Choosing an assisted living facility in Phoenix can be tough. The best Arizona assisted living solution is different for everyone and every family. People have all kinds of questions when they are learning how to choose an assisted living facility.
“I just feel so overwhelmed”
That’s what we hear from many families.
Families who are taking care of an elderly parent, spouse or relative.
As if just being there for a loved one wasn’t enough. Now you may also have to be a:
- Financial guardian
- Medical practitioner (dispensing medication, checking vitals etc.)
- Grief counselor
- Legal advisor
- Physical therapist
- Estate auctioneer
It can be way too much for one person, or even a couple to take on. Yet so many families try to do it. They feel guilty for not being able to take care of their parents themselves. After all – didn’t their parents take care of them? One of the families in our Arizona assisted living homes put it this way when they were choosing an assisted living facility in Phoenix:
“We felt guilty because Mom always said “Don’t you dare put me in a home”. I felt guilty because I was raised in a generation where I was told what to do and I did it.”
Today there are a TON of resources to help families with elderly relatives learn how to choose an assisted living facility in Phoenix. Unfortunately many families are unaware of these resources. They just don’t have the time to do all the research that may be required. Or they feel guilty about turning the care over to others.
Does this sound like you?
The good news is, you’re not alone when choosing an assisted living facility in Phoenix, Arizona. This is a long post designed to help you learn about all your options. We’ve also included real-life examples, thoughts, and advice from families who have been in your shoes. If you need further information on other resources, please do not hesitate to contact us.
How To Know It May Be Time
Many people put off decisions on long-term care until they are forced to make them. It’s completely understandable. Elderly people can function fine on their own most of the time.
Until they can’t.
75% of the people we see in our assisted living homes need to place their relative within a week or two.
Usually there is some kind of triggering event that causes the family to begin their search. Some examples include:
- Falls in the home
- Death of a spouse that was performing the caregiving
- A traumatic medical event such as a stroke
- Unsafe behavior (leaving stove on regularly, wandering away from the home)
- Worsening of a degenerative disease (Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s etc.)
- Inability to perform daily tasks
One of our families said they made the decision from this incident:
“We took her to the hospital psyche unit after she walked out the garage on her own. She became hysterical and incoherent saying ‘Everyone’s taking advantage of me’. ‘Everyone thinks I’m crazy’. She was showing lots of aggressive behavior.”
Another family told us:
“What triggered our search was because Dad had a stroke. We all worked so nobody could take care of Dad. Our Mother was alive but couldn’t take care of him. He needed 24-hour care. We had home health but the social worker recommended assisted living.”
If you find yourself in a situation where you need an assisted living home right away, please download our free guide and checklist,
Although many Arizona assisted living resources are geared to handle these sudden needs, planning ahead makes transitioning a little more bearable. Having a plan makes choosing an assisted living facility in Phoenix, AZ a little easier.
It also helps to lessen the guilt.
Preparing for your elderly loved one’s future as early as possible makes it easier on your end. Less stress, fewer mistakes. The best decisions are not made under pressure.
Longer Term Planning
No one wants to have ‘the talk’ with your loved one(s). But if you see a decline in the health of your parent, the sooner you can discuss future options the better. Since this topic tends to avoided or placed at the bottom of everyone’s to-do list, it is better to set a planned meeting where everyone is present. Set a time and place and make sure everyone comes. Everyone should agree on how to choose an assisted living facility. What are the priorities?
If the whole family can’t physically be there, have a conference call or use Skype so they can still be part of the meeting.
During the family meeting, the main goal is to thoroughly talk about the needs of your parents as they are growing older. Develop a plan that includes your parent’s wishes:
- Where is your parent going to live when they are unable to live alone.
- How to pay for the care they need.
- What your parent feels about their current living situation.
- What you and your siblings can do for your aging parent.
Before the meeting, try to foresee the conflicts or situations that may arise. Consider how each of your family members feels and work your way around that. Make an effort to make the meeting productive and positive.
Sometimes during these family meetings, the opinions of the children and other family members drown out that of your elderly parent’s. It is important to make your elderly loved one feel that their viewpoint matters because, at the end of the day, it really should.
