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Making Friends at an Assisted Living

“Making Friends at an Assisted Living” is a new column written by Rick Weisberg   in the Jewish Journal.  The series addresses the needs of seniors and their families. Take a look:

Senior Solutions

by Rick Weisberg

Special to the Journal 

Q: My mom is considering moving to an assisted living in the Boston area, but I am worried that she will be lonely. She doesn’t play cards and is not one for participating in group activities. How will she make friends? The thought of leaving her there alone is making me anxious.

A: Moving one’s parent into an assisted living can be a traumatic experience for the entire family. Grown-up children often compare it to the first day of school – only this is a reverse scenario! Remember that feeling when you left your child alone at school or day care for the first time? It’s emotional and nerve-wracking, to say the least.

There are, however, strategies you can employ that will help seniors acclimate to a new living environment. First, enlist the help of the Executive Director, Marketing Director and Wellness Director in introducing your parent to other residents. They know all the residents well and can put your mom or dad together with other residents who share similar interests and backgrounds.

Meal times, of course, are key to making friends at an assisted living.  The  staff will place your parent at a table the very first day. If, after a few days, your mom or dad is not happy, do not hesitate to ask – even insist – upon changing tables. Meals are an important part of the socialization process and finding the right table mates is crucial. Sometimes it just takes a few weeks to get the right mix of individuals.

Making friends at an assisted living
Staff and resident relationships are an integral part of the assisted living experience

Staff and resident relationships are an integral part of the assisted living experience. Often, these are the relationships that come first and mean so much to the elders and their families. Keep in mind that staff members visit with residents throughout the day, alleviating loneliness and fostering communications. They are also a terrific resource for the family. Most facilities encourage family members to call or email staff members so they can check-in on how one’s parent is adjusting to the transition.

Recreational planned activities are obviously a great way to make friends. Some people resist scheduled events and that is absolutely fine. But who doesn’t enjoy weekly spa and salon appointments? These routine events inevitably lead to friendships among both the staff and the residents themselves. Encourage your parent to go to the café for a light snack, read in the library or just sit outside on the patio. There are always people out and about.

All assisted livings host family days with special events for the residents and their families. This is a wonderful way to meet new people. Talking with other families who are going through the same situation can be extremely helpful.

Like any new situation, the transition to an assisted living is complicated. But you’ll be amazed how quickly seniors adapt to new surroundings, especially when they are relieved of cooking, cleaning and housekeeping responsibilities. Give it three months and I suspect one day you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see your mom or dad are introducing new friends. In fact, he or she may even cancel plans with you because of a busy social calendar. Now, wouldn’t that make you feel good?

Send questions about senior issues to, call 617-513-7067 or mail to Senior Solutions, 27 Congress Street, Suite 501, Salem, MA 01970. Rick Weisberg is president of Assisted Living Nationwide, a firm that helps seniors and their families find the most appropriate assisted living facility, based on the family’s criteria. There are no fees for his services. Rick is also a realtor and is affiliated Benoit Mizner Simon & Co.

Many Different Models of Assisted Living

Senior Solutions

By Rick Weisberg

Published April 14, 2016

Q: Recently our family started researching assisted living facilities (ALF) for my parents, who are in their mid-eighties. The process seems a little overwhelming! Can you explain the different models of assisted living?

A: Basically, there are four models of assisted living facilities. Let’s start with independent living. Individuals and couples who live in these residences do not need any help with activities of daily living (eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring and continence). As a result, they do not require any extra time from the staff over and above the basic 45 minutes to one hour provided by most assisted living facilities. Apartments are equipped with full kitchens; there are on-site staff members who provide minimal supervision and there usually are many social and recreational activities. A choice of restaurants and meal plans are often offered at an additional charge.

Traditional assisted living facilities are yet another option and currently are the most popular model in the US. Apartments range from studios to one to two bedrooms; both individuals and couples occupy these apartments, although couples will need to pay a higher fee. Meals are included, as well as a wide range of activities. Typically, residents require extra time from the staff because they need help with some or all activities of daily living. The facilities perform a medical assessment by an RN to determine how much daily support is necessary. Additional help would cost anywhere from $350 to $2000 per month over and above the base monthly rental.

