By Pam McDonald
For our latest podcast, we interviewed Ruben Castenada from US News and World Report and Ben Jackowitz from Caring.com, about their new partnership to offer an online directory of assisted living communities across the country. Caring.com—a Senior Living Foresight partner—maintains a vast website that is a valuable resource for consumers searching for senior living as well as for providers looking for prospects. Not only does the directory feature comparable data on the communities, it also provides thousands of consumer reviews. Below are some takeaways from the episode; the entire interview is here.
My name’s Ruben Casteneda. I’m a reporter in consumer advice for US News and World Report. I write about health and wellness issues of all kinds and have been with US News for three years. One thing I’ve learned is seniors want to be as healthy and secure as they can in the latter part of their lives. Everybody faces an array of issues as they get older, issues having to do with physical, emotional, and mental health.
I learned in my reporting and writing some strategies for talking to an aging parent about assisted living since many older people, understandably so, are reluctant to give up their longtime homes. One of the strategies that the experts that I interviewed said was really helpful would be for the children of older people to have discussions as early as possible before a health crisis strikes.
Planning and Preparing for A Transition
This would allow the adult children to methodically discuss plans and tackle a host of issues that one has to deal with when going into assisted living. These issues include downsizing, getting rid of extra possessions, figuring out the finances, and gathering medical records. There’s just a whole host of things that you have to consider when you make such a transition.
Another really relevant strategy would be to let senior loved ones see what assisted living looks like. If they’re taken to an assisted living community, often they will see that it’s different than they imagined. The best ones really are communities where people can make new friends and develop new routines, which can be important in boosting one’s mental outlook.
Something else I learned is that there’s a foundation – it’s called the John Hartford Foundation – that disperses grants to groups that work in the areas of supporting family caregiving and age-friendly health systems. So, they provide assistance for people facing a serious illness and end of life issues.
Lots of Discussion During the Process
The discussion for someone to go into assisted living is typically a process, not an event. There may be a series of discussions with the individual before he or she decides that this is a good option and makes the decision to make that transition. But once such a decision has been made, the way the assisted living space is decorated can have a real impact on the individual’s outlook. There are very specific strategies for decorating assisted living space that can help ease the transition and make the individual feel more at home, feel more like this is a space that he or she wants to be in, and also make it a safer space.
For example, rather than a child decorating unilaterally, have the person who’s moving in take a front and center role in what the place should look like. Let them decide what photos, keepsakes, and personal items to move into the new place and what they want displayed. For more tips, you can check out my article, 11 Decorating Tips for Assisted Living, published August 6th of this year.
The Partnership Between US News and Caring.com
My name is Ben Jackowitz and I serve as the director of media partnerships for Caring.com. We identify publishers, like US News, that produce attractive content and have large audiences of potential seniors or families of seniors that need the type of service that we offer. And we partner with them both to provide interesting data to support people in their search for senior care, and a back layer of support from a team of a hundred family advisors who can help with that decision-making process.
The relationship with US News actually goes back to, I believe, 2013. We also work with them in the nursing home space, powering some of that directory and providing that same level of assistance to consumers trying to find appropriate senior care.
Comparable Data on Features As Well As Consumer Reviews
With the new assisted living directory, we provide the hard data; where they are, what services they provide, and other info. The other side that we provide, which is really the big value-add of Caring.com, is a large database of reviews. I believe it’s the biggest senior-care-specific collection of reviews for assisted living communities.
Online they’re just listings. The recommendation piece comes in if a consumer chooses to either submit their information to hear from us or give us a call directly. Our family advisors will make recommendations, based on a bunch of information we collect from them in that phone call.
US News itself, doesn’t make recommendations although they do publish rankings. They don’t have rankings in the assisted living space today, but it’s probably something they’re planning on doing. We at Caring will take the consumer through the process of identifying the right assisted living communities to explore, to visit, and learn more about.
[Lightly edited for length and style.]
To learn more about Caring.com, please visit their website.