouble. 

At one point in our development, the time spent deciding whether that shadow moving toward you is a leopard or not could have meant life or death. 

This has had spinoffs that still impact our decision making today, like feeling fear if a man in a ski mask suddenly runs around the corner. Your mind has seen so many movies featuring “villains” with ski masks on that you’ve automatically associated “ski mask” with “criminal”. 

On the other hand, were you to bump into a nicely dressed man or woman running around a corner, you are far less likely to experience fear. 

How You Can Avoid This Mistake: 

When choosing the best assisted living for your parents, both you and them need to keep in mind the fact that how a place looks can alter your decision making. Websites, pamphlets and social media posts, tend to showcase only the very best sides of a facility.  

Note- I am not suggesting that you be overly skeptical of all facilities if they look good on paper. I am suggesting however, that you invest the time necessary to figure out whether the facility offers what would best suit your needs.  

Which brings us to our 2nd most common pitfall- not thinking ahead of time. 

Mistake #2 - Not Thinking Ahead of Time

When choosing your assisted living facility, be sure to think about how things may change for your parents in the near future. If you’re still blessed to have elderly parents who are in good health, then congratulations! Continue to enjoy the life you share with them to the fullest. 

If you’re considering assisted living however, you should bear the future in mind. 

As our parents age, their bodies will slow down. 

Joints don’t move like they used to. Arms that could once hold 4 children and 6 bags of groceries at once, now struggle with a lightly packed suitcase. Some parents begin to struggle with the onset of dementia and suffer personality changes, unstable emotions and the loss of memory. 

If things start going downhill for your parents, moving to a facility that provides better health care will be even more difficult than moving to one when they are in good shape. 

How You Can Avoid This Mistake: 

The best way you can prepare for the future is to invest in a consultation with your family doctor to find out what to expect regarding your parents’ health. 

If your family has a history of dementia, it’s especially important to consider facility health care in advance. Physical health issues make facility transfers difficult, but dementia makes transferring even more so. 

The potential difficulty in forming new memories means that your parent could struggle to adjust to their new environment. This could lead to a number of unpleasant and difficult to address spin-off issues. 

Once you’ve consulted a physician, you should choose a facility that can be as permanent for you and your parents as possible. 

This way, you minimize the chances of needing to relocate in the future. Sparing yourself and your parents a lot of stress.

Mistake #3 - Robbing Your Parents of Their Dignity 

Making a move to assisted living can be a challenge for everyone involved. There are a hefty number of things to consider such as: 

  • Health Care 
  • Social Activity 
  • Proximity to Family Members 
  • Personal preference 

In the hustle to consider each aspect carefully and come to the best decision for all parties, it’s easy to make this process about you and not about your parents. 

Right now, your parents are entering or are well-into the 2nd most vulnerable period of their lives. They have been dealing with the loss of faculties they once had to age. They’ve likely left behind professions, lost friends and have even given up tasks or hobbies that made them feel whole. 

Their primary emotional driver at this point in their lives, is the maintenance of their dignity.

You need to bear this in mind as you move forward with this process. Involve your parents in the decision making as much as possible and truly consider their input. 

Don’t simply come up with things you think would be a “good idea” then propose it to them afterward. (Unless of course they ask you to do so.) 

How You Can Avoid This Mistake: 

Instead of making the decisions by yourself, sit with your parents and walk through the decision-making process together. 

Come up with ideas that come as close to ideal as possible for the entire family. Of course, there may be times for a firm stance, but your parents will appreciate having their fair say. 

Dignity can make all the difference between an enjoyable entry into assisted living and one that’s filled with turmoil and stress. 

Mistake #4 - Not Considering Your Parent’s Current circumstances and Abilities

Truth can be a harsh friend at times. 

It’s tough to look at your parents as they age, knowing that they were once capable, healthy adults that guided you on your journey into adulthood. They were your foundation, provided for you, loved you and did their utmost to build you into a happy, healthy adult. 

It’s easy to see someone as you would like them to be and not who they really are. 

Sure, your father may mentally be the strong, Mr. Fix-it-all that you remember from not too long ago, but maybe now his hip replacement keeps him back. Maybe he’s begun losing his memory or his personality has changed. All of these are possibilities as our parents age and as hard as it can be to acknowledge them becoming different people, it’s important to do so. 

How You Can Avoid This Mistake: 

By acknowledging your parents’ current abilities and emotional and physical status, you put yourself in the best position to avoid this mistake. Don’t choose a facility because of their senior water polo team when your father would benefit far more from on-hand care and the occasional game of blackjack. 

Always make your choices to ensure an acceptable standard of health care first.

Mistake #5 - Allowing Stress to Force your Hand

Overall, we tend to make poor choices when we feel under pressure to do so. Do you remember being young and nagging your parents for a candy or a toy? You’d spend hours bugging them in the mall or grocery and when they finally told you to go pick one, suddenly you struggled with the choice. 

One could blame the tendency of young people to not think things all the way through, but emotional stress has been proven time and again to compromise our rational decision making. 

Which is why we advise, that no matter how tough things seem- to NOT make a decision that you feel pressured into. 

It’s understandable to feel pressure in a situation like this. Emotions are running high. You could be struggling with guilt, dealing with your and your parent’s frustration and even the kids could be stressing you out. 

Considering the number of factors, you need to consider when making this choice, it’s understandable that you’d be stressed, but under no circumstance should you rush into a decision, simply to eliminate a stressor. 