For individuals with memory issues, a memory unit within a traditional ALF would be appropriate. This third model of care is the most common in this country for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Generally, individuals live in private or shared rooms in a separate area that is safe and secure. Activities thought to help memory issues such as music and art therapy are offered as well as 24-hour supervised care. Memory housing is more costly than other assisted living scenarios due to the amount of specialized care required by these individuals. Overall, the cost would be approximately $2,000 a month more than the base room charge.

Lastly, let’s explore stand-alone memory only assisted living. This model is a fairly new type of ALF, but one that is becoming more prevalent throughout the country, especially in Massachusetts. All residents are memory impaired and all activities are geared towards this population. The monthly rental cost would be at the highest level due to the amount of services provided to these residents.

All of the above models of assisted living assume the apartment will be a monthly rental. In most ALF’s today, rentals are the accepted manner of payment for the apartment. However, some ALF’s still require an up-front buy-in fee and charge a smaller monthly community fee.

As you can see, there are numerous choices in finding the right assisted living facility. The key is to first determine the level of care required for the elder and then explore the options within that category.

Send questions about senior issues to or mail to Senior Solutions, 27 Congress Street, Suite 501, Salem, MA 01970. Rick Weisberg is president of Assisted Living Nationwide, a firm that helps seniors and their families find the most appropriate assisted living facility, based on the family’s criteria. There are no fees for his services. Rick is also a realtor and is affiliated with Benoit Mizner Simon & Co. Contact Rick at or call 617-513-7067.

Five Questions To Ask An Assisted Living Facility

Finding the right assisted living for you or a family member is often time-consuming – and certainly a bit overwhelming. The most effective strategy is to compile a list of questions to ask an assisted living facility during a scheduled tour. Below are five questions designed to help you find the right assisted living in terms of staffing, rates, activities, meal times and social interaction.

  1. How many hours of care per month of are included in the monthly rental charge?

Typically assisted living facilities include one hour a day of care services, but each facility is different. Additional support can be costly, so make sure you find out any hidden costs up front.

  1. Can we schedule the tour close to lunch or dinner?

Meal times are the only time per day to obverse most of the residents together as well as the social interaction among staff members and the residents. And, of course, it is a good idea to sample the food!

  1. Can we meet the staff?

It’s important to meet both the Executive Director and the Wellness Director/RN. These individuals will be your day-to-day contacts. The Wellness Director, in particular, will be in charge of the resident’s care plan. Do ask about their background, how long they have been at the facility and staff turnover rate. Always ask how long they have been at the assisted living facility.

  1. Can we observe the daily activities?

You want to make sure there are enough activities that meet the interests of your mother or father. Do ask for the calendar of activities. Most facilities put out the schedule on a monthly basis.

  1. What are the monthly rental charges, care charges and the current availability of apartments?

Rates can change quickly so it’s a good idea to lock in a rate when you first tour to avoid higher rates at move-in time. Always determine if there is any flexibility in the rates. After all, it never hurts to ask!

Assisted Living Nationwide will quickly and efficiently find the three best assisted living facilities based on the family’s criteria. We will schedule the tours and give you information on the facility, the corporation that owns the facility and other relevant data. The five questions above help in making this very important decision.


Assisted Living For Couples

Assisted living for couples presents it’s own set of challenges. Assisted Living Nationwide has worked with several couples to help find an assisted living facility. With couples, it’s not unusual for the husband and wife to have different priorities and care needs. Let’s look at a recent scenario.

Sheryl, an 83 year old, is showing signs of early memory loss. She uses a walker and needs help with several activities of daily living. David, her 85 year old husband, is fairly independent. He is still driving, enjoys playing golf and maintains an active social with his friends.

As you can see, each of these two individuals desire different amenities and support services in an assisted living facility. Sheryl needs a staff that can help her with the activities of daily living as well an on-site memory residence, so that if her memory loss worsens, she can move into that area. David does not need much help at this stage and is looking for other males who are similar to him. Although they discussed the possibility of David staying in their home and Sheryl moving to the assisted living, they ultimately decided against that option. They really wanted to continue living together.

Assisted Living Nationwide scheduled tours at three different assisted living facilities within a 20 mile radius of their current home. Their final choice: a facility with a good-sized group of male residents so that David would be able socialize and enjoy many of the activities. This same facility also had a very reputable memory unit, if Sheryl ultimately needed to be moved into these residences. There was a discussion of the husband staying at home and only the wife moving to the ALF, but that rarely is the final choice as couples stay usually together.

