In 2015–2016, there were 40.4 million unpaid caregivers of adults over the age of 65 in the U.S. Eventually, many will start to wonder if they’re in over their heads

But how do you choose the best assisted living facility for the most important person in the world: your parent? It takes a lot of careful planning. But armed with the right advice, you can be confident you’re making the best decision.

Just make sure you avoid these five mistakes. 

Mistake 1: Not Doing Enough Research

On the surface, it may seem like all assisted-living facilities are the same. And that’s because they’re regulated by the state and are required to provide a certain level of care and certain services. Because of that, you’ll find that they all provide similar amenities. 

But take a closer look.

The best assisted-living facilities have employees who are happy to be there. The residents will look more than just well cared for. They’ll look happy. Spend some time there and get to know people.

Also, take note of how well-maintained the facility itself is. Is it clean and in good repair? 

Don’t forget to ask about transportation and other individualized services you may not realize you need.

This isn’t a time to make a rushed decision. Unless your parent’s need is urgent, slow down and take your time. 

Mistake 2: Putting Your Needs Ahead of Your Parent’s

They’re the ones who will be living there, so it’s important they like it too. Ask them how they feel about the place and listen to their feedback. They’re the ones giving up the home and life they’ve grown to love.

The most common Google searches for assisted living are things like “assisted living near me,” “best assisted living near me” and “assisted living in my area.” But closest doesn’t mean best.

If you have to drive a little further to get your parent the care they need or even just to make them happy, it’s worth it.

This is especially true if they need specialized care, such as when they’re dealing with Alzheimers or dementia. These assisted-living facilities have employees with specialized training. 

Mistake 3: Not Consulting Their Doctor about the Best Assisted Living Options

You’ll need permission from your parent to speak with their doctor about some things. But it’s vital that you think ahead.

Their doctor will be able to give you an idea of what they may need in the future from a medical standpoint.

Mistake 4: Not Crunching the Numbers

The median annual cost of an assisted-living facility is $45,000. It could be more if they have a serious medical problem; Alzheimer’s or dementia care could cost as much as $341,840. It can get pricey, so crunch the numbers — all of them.

Especially if your parent is looking for one of the best places to retire on social security alone, make sure you talk to the facility about what needs won’t be taken care of. What will you or your parent have to pay for out of pocket?

Think about everything your parent will want to be happy. Do they just have to have cable TV? Internet access to Skype with their grandkids?

If you have to pay for those things out of pocket, the less expensive facility might turn out to be more expensive than you thought.

And make sure you read that contract. It will have vital information about their pricing structure and potential future price hikes you’ll want to know about before they blindside you.

Mistake 5: Getting Bamboozled by Curb Appeal

The best senior living communities aren’t necessarily the ones that look the prettiest. Look for clean, well-maintained facilities that provide quality care. Consider the curb appeal a bonus. 

Taking Care of Aging Parents Over the Long Haul

The best assisted living arrangement for your parent is only one of the tough decisions you’ll have to make as they age. You’ll need to help them make sure they have a will and end-of-life care plan, research mobility options and more.

For more advice on caring for elderly parents, check out our family section.