How do you know when someone is ready for assisted living?

By Pam McDonald

After about a year in the business, most senior living Executive Directors and Marketing/Salespeople are aware that senior housing inquiries peak immediately following Thanksgiving and Christmas and continue into January; sometimes February.

According to Paul Flowers, President of Circa 46, an advertising agency with a specialty in senior living and a Senior Housing Forum partner, the scenario for family caregivers plays out something like this: a daughter or son goes to Mom’s home for the holidays and finds the house in disarray. The garbage has piled up in the corner. There’s mold on the vegetables in the refrigerator, but little else.

Clearly something is wrong. Mom is no longer doing so well on her own. She may need a living situation where she can get assistance to continue living healthily and happily. But Mom may not have considered moving to assisted living. How can your assisted living community help that daughter or son persuade an aging parent that assisted living is in his or her best interest?

Paul says, “A good place to start is to offer tools the daughter or son can use to build their argument for assisted living – and a compelling argument is to chronicle the routine assistance needs that aging parent might have.”

Gerontologists, social workers and care managers often use two scales to measure a person’s need for assistance:

  1. Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) that measure limitations related to routine tasks someone should be able to consistently perform in order to live independently – tasks like grocery shopping, housecleaning, meal preparation and money management.

  1. Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) that measure daily tasks that are more personal in nature, such as getting up and walking, dressing, bathing, eating or maintaining personal hygiene.

“A person who can consistently perform these IADLs and ADLs without help,” Paul notes, “should be able to live independently. If not, the son or daughter can probably build a strong case for assisted living.”

A checklist that presents these IADL and ADL scales can help the adult child and parent objectively consider whether the parent should continue living alone. Click here to download a sample checklist: 

The checklist should present an inventory of IADLs and ADLs, along with a three-point rating scale for each activity: 1) Rarely; 2) Sometimes; 3) Often. The daughter or son will want to review each activity with the aging parent. If multiple daily activities are rated “Sometimes” or “Often,” these results can provide a strong basis to reason with an aging parent about the need for ongoing assistance or care.  

To get the checklist into the hands of the adult child, make it downloadable and feature it on your community’s website. Your marketing team will want printed copies (on your community’s letterhead), which they can give to prospects.

Expand the exposure of your checklist through online advertising – specifically pay-per-click search ads and targeted banner ads – as affordable. Advertising vehicles like these can be used to take adult children who are looking for this type of resource directly to the page on your community’s website where they can download the checklist.

This will accomplish three things:  

  1. It will drive high-potential prospects to your community’s website.  

  2. It will allow you to identify prospects who are concerned about their loved ones’ ability to care for themselves, providing the opportunity for you to reach out to them.

  3. It will help establish your community as an authority on assisted living and the needs of aging adults.

It may also build a sense of urgency for family members who have determined this holiday season their parents are no longer safe and capable of caring for themselves. And, as Paul points out, “Because it may also engender a sense of helplessness in this new and unexplored territory for them, be there to help them out. Your community is likely to benefit as well.”