It has been three months since Sheryl and David have moved into the assisted living of their choice. David is busy with many activities, trips and socializing with both old and new friends. He and Sheryl eat meals together in the on-site restaurants or café. And Sheryl gets help every morning and evening with dressing, bathing and medication reminders. Both and David feel confident that, for them, this facility was the right choice.

Assisted living for couples can be a bit more complex than finding a place for one individual, but keep in mind there are many options in every state in the country. You just have to know how to where to find them.

Why Assisted Living Nationwide?

With the internet being such a valuable research tool, some people wonder why families and seniors can’t find their own assisted living facilities. They can, of course, but there are many facts, questions and parameters about moving to an assisted living that make the process complex and time-consuming.

Here are just a few reasons why a trusted placement service can save you time and money:

Qualifying for Assisted Living

There are many factors that assisted living take into consideration when admitting new residents. The individuals have to be able to live independently with support services. Assisted Living Nationwide can advise you and your family on the parameters and assessment process.

Time is of the Essence

Very often, the need for an assisted living arises from an elder taking a fall or a recent illness. The individual can no longer live alone, but cannot stay any longer in a rehab. Assisted Living Nationwide has found and facilitated a move into an assisted living facility in a matter of days.

Industry Knowledge and Contacts

With thousands of assisted livings across the country, it’s hard for the general public to know the most reputable and highest ranked facilities in every state. Assisted Living Nationwide has the expertise and contacts to make sure you pick the best assisted living that fits your needs.

Questions and Negotiation Tactics

Like everything in life, it helps to know the lay of the land and the right questions to ask. Many assisted livings have promotions, incentives and/or are willing to lock in a lower rental rate for a period of time. You just have to know the right questions to ask!

Keep in mind that while Assisted Living Nationwide is not the largest senior placement company in the country, however, its reputation, testimonials and personalized service go a long way in making the transition to an assisted living as easy as possible. After all, choosing an assisting living should — and can be — a positive and enjoyable experience for the entire family.

Choosing an Assisted Living Location


Today there are more options than ever before in choosing an assisted living facility (ALF). There are, in fact, thousands of ALF’s across the country. How does a couple or individual decide which geographic location would be best? Most likely, there will be an assisted living in whichever location you decide to live.

Here, from Assisted Living Nationwide, are some guidelines on how to choose the right assisted living location:

Live Near Your Children

As you age, family is so important, for many reasons, including socialization and health care decisions. Residing in an assisted living close to one or more family members is a plus for both the elder and the family. Make it as easy as possible for families to visit the ALF.

Choose Your Setting

Decide upon a suburban or city setting. Maybe you are one who likes the outdoors with walking trails, gardens and many acres to explore. Or maybe, you like the city with access to theatre, movies, museums, restaurants etc. Do consider the interests, hobbies and lifestyle of the senior before touring an ALF.

Weathering On

As you age, those long winters are quite depressing. There is a reason why there are so many assisted living facilities in such states as Florida, Arizona and California. This is definitely the plus-side to living in a warm climate in your later years. All other factors being equal, this can be a very pleasant environment for an assisted living.

 Move Back to the City Where You were Born

Not surprisingly, many people move back to the area where they grew up. There are memories, connections and familiarity. Your childhood friends my still live in the area or even be residents at the ALF of your choice.

The good news is that today people have more options than ever before in choosing an assisted living facility. Think of this next step as an exciting life choice. It may very well turn out to be the best decision for you you — and yout entire family.

Do You Qualify for Assisted Living?

There have been dramatic changes in the demographics and population of assisted living facilities (ALF). Today, ALF’s are accepting residents who –even five years ago — would not qualify for assisted living and, as a result, would need to be admitted to a nursing home. Let’s examine why this has happened and how you can find out if you or a loved one qualify for assisted living.

Today, the majority of assisted living residents are people who are residents in their 80’s, 90’s and even 100 years and older. Traditionally, individuals in this age group were only viewed as candidates for a nursing home.