Depending on your parent’s condition, the meeting may be very quick with obvious solutions. Or it could drag on if the parent is relatively healthy and doesn’t believe such a meeting is necessary.
One Family’s Example: A family from California knew when they needed to transfer their mother into a living facility. The elderly mother was living with her son for almost a year until one night, their beloved mother suffered a fall. They rushed her to the hospital but luckily, not a bone was broken. That scare made their mother realize that she needed someone to take care of her full-time, so she made the decision to move into an Arizona assisted living facility herself.
Another family told us:
“We noticed changes in our mother’s behavior. Our Mom became more withdrawn and refused to socialize. Not only that, she left a plastic container on the stove with the gas on and left a washtub filling up resulting in an overflow in the garage.”
Expect that your parents will express strong opinions as to where and how they want to live. And most of the time, they won’t like to move out of their (or your) home. Regardless of what you think is best for them, it is best to listen to what they have to say and consider their thoughts and feelings. Always include them in the decisions you need to make. Not including them will make them much more defensive and resistant.
Consider Financial Resources
Let’s remove one myth from the start:
Medicare does not pay for assisted living or Home Health Care.
If your family, and the elderly family members in particular, are below a certain income level in Arizona (where our homes are located), you can apply with the Arizona Long-Term Care System (ALTCS) to help pay for your care, whether it is assisted living or Home Health. We wrote a free guide you can download called:
We also highly recommend you discuss applying for ALTCS with an elder-law attorney. One of the best in the Phoenix area we have found is Jackson White. Financial considerations play a large role in how to choose an assisted living facility.
If you decide ALTCS or Medicaid is not an option you will have to determine what does make sense based on the family funds available and the level of care your loved one needs.
It’s a good idea to review the net worth of your loved one. Some of the things to consider include:
- Retirement savings
- Long-Term Care Insurance
- Social Security
- Veteran’s Status
- Assets such as equity in their home
- Other income, and
We included veteran status because some veterans and their spouses are eligible for a government benefit called “Aid and Attendance”. If your family member:
- Was on active duty during a time of war (not necessarily in the war)
- Received an honorable discharge
- Is 65 or older (or are totally disabled if under 65)
They may qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit. They also cannot exceed a certain wealth (assets and income) level. The total benefit as of 2017 can be as high as $1,794 for a single person, $1,149 for a surviving spouse or $2,127 for a veteran and their spouse. There are experts licensed by the Department of Veterans Affairs who can help guide you through the lengthy application process. We can provide contact information for those people.
When you are doing some financial planning for your relative, consider their current expenses. Compute how much cash flow and assets they will have available to pay for their care. Then think about what kind of care your relative may need. If they only need someone to check on them for a few hours each day, and help them with some tasks such as laundry and meal prep, it may make sense to hire a home health agency. Home health care costs around $20-$25 per hour. If you need some recommendations for good ones, please contact us.
On the other hand if your loved one needs 24/7 monitoring, $20-$25/hour turns into $14,880 – $18,600/month. That is out of reach for all but the very wealthiest people. That’s why 24/7 affordable caregivers makes assisted living much more financially attractive.
If your family member needs 24/7 medical care, assisted living will not be the best option. Assisted living is much more for daily activities assistance. Constant medical supervision is much better in a hospital or skilled nursing facility.
A good way to find out just what level of care your loved one needs is to use our Smart Choices tool.
Family meetings are a great opportunity to discuss who will oversee your parent’s accounts and have the power of attorney. At the meetings you can also determine if you need a family member added to your certain financial accounts or if you need to start monitoring expenses and budget the money. Realize up front that it’s normal to feel uneasy talking about money.
One Family’s Tip: A wife of one of our Arizona assisted living residents used a reverse mortgage to pay for her husband’s care. A reverse mortgage allows you to take a loan out based on the equity of your home. Reverse mortgages have some great advantages for people over age 62:
- It gives you immediate access to cash using the equity in your home – either as a lump sum or a line of credit
- You don’t have to make a single payment on the loan for the rest of your life, although interest will accumulate on money you borrow
- It can allow you to delay taking social security, which will make your social security benefit higher when you do take it
- When you pass away, the mortgage lender sells your home. If they make more on the sale than what is owed, your heirs receive the difference
- If you pass away owing more than your home is worth, your heirs are NOT liable for the difference
- The government requires reverse mortgage specialists to counsel people so they understand any risks associated with reverse mortgages
- If you don’t use the mortgage amount right away, the amount of money available will generally increase over time.
