No Strings Attached: Trying Out Assisted Living


Moving to an assisted living community is a big decision. Many seniors hesitate to make the permanent move, for fear of the unknown. But today, more and more communities are making it easier for seniors who want to test the waters and see first-hand if assisted living is right for them. It's a "no-strings-attached" approach that lets seniors move in for a month or two, and try out all that assisted living has to offer before making a permanent commitment.

For example, Atria Senior Living, which has independent living, assisted living and memory care services across the U.S. offers a temporary stay option called "Atria Retreat" in many of its locations. "The senior enjoys the same amenities as our full-time residents, including restaurant-style meals, social activities, transportation service, in-room emergency call systems and around-the-clock staff availability," John Hartmayer, regional vice president at Atria Senior Living told

Seniors get to know the other residents, staff, and get the feel of the place, for day-to-day life, knowing there is not a long-term commitment.

Jackie, 86, and Al, 89, Haglund gave assisted living a try recently. They live in Palmetto, Florida, but their sons want them to move closer to one of them, in either Wisconsin or Georgia. So the Haglunds packed their bags and moved into Laurel Oaks, an independent and assisted living community in Glendale, Wisconsin.

"We enjoyed the stay," Mrs. Haglund says. "It's a beautiful community, and we met lots of nice people who we will remain friends with." But at the end of their stay, the Haglunds decided assisted living is not for them…right now. "We felt a little confined, not having a car. They have a bus that takes you anywhere you want to go, but you're on someone else's schedule.

The Haglunds are active seniors, and being around others who are less mobile, requiring walkers and wheelchairs, made them feel old, Mrs. Haglund explains. "Assisted living is an option we will consider at some time in the future, but not right now," Mrs. Haglund says.

The Haglund's son, Dan, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, says he and his brother Tim were disappointed that their parents decided not move to the town where Tim lives. "Dad has early stage Alzheimer's and mom has had a couple of bad falls, as well as an operation in her neck that left her in constant pain," Dan Haglund says. "We worry about them. The distance makes it difficult. We wish they would live closer to a relative in case something goes wrong. We dread getting that phone call that something has happened and we're both so far away."

The Haglund's story isn't unusual. According to Atria, about half of the people who stay temporarily in assisted living move in permanently. The other half decides assisted living isn't the right option for the time being although many do return as their health declines.

Seniors are able to see for themselves that the days of the institution-like setting with shared bathrooms, narrow hallways and small double rooms are for the most part, gone. Today's assisted living communities have apartment-style living, gourmet food, spas and more activities and amenities than most people have at home. Today's assisted living communities are more like active retirement neighborhoods and less likes old folk's homes. The image has changed, but seniors are still reluctant. That's what makes temporary-stay options so beneficial. "It's a wonderful opportunity to see if it's a good fit," Mr. Hartmayer says.

Of course, the luxury of modern-day assisted living communities doesn't come cheap. Prices for temporary stays range from $99 to over $250 per day, depending on the level of care, size of apartment and location. Some charge extra for meal plans, or utilities. In many cases, the temporary stays are "private pay" meaning the seniors and their families are responsible for all costs, because Medicare and Medicaid are not accepted. But for caregivers who are struggling to convince mom or dad to give assisted living a try, the cost could be worth every penny.

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After 8 months of resistance to considering assisted living, my father accepted an invitation for a temporary stay. This was timely as my sister, his primary cargiver, needed to be out of town for 2 weeks. By the time she returned, Dad has already lined up the movers. 4 months later, he is glad he made the decision to move.
We are so hopeful that this type of stay will convince my husband's 95 year old aunt to make the move. Her current conditions are pretty bad and she refuses all help from us, but her condo building is in need of major repairs - new windows & roofs, new plumbing system etc. so she's forced to move during the repairs! :-) We're keeping our fingers crossed.
My father is similar to the story. He wants to make the move when he feels he is ready. He is ready, he just refuses to accept it. The statement in the above about the people using canes, walkers, etc making the couple feel older is exactly what my father would say "makes him feel older" He is 90... he is old. I think there are many parents who are selfish and could care less how worried their children are, and how much time their adult children spend in caring for them as they continue to live 'independently'.