ALF do not provide the 24 hour care level one would find at a nursing home, but all have a Wellness Director (RN) and a staff of non-medical home health aides to help you with activities of daily living. In addition, most have a Memory (Alzheimer’s/Dementia) unit for residents experiencing memory loss. Previously, the majority of people with memory problems were relegated to a nursing home. The advantages of living in ALF are many: an ALF enable residents to reside in private rooms or apartments; there are social activities as trips, events and concerts as well as on-site amenities such as salons, cafes and fitness programs; the ALF are about half the price of a nursing home.

ALF’s are not for everyone; there are the issues of private pay and a medical assessment (physical and mental) required for admittance. ALF’s are typically looking for two-to-three years of private pay available at admission. So even if you meet the Medical Assessment requirement, you still have to go to a Nursing home. On the other hand, Nursing Homes, will allow you, if you financially qualify, to become a Medicaid patient at admission.

Find Out If You Qualify for Assisted Living

Assisted Living Nationwide can help you find the appropriate ALF for you. We can prequalify you by letting you know the monthly rental rates for all the ALF in your preferred geographic location and find the most appropriate ones in terms of your budget, hobbies, interest and preferences. In addition, we can also arrange a medical assessment for you or your family member. This way, you will know if you qualify for an ALF prior to embarking upon tours. This can save you a tremendous amount of time and, most importantly, help you understand your senior living options.

 Assisted Living Resident Demographics

More than half of all residents are age 85 or older, and nearly 40 percent of residents require assistance with three or more activities of daily living. The median stay in assisted living is 22 months, and an overwhelming majority of residents are female.

What is the Cost of Assisted Living?

Assisted living costs vary with the residence, apartment size, and types of services needed. The basic rate may cover all services or there may be additional charges for special services. Most assisted living residences charge on a month-to-month lease arrangement, but a few require long-term arrangements. Assisted living is of often less expensive than home health or nursing home care in the same geographic area.

According to the National Investment Center Investment Guide 2010, the median rate for a monthly rental rates in an assisted living community is $3,326 per month. In comparison, the NIC Investment Guide 2010 also indicates the median rate of Nursing Care at $7,001 per month. The median is the midpoint, which means half of residences participating in the research have lower fees and half have higher fees. The rental rate includes the base rent and service fees charged by the assisted living community.

Information compiled from the ALFA (Assisted Living Federation of America ) website

Living At Home with Help Versus Assisted Living

A common scenario: what to do when one spouse needs the maximum amount of care due to memory loss and the other is able to live independently? Families often wonder whether it is better to have the couple continue to live in their home with a great deal of support services from home care agencies or place the couple in an assisted living facility. Let’s look at this issue from an economic, social and medical perspective:

 In-Home Care from a Private Agency


The average cost for an 8 hour day care at home on a daily basis is approximately $5000 a month.

(8 hours/day x $23/hour x 7 days/week = $1288/week or about $5000/month)

In addition to this cost, the couple would still assume the fees of associated with owning or renting a home (e.g. heat, electricity, water, taxes etc.) as well as necessities such as food, transportation, housekeeping and so forth.


The couple remains in their own home, where they feel comfortable and can maintain an independent lifestyle.


The spouse who can live independent assumes responsibility for such things as maintaining the house/apartment, shopping, errands and driving to medical appointments. Moreover, round-the-clock 24 hour care is extremely expensive, so there will be periods where no help will be available. He or she may also feel isolated from friends and every day social interaction.

Support and Care from an Assisted Living Facility


The average cost of ALF apartment for a couple in the US is approximately $5500/month plus $1500 (fee for second person) or approximately $7000/month.

This fee would include private apartment, three prepared meals daily, on-site fitness, beauty salons, recreational and social activities as well as maximum assistance (for one) in terms of activities of daily living (etc. eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, walking and medication assistance.)



Assisted livings generally provide better quality of care and residents have access to trained staff members 24 hours a day. Most ALF have specially designated memory loss residences. Additionally, there is a much higher level of socialization at an assisted living facility,


Higher cost than living at home with help, although one needs to add into the mix that cost of the apartment, food, amenities and activities are included into the monthly fee.

Most couples want to stay in their homes as long as possible — and that is understandable – and certainly desirable. The key is to figure out when it becomes too stressful for the couple to live alone and, even more importantly, when safety concerns arise.

Making the Right Decision

As individuals age and memory loss becomes more pronounced, assisted living facilities can offer support while maintaining independence. Assisted Living Nationwide helps examine the pros and cons of each situation and offer professional expertise to help families make this most difficult decision.