The person our resident’s family used to set up the reverse mortgage was Barry Law of Synergy1. We can make a connection if you would like.
Medical and Legal Planning
When planning for medical and legal issues, expect to submit lots of documents. Keeping all important documents in one place saves time and keep you from stressing out in the event that these are all needed. Choosing an assisted living facility in Phoenix, AZ should take these issues into account.
One Family’s Tip: Scanning important documents and keeping them in a secure ‘Cloud’ folder such as Dropbox where all family members can access them can make the process much easier.
All important documents would include but not limited to:
- Marriage certificates
- Information regarding financial assets
- Military records, and
- Insurance policies.
Store the originals of these documents in a safe deposit box or a fireproof locked box. Ensure that you share this vital information with your parents and tell them to inform you and your siblings the location and any safe combinations so you can access it when needed.
If your elderly parent has neither made a will or named the executor, ask them to consider making one to avoid conflict in the family. Ask your parent to talk to a reputable elder law attorney to discuss their properties and assets and how they want to divide their estate. If your parent has ideas regarding their passing, they can create an outline that you and your family can follow. Living trusts can also be a great vehicle to help avoid probate.
One Family’s Tip: Way before she had dementia, one family had their mother add her children to her account. When Mom passed away, The children didn’t have to close the account, present a death certificate, or even go through an attorney.
One Family’s Tip: Way before she had dementia, one family had their mother add her children to her account. When Mom passed away, The children didn’t have to close the account, present a death certificate, or even go through an attorney.
It is also important to understand a parent’s medical wishes at end of life well before any decisions need to be made. An Advanced Health Care Directive, also known as a living will, includes the wishes of the person should they not be able to make those decisions themselves. This will allow Doctors and Emergency responders to act quickly in the best interest of the person.
You may also want to appoint a Medical Power of Attorney to make decisions for their loved one. When choosing someone to be the POA, consider whether they:
- Will be allowed to make decisions under state guidelines
- Is someone the elderly person trusts
- Will fight for the rights of the elderly person if there is a conflict
- Is not a medical professional assigned to the elderly person’s care
- Understands the medical issues involved
Starting the Search
It’s never too early to start looking for Arizona assisted living facilities even if you haven’t come up with a decision on which care is right. Your parent may be independent and healthy now but their health can decline quickly.
At an Arizona assisted living home or facility, your parent is able to live in a private or shared room. They will share meals and activities with other residents. The services of an Arizona assisted living home generally include
- Recreational pursuits
- Medication assistance, and
- Assistance in doing daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and more.
The comfort of your elderly loved one and the care he/she receives has to be one of the factors in choosing a facility. Consider space, safety, environment, atmosphere, consistency of care, and the staff. Always remember to keep your loved one’s best interest in mind when making the decision.
One of our families said that one of the greatest factors in choosing an Arizona assisted living community was the location:
“Our 67-year-old sister, XXX, had been diagnosed with White Dementia brought about by excessive drinking. XXX’s health started to rapidly decline and she needed someone to look out for her, so we chose the assisted living facility nearest to us. We wanted to be able to visit her as often as possible without having to make a huge trip and disrupt our lifestyle.”
Location plays a very big role in selection of the right Arizona assisted living home. Generally we see three different scenario’s when it comes to location:
- The family and parents live near each other, and they want assisted living close by
- The parent lives far from the children, but the parent wants to stay close to where they live
- The parent and children live far from each other, and the kids want to move the parent into a home that is close to the rest of the family
If the family wants to move their loved one a long distance to be closer to them, there are transportation companies that specialize in the movement of elderly people. We can assist you in finding them if you have any questions.
For the other two options, most people want to see assisted living homes in the local area. That can help narrow your search considerably. Or it might not. Some areas are saturated with assisted living choices. In other areas, you may have to travel a long distance to find any assisted living homes.
