What Seniors and Caregivers Must Know Before Signing Assisted Living Contracts

assisted living contracts

Avoid expensive surprises by examining assisted living contracts before signing

Finding the right assisted living community for your older adult is a tough task. But once you choose a place, you or your older adult will need to sign a contract, also known as a residency or admission agreement.

To avoid unpleasant and expensive surprises down the road, it’s critical to review and understand the entire document before anyone signs anything.

To help you cut through the legalese, we found a guide that walks you through common legal topics that are included in most assisted living contracts. It gives tips and advice on what to watch out for and key questions to ask.

We explain why it’s necessary to carefully review the contract, why hiring a lawyer could save money in the long run, and what the guide covers and how it helps you avoid problems.



Why is it so important to review an assisted living contract?

It’s a must to carefully review the assisted living contract because you need to know what your older adult (and you) are committing to. It’s a legally binding document and if an issue comes up later, there will be no way to make changes.

For example, let’s say the contract you’re considering states that it’s for a 1 year commitment. Then 5 months later, your older adult needs to move to a place with a higher level of care due to an unexpected health crisis. Even if they’re no longer living there, payment is still due for the remainder of that 1 year period. That’s why it would be important to notice that clause and ask to change it in writing to a month-to-month agreement.

Remember, there’s always room for negotiation before signing the agreement. Now is the time to ask for what you want. After it’s signed, the terms are set in stone.

You have negotiating power when the community is trying to get your older adult to move in. After the financial commitment is made, they have no incentive to accommodate any requests.

It’s also important to know that contracts vary from place to place. Don’t assume that if you’ve reviewed one from a specific assisted living community, you’ve seen them all.

Pro tip:  You don’t have to stay in the sales office to review a contract. The community is required to provide blank forms for the public. Take it home so you can take your time, review it carefully, and make a list of all your questions and negotiation requests.


Hiring a lawyer could save money in the long run

Before signing any legal document, it’s always wise to consult an elder law attorney to protect your older adult’s interests. Spending a little time and money up front can save a lot of money and headaches later.

But even if you have a legal adviser, it’s still important to fully understand the contract because you’ll be working with the assisted living community to manage your older adult’s care.


Helpful guide walks through assisted living contract topics in plain language

We like this guide because it’s written in plain language to help you make sense of the legal-ese. The guide has clear explanations for which legal aspect each topic covers, pitfalls to avoid, and what you may want to negotiate.

An assisted living contract has many sections, but can be grouped into 5 main topics:

  1. Accommodations and term – covers the actual unit being rented and the length of time of the residency agreement.
  2. Fees, core services, and meals – sets the fee schedule and states both included and extra costs. Don’t assume anything will be included in the base fee, many communities charge extra for various services. Also covers the “what, when, where, how” of meal service.
  3. Residency qualifications – specifies what’s required to be admitted to the community and maintain residency. This is essential so your older adult won’t be surprised with a sudden eviction.
  4. Maintenance and use – covers the service levels for building and unit maintenance and defines how the rented unit is to be (and not be) used.
  5. Termination, legal stuff, and arbitration – sets how the contract can be terminated and includes a lot of standard legal language. One important item discussed in this section is arbitration.


Next Step  Get plain-language explanations and useful advice to help you avoid problems with assisted living contracts – part one and part two


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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Senior Living Residences


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