Is it Time for Assisted Living?

For many people, knowing when it is time for assisted living is a extremely difficult decision. Leaving one’s home and familiar surroundings is traumatic. It is, after all, human nature for all of us to want to stay in our own homes as long as possible.

Often, the elder’s families are the ones to facilitate the move. Families need to look for signs that an elder is no longer being able to live alone. Keep in mind that many of these issues are hard to discuss with a loved one. But it is very often the right solution for the elder and the family.

Here, from Assisted Living Nationwide (ALN), are tips to help you evaluate whether a senior should no longer live alone and, as a result, when it is time for assisted living.

Falls and Injuries

Typically, there are a series of falls or “incidents” that occur before loved ones realize that the elder in question should not live alone. Broken hips, broken knees and bruises are quite common. If the senior lives in another city/state, he or she may not mention these incidents on the phone. Holiday get-togethers such as Thanksgiving or Christmas are when families begin to realize that assistance in the day-to- day living are necessary and that it’s time for assisted living.

Loss of Appetite/Weight Loss

Proper nutrition and eating a balanced diet is a major concern for families of seniors who live alone. Assisted living provides three meals daily, in addition to the option of stocking the apartment with one’s favorite snacks and beverages. Many assisted living facilities have made a tremendous strides in offering healthy meals made with fresh, seasonal ingredients as well as a variety of menu options available.


Everyday activities such as cooking or gardening can cause fires and falls. Burns on the kitchen counters or table can be an early indication.

Memory Loss

Memory loss is a tell tale sign that it is time for an assisted living facility. Forgetting to take one’s medication, go to a medical appointment, or even forgetting how to drive home are all common signs that the memory loss is occurring in an elder. If one were living in an assisted living facility, there will be medication reminders and a trained staff to help with the activities of daily living.


Living alone can be lonely. The socialization and meal time interaction in an assisted living is an important advantage for seniors. Many residents don’t realize how much they have missed the day-to-day contact of others until they move into an assisted living residence. All assisted living facilities have a full schedule of activities available.

Housekeeping Issues

Cleaning, cooking, laundry, bed-making, grocery shopping and other daily chores takes its toll as one grows older. An assisted living facility takes care of all of these responsibilities, while still enabling an individual to live in the privacy of his or her apartment.


Assisted living has become the number one care option for seniors who can no longer take care of themselves according to the United States of Aging survey by the National Council on Aging.




Can an Assisted Living Program (ALP) Help You Afford Assisted Living?

An Assisted Living Program (ALP) can help a select group of seniors afford to live in an assisted living facility (ALF).  In general, an ALP provides daily assistance with personal care services (Activity of Daily Living  and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living. In short, an Assisted Living Program serves as the Medicaid program for the ALF’s.

Designed for those individuals who cannot afford the monthly rental at an ALF,   but otherwise qualify medically to live in an assisted living facility,  Assisted Living Programs are limited in availability. And not all ALF’s offer this program. However, for those individuals who qualify, an Assisted Living Program could be a tremendous resource.


  • Most ALF’s designate only 10% of the apartments to ALP.
  • These ALP apartments are often full and have waiting lists.
  • Ideally, ALF’s request the individual to pay privately for 2-3 years, and then if one runs out of funds, they resident can apply for ALP. Note that this is a general guideline and changes from one ALF to another.
  • The application process for ALP is not easy, is time consuming, and there are asset qualifications.
  • Often times there needs to be a spendown of assets to the amount allowed by ALP, before an individual can qualify for ALP.

What can one do to get into an ALP program?

If an assisted living residence is the best option for yourself or a family member, there are resources available to help you decide if this program would be appropriate.

  • Research the Assisted Living Program requirements by state and city. Most states have an Executive Office of Health and Human Services website that provides information on the ALP program.
  • Contact an assisted living placement service such as Assisted Living Nationwide to find out the best option in your desired location. Since ALP is a complex issue, industry professionals are usually the best resource. At Assisted Living Nationwide, there is no charge to the elder or family for consultations or services.
  • Consult an elder law attorney or a geriatric care manager who specializes in ALP.

Keep in mind there are many choice in residences for seniors today. It’s important to find the right solution based upon the individual’s needs, financial constraints, desired location and physical condition. Yes, finding the right living option is a complicated process, but talking to qualified professionals is the first step in making the best decision.