Think about how often you will stop by. If most of the family lives far away from the parent, and the parent wants to stay in the same area, you can still search a much wider area than if you are stopping by every day after work.
If you have several zip codes where you want to search, here is a short video on how to use the Arizona Department of Health (AZDHS) site to find a list of Arizona Assisted Living homes in your area:
The link to the AZDHS site mentioned in the video is here.
One of the first steps to kick-start your search is to ask for recommendations from the people you trust. You can also find reviews online, but asking for recommendations from people you know who went through the same situation can give you a sense of reassurance.
Most doctors and medical facilities have a list of Arizona assisted living facilities in your area. Many Arizona assisted living facilities and homes (including ours) work with local medical professionals and receive referrals from them. If a large medical center just hands you a list of homes, ask the professionals which ones they are familiar with and would recommend. Sometimes businesses will just put themselves on the list without much interaction with the medical staff.
Looking through magazines is another way to get a list of facilities in your area. A lot of professional publications leave their magazines at medical facilities where people can browse while waiting for their appointment. Two popular magazines for senior living options in Arizona are:
You can ask medical facilities if they have copies of the magazine.
Referral Agents and Agencies
Aside from getting a list of homes from medical facilities, they also may give you a list of referral agents. These agents can help you with the process of moving your loved one in an assisted living facility. The advantages of using a referral agent include:
- Agents are knowledgeable about the local facilities near you and may help you narrow your search.
- The services agents offer are usually free of charge (the home pays their fee)
- Agents will follow up with the resident to make sure the home is doing a good job
- Agents can also recommend lots of other services that might help your family member
Generally, the amount a referral agent will charge varies state by state. In Arizona it is usually a month’s rent. Assisted living homes may be more flexible with a discount on the first month’s rent if you don’t use a referral agent.
Depending on the type of agency, you can choose form a wide range of services. Some referral agents interview you (in person or over the phone) and then give you a list of homes and their respective contact information.
Other agents may take it a step further by being with you every step of the way. From touring homes to following up regularly even after your parent moves in to making sure everything is in place.
Apart from the list of agencies given by medical facilities, you can find local agencies through internet searches. Call several of them and ask them a bunch of questions so you’d know how knowledgeable they are. If you are looking in our area, we can provide recommendations of some very good referral agents.
One Family’s Tip: Once you find a referral agent you like, stick with them. Touring with multiple referral agencies or companies may cause a lot of trouble down the road. Once you select a home, both referral agencies may try to bill that home for a commission. It can get UG-LY.
Searching Through the Internet
This is, by far, the easiest and most convenient way of searching for assisted living facilities in your area. To start, you can just type in ‘assisted living facilities in Sun City, Arizona’ or the like. You’ll be able to see addresses, maps, and contact information of all the facilities near you. Click on the home’s websites to know more about them.
One Family’s Tip: The daughter of one of our residents started her search of Arizona assisted living facilities for her mom on the internet. She typed in ‘active adults assisted living (plus location)’ and narrowed the search to three homes near them in California. They toured the homes, asked about the prices, and talked to the residents. But her mom made the ultimate decision – the one attached to her church so she could be with her friends. She ended up staying in the facility for four years until she had to be hospitalized. After the hospitalization the family moved to Arizona and brought Mom. They performed the same type of search and this time settled on our facility.
You’ll probably come across websites for A Place for Mom and Caring.com in your searches. These companies are very big and they usually dominate the internet searches. They are nationwide referral agencies.
Since A Place for Mom charges large deposits and above market fees in exchange for placing residents, some very good Arizona assisted living facilities choose not to work with them. A Place for Mom has very good relationships with lots of homes (ours included). There’s no harm in checking their services out, but if you rely solely on them you may miss some otherwise quality homes.
One Family’s Tip: One of our families worked with A Place for Mom. After talking to one of their agents, the daughter’s phone received a ton of phone calls in the first 24 hours. At first, she was impressed but after two to three calls, it became annoying.
You will also come across many reviews on assisted living homes. Some are good, while others, not so much. Keep in mind that one bad review should not disqualify a home from your options. Bad reviews usually happen because families may have high expectations for the home – more than what they can provide. However, keep your guard up if you notice a pattern of bad reviews. If you want to read reviews of different facilities, check out sites such as Senior Advisor (A Place for Mom affiliated site) or Yelp. Caring.com shows reviews on their sites as well.
