Most Seniors View Assisted Living Negatively—Until Moving In

Americans have a generally unfavorable view of the assisted living industry—that is, until their loved ones actually move into assisted living.

In fact, half of American families with loved ones in assisted living start out with a negative or neutral impression of the industry—which, combined with American seniors’ general reluctance to move into assisted living, results in 85% of families postponing their search for assisted living options, according to newly released survey data from senior living referral agent A Place for Mom. Seattle-based research and consulting company Sage Projections coordinated with A Place for Mom to provide unbiased consultation and validation on the survey methodology, development and interpretation of results.

Most seniors simply would rather age in their own homes than in a senior living community. About 62% of seniors surveyed by A Place for Mom expressed their desire to age at home instead of in senior living.

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“We hear that all the time,” Charlie Severn, vice president of brand marketing at A Place for Mom, tells Senior Housing News. About 70% of families put off searching for assisted living options because a senior doesn’t want to move, the survey showed.

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One-fifth of families, meanwhile, delay their search because they can’t find an affordable assisted living option; 19% delay their search because it’s difficult to find information on assisted living; 18% delay their search because the family can’t agree on the best assisted living option; and 16% of families delay their search because they don’t want their loved one in “one of those places.”

Misplaced fears

As it turns out, these fears and delays after often for naught. That’s partly because both seniors’ and family caregivers’ quality of life improves after a senior moves into assisted living.

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Seniors who move to assisted living are 70% more likely than those considering the move to report a good overall quality of life, for example. The seniors are also 65% less likely to have a bad overall quality of life, the survey showed.

Additionally, once a senior moved into assisted living, 73% of families found that the senior’s quality of life got better or much better. Specifically, 64% of survey respondents said the senior’s social well-being improved, 73% said the senior’s nutrition improved, 47% said the senior’s emotional well-being improved and 44% said the senior’s physical health improved.

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Plus, after a senior moves into assisted living, they are five times more likely to see their overall quality of life improve than get worse.

These numbers can be eye-opening for seniors and families who are hesitant about making the move.

“I think the data is going to encourage folks to sort of take another look at senior living,” Severn says.

Cost considerations

Meanwhile, half of families who helped a parent or loved one move into assisted living said their relationship with the senior improved—and that’s especially “good news” for the industry, Severn said.

“That’s a great hypothesis for making a move,” he explained. “It helps maintain the relationship beyond caregiver and patient.”

Additionally, more than 70% of families reported that they experienced no change with respect to their financial wellbeing after moving a parent or loved one into assisted living, the survey revealed.

“Home care costs are at least comparable to senior care,” Severn said. “That’s promising as well.”

Severn and Ben Hanowell, a data scientist at A Place for Mom, are confident that senior living communities can use all of this data to their advantage. For one, Hanowell told SHN, the data may help senior living marketing teams better empathize with families who are concerned or hesitant to move their loved ones into assisted living.

“Rather than negating those fears, you can acknowledge them, and tell them ’there are a lot of families that have the same fears you do,’” Hanowell advised.

Senior living communities talk with families every day, Severn added, saying, “I think this data can help arm them with some good information around the reality of what the before and after is.”

Written by Mary Kate Nelson

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