Assisted living: Talking to parents about the lifestyle transition

Experts say do it soon rather than later

INDIANAPOLIS - There are many factors to consider before having the difficult conversation with elderly parents about moving them into an assisted-living facility.

One major factor to consider is finances, so experts said it is better to have the talk sooner rather than later.

Marion Gonzalez knew it was time to make a decision after her mother fell in the middle of the night and remained on the floor for hours until she was found by Gonzalez.

"She looked at me and said, you know, I think maybe the time has come, we need to start looking into assisted living," Gonzalez said.

The two had been living together, but the requirement for around-the-clock care became too much for Gonzalez and her siblings.

The decision to move her mother to a facility was a decision they kept postponing for a couple of reasons including cost and independence.

"I couldn't be sad about leaving because I had to. Now if I had my choice to stay there, I probably would've stayed," said mother Jean Rhoades.

The average assisted-living facility can cost from $3,500 to $5,000 a month, or even up to $10,000 for highly skilled care.

That's why Gonzalez recommended hiring an elder care attorney like Carol Applegate.

"The best time to start looking at this issue is when you begin to see changes in Mom and Dad," Applegate said.

Applegate said with so much money at stake, it's important to have the sensitive conversations early and not wait for a crisis.

Planning is especially important for parents who want to leave an inheritance to their children.

"That's one of the things I think the elderly worry about. In her generation, you have to leave something for your children. You have to leave something behind, and that's what they focus on," Gonzalez said.

Currently, Rhoades pays for her care, but with the help of her attorney, she has also set aside money that she hopes will be there for her family.

"Medicaid says right now there's a five-year lookback period, so if you transfer or gift away any of your money in the last five years, they're going to penalize you and you're going to have to pay privately for your nursing care," Applegate said.

In addition to feeling financially secure, Rhoades is emotionally secure, and said she hasn't had this much fun since her husband was alive.

"I'll never forget him, never stop loving him. But I got kind of like a new life here," Rhoades said.

Experts said children should bring up the subject of assisted living, especially when they notice changes in their parent's health or living conditions.

If a parent doesn't want to talk about it, experts said to try again another day.

Experts said to take parents on a tour of some facilities so they can get a feel for what each one has to offer.

It may be much easier for them to make a decision when there is less pressure for them to make an immediate decision.

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