Another website you can check out is Next Door. It’s sort of like a Facebook site just for your neighborhood. You will actually have to verify that you live in the area to be able to join. It can be a good place to start looking for excellent recommendations for assisted living facilities.
One Family’s Tip: A family came to us who found us on Next Door. Many assisted living homes look like regular residential homes with no signage out front due to homeowner association requirements. They toured our home and liked it for their Mom, but Mom wanted an apartment in a larger facility. We were able to at least help them with some advice and setting them up with a transportation company for Mom.
You Have Your List..Now What?
We have prepared a checklist you can download here to give you some ideas of how to choose an assisted living facility.
Once you have narrowed down your list of potential assisted living options, it is time to go see them. You can ask your referral agent lots of questions about the home. If you don’t have an agent, call the home. You’ll be able to learn a lot about the home when you talk to one of the staff on the phone. The staff can often guide you in choosing an assisted living facility in Phoenix. After all, they are the ones that potentially could be taking care of your parent. Ask them questions like:
- What did you serve for the last three meals?
- How often do you clean the home?
- When are visiting hours?
- How much experience do people on the staff have?
- Why did you decide to become a caregiver?
- What is your schedule like?
- Do you allow pets?
By talking to the staff, you can see how experienced they are, how passionate they are about their work (many caregivers feel a calling to take care of people) and how well-rested they are. The phone call may save you a visit if the answers are not what you would like them to be.
When you do go visit the homes, you should ask the same kind of questions, but maybe see evidence for yourself. There should be lists of menus and activities for you to review for the whole month. Ask about what the homes do for different holidays as well.
The assisted living home should smell good and be clean. All the caregivers should look well-rested and attentive to what they are doing. If you can stop by around lunch time, it may be a good time to try their food as well.
Many online resources suggest visiting the home unannounced to make sure they don’t just have the place looking good for your tour. Although that may be a good idea for a second visit, you may still want to visit initially with the manager or owner of the home. They will be able to tell you a lot about how the homes run in general. You won’t be able to see everything in one visit.
Arizona Assisted Living Prices
We already saw earlier in this post how much 24/7 care in someone’s home can be per month ($14,000-$18,000). Although some home care companies will give you a discounted monthly rate, your’re probably still looking at over 5 figures. That’s a big reason many families turn to choosing an assisted living facility in Arizona.
Larger and luxurious assisted living facilities and assisted living homes are all over the place when it comes to price. Homes that are qualified for ALTCS (Medicaid) will only be paid around $2,000 per month by the insurance companies contracting with the Government. The family will pay a portion of that for the room and board.
Other than that price is what the assisted living business and the family agree upon. Here are some of the factors that go into the pricing:
- Location of the home
- Type of room for the resident (private, semi-private or shared, with a private or shared bathroom etc.)
- Services provided to the residents
- The level of care the resident requires
Supply and demand may also dictate the price. Very good homes that are full all the time will be able to raise their prices more than homes that are having trouble filling their rooms. It’s often difficult to determine rates without having a discussion between the owner or manager and the resident’s family. Many times referral agents can also provide narrow down lists of homes based on the family budget.
Assisted living often requires some extra fees. The state of Arizona for example requires a nurse to check on the residents every couple months to make sure everything is ok. This is called the resident service plan and costs under $100 per visit. There are other fees such as a fee to move the resident in, and potential activity fees.
Choosing an Assisted Living Facility in Phoenix – Getting it Right
We hope this guide, and the interviews we conducted with our families, will help you in your search for assisted living solutions. This is a very big decision, but one that can really help everyone in the family lead healthier and more enjoyable lives.
It is a real treat for us when we see happy family members come to our homes and enjoy the company of their older relatives. When those same families leave to go home, they can rest assured their loved one is in good hands. That’s why people are in this business.
If you have any questions about assisted living or any aspect of senior care, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We may not be the right solution for you. If we’re not, we would love to help you find it. Best of luck in your search, and God Bless you for all you do for your family.