Moving to an assisted living community is a big decision. Many seniors hesitate to make the move out of 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 potential residents 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 offers residential independent living, assisted living and memory care services across the U.S., features a temporary stay option called “Atria Retreat” in many of its locations. “Potential residents enjoy the same amenities as our full-time residents, including restaurant-style meals, social activities, transportation services, in-room emergency call systems and around-the-clock staff availability,” says John Hartmayer, regional vice president at Atria Senior Living.
During their stay, seniors get to know the other residents and staff and get a feel for what day-to-day life is like in the community, all without a long-term commitment. Seniors can also book a temporary stay to recover from an illness or injury or provide their caregivers with respite so they can decompress or even travel.
One Couple’s Experience Trying Out Assisted Living
Jackie and Al Haglund are in their late 80s and recently decided to give assisted living a try. The Haglunds currently reside in Palmetto, Florida, but their two sons, Dan and Tim, have been trying to get them to move closer to family for years. So, the Haglunds packed their bags and spent a few weeks at Laurel Oaks, an independent and assisted living community near Tim 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.” However, at the end of their stay, the Haglunds decided that assisted living is not the best fit for them at the moment. “We felt a little confined not having a car,” Mrs. Haglund admits. “They have a bus that takes you anywhere you want to go, but you’re on someone else’s schedule.”
The Haglunds are relatively active seniors, so another issue Jackie cited was that being around other residents who are less mobile made them feel old. They have not crossed assisted living off their list of options, though. “Assisted living is something we will consider at some time in the future, but not right now,” Mrs. Haglund explains.
Dan Haglund, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, says he and his brother were disappointed that their parents decided not to make the move a permanent one. “Dad has early stage Alzheimer’s disease and mom has had a couple of bad falls as well as chronic pain in her neck,” he says. “We worry about them and 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 Haglunds’ story isn’t unusual. According to Atria, about half of the people who stay temporarily in assisted living make a long-term commitment. The other half decides assisted living isn’t the right option for the time being, although many do return as their needs increase.
The Benefits of Assisted Living Trials
These trial programs allow seniors to see for themselves that the stereotypical institutional settings of the past with shared bathrooms, narrow hallways and small double rooms have given way to apartment-style living, gourmet food, on-site spas and more activities and amenities than most people have access to at home. Today’s assisted living communities are more like active retirement neighborhoods and less likes old folks’ homes. While the image has changed, 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,” Hartmayer says.
The option is also an excellent compromise for families who are trying to seek outside help and support with caregiving. Adult children often recognize their loved ones’ growing needs and encourage a move to senior living before it becomes too disruptive. However, aging parents are notoriously stubborn when it comes to staying put in their homes. A one- or two-month stay in an assisted living community is the perfect middle ground for both parties, and it can be a valuable learning experience that helps everyone involved make an informed decision about long-term care.
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 the community offers, the size of the apartment and the location. Some communities charge extra for add-ons like meal plans, housekeeping services or utilities. In most cases, 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 of a trial run could be worth every penny.