This is a life changing choice for you and your parents.

How You Can Avoid This Mistake: 

If you’re feeling the pressured, take some time away from the problem and revisit it once you’ve cooled down. This might mean taking an hour or two to walk through a park or taking a couple days to simply enjoy life and then tackle the big choices when you’ve recovered.  

This segues quite well into the final mistake on our list- trying to handle everything on your own. 

Mistake #6 - Trying to Do It All on your Own

By far, this is the number 1 trap that people like yourself fall into when choosing an assisted living facility. It’s very easy to get caught up in a loop of making choice after choice, searching facility after facility and getting caught up in all the little details that need to be considered. 

Our love for our parents tends to blind us in these situations. 

We feel a need to handle everything ourselves, because we get anxious about what could happen if someone else gets it wrong. It’s like the anxiety people are prone to when flying in planes. 

Logically we all know that nothing will happen to the plane. Airports are incredibly highly regulated and the chances of experiencing a major event while airborne are incredibly low. In fact, the odds of a plane crash are 1 in 1.2 million, whereas the odds of dying in a car crash are 1 in 5000. 

Yet, you feel a million times safer driving your car at 80 mph on the freeway than in the 1st class cabin of an aircraft. 

Why is that? 

Well, one of the major sources of anxiety while flying is the lack of perceived control. We feel bumps, twists, turns and jumps that we can’t place any logical reason behind and immediately jump to a worse case scenario. 

The same lack of perceived control is at play in this scenario and is likely causing you to feel anxious. 

How You Can Avoid This Mistake: 

If you feel like you just can’t help but be involved in the process, then consider enlisting some professional help. For example, we offer 100% free consultation right here on this site We’re committed to working with you to help you simplify this decision-making process as much as possible. 

If you’re not comfortable talking to us, try sharing the work load with a spouse, reading informative books and generally increasing your knowledge surrounding the topic. By taking some of the work off your plate, you’ll put yourself in a better frame of mind to actually make good choices. 

Your family is there for you, so get them involved. 

Mistake #7 Missing Details in the Contract 

Naturally, signing contracts comes as one of the final steps in any assisted living arrangement. 

Unfortunately, it’s one of the areas we see people missing the mark and falling into bad situations. Even if you think you’ve found your “perfect” match, it’s healthy to approach payments + contracts with healthy skepticism. 

Assisted living facilities are designed to make your and your parents’ lives easier, but it’s wise to remember that they are businesses. Given this, they need to ensure that their financial bases are covered and often, this means having additional fees for specific situations they don’t accommodate for. 

It’s up to you, to ensure that you understand all of the details in the contract you are signing. Facilities aren’t out to “get you with hidden fees” but they also aren’t obligated to walk you through every single detail of a contract. 

How You can avoid this mistake:  

To make sure that you’re getting the best deal possible, we recommend contacting an experienced assisted living consultancy or hiring a lawyer short term, to help you analyze your contract in depth. 

Hiring a lawyer may seem like an extra cost upfront, however think of it as a short-term investment to protect your financial future and your parent’s health. 

Download the short list

Of the main points mentioned in the blog

So you have it handy when needed

Bonus Insights

How to Avoid “Analysis Paralysis” 

Analysis Paralysis is the inability to act or decide due to overthinking available alternatives, data or possible outcomes.  In layman’s terms it’s what happens when a person becomes so consumed in thinking through which decision to make, they fail to make a decision. 

In order to avoid analysis paralysis when making this particular decision it’s best to set up some guidelines for yourself in advance: 

Don’t try to be 100% perfect- it’s better to have 95% of what you want, than to get stuck choosing and never reach a solution

Use constructive deadlines- Having a deadline puts a healthy amount of pressure on you to get what needs to be done- done

Allow others to hold you accountable- this is another form of healthy pressure you can use to break the paralysis loop

Remember your priorities- The objective isn’t to find the 100% perfect solution for your assisted living needs, it’s to make sure all of your bases are covered, and your parents and you can be happy with the decision.

A Quick Recap 

  1. Don’t allow appearances to dominate your judgement, aesthetics matter a lot but essentials like health care matter far more. 
  2. Don’t make a choice solely based on your current situation, try to project your thoughts at least reasonably far into the future and pick a solution that can accommodate both current and future needs.
  3. Don’t rob your parents of their dignity by failing to include them in the decision-making process. If they’re able to participate, involve them as much as possible in the decisions. They’ll love you even more for it.  
  4. Don’t make a choice based on an idealized version of your parents. Assess their current physical and mental health, attitudes and abilities to make an accurate decision. 
  5. Don’t allow stress to force you into a hasty decision. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the process, take a break for a day or two and get back to it when you feel like you can. 
  6. Don’t take the burden all on your own shoulders. Allow your spouse and family to help, confide in a close friend or use a 100% free consultation service like ours. We’ll do our best to guide you in finding the best solution for yourself and your parents. 
  7. Make sure you pay attention to the fine print. Assisted living facilities aren’t out to take your money, but they are businesses that cover their losses. Hire a lawyer or speak with an assisted living consultant to make sure you understand contracts in perfect detail. 

(P.S. If you haven’t figured out how to approach the conversation or you’ve just been putting it off, check out our guide to having “the talk” with your parents.)

We can Help! Our local advisors can help your family make a confident decision about senior living.

Call: 800-997-1342


Sholem Berkowitz
Sholem Berkowitz

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