What You Need to Know About Assisted Living Wait Lists

Want that mountain view? Put your name on the wait list.

A husband pushing his wife around outside in her wheelchair while resting his hand on her shoulder

When your loved one decides they’re interested in making the move to assisted living, or you’ve decided a change would be in their best interest, you want to help them find the best assisted living facility.

So, you do your research: You decide what your loved one needs and wants. You find a few locations that match their wishes. You evaluate each location by doing a background check online, going on multiple tours, and asking the community team members questions.

Eventually, you find the perfect fit — only to find there’s a lengthy waiting list.

This is to be expected. The best assisted living facilities tend to have waiting lists. This can be very frustrating for seniors and their families, especially those who have done no planning until a crisis forces them to scramble to find 24-hour care.

This scenario can be avoided by planning ahead and joining the assisted living community’s waiting list, says Jeremy Glover, Community Relations Coordinator at Highgate at Bozeman.

“Even if there is uncertainty about being ready, being on the wait list gives you the opportunity to choose down the road,” Glover says. “Things change, and you might be really glad that you were prepared.”

But before you put your loved one’s name on the list, here are four things you need to know about assisted living wait lists.

1. The Fine Print Is Important

Different assisted living facilities have differing waiting list policies. Some place will give you 24 hours to say “yes” to an available unit, while others may hold a place longer until you can make arrangements. At Highgate, families have a 14-day grace period to decide whether they want to move in, according to Glover. Make sure you go over the details before putting yourself on the list.

2. You’ll Pay a Deposit

Most assisted living communities require a deposit to be added to a wait list. But don’t worry: Most of these deposits are completely refundable.

3. You Can Reserve a Specific Room

If you and your loved one can wait, they don’t necessarily have to take the first apartment that becomes available when it is their turn.

“Sometimes we have people who come in saying they want a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with a mountain view,” Glover says. “Or other times, folks fall in love with a space someone else lives in, so they’ll put their name on a waiting list for that specific room, and they’ll wait to move in until it becomes available.”

4. There Might Be an Internal Waiting List

If your loved one can’t wait, though, they could move into the first apartment that becomes available and then put their name on an internal waiting list until the specific room they want is available. Sometimes, this is the best tactic for those who want to make sure they can get in somewhere in a certain facility before they worry about getting into the right apartment within the facility.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Waitlist

Assisted living properties across the country have an 87.6 percent occupancy rate, so even if you do a lot of research into assisted living communities, call and tour the ones that stand out, and then narrow it down to the right one, you might find that it is at 100 percent occupancy.

This is why you want to start your search sooner rather than later.

Even if your loved one isn’t ready to transition to assisted living yet, it’s often the case that your first-choice community will not be available when you need it. Planning ahead can give you more control over your options, in addition to saving you time and heartache.

“Folks generally don't want to move,” says Glover, who has worked in senior living for nearly a decade. “They don't want to leave their home. But if you find what you’re looking for and it feels like a good fit, why wouldn’t you put your name on a waitlist?”

If you’re wondering if now’s the time to start the search for assisted living, download our eBook Signs It’s Time to Start the Search for Assisted Living.

6 Signs It's Time to Start the Search for Assisted Living