Opening An Assisted Living Home? Ask Yourself These Questions

David Besnette



We received one of the most candidly, brutally honest comments (included below) to our site’s “HowTo Open” and assisted living facility page recently – one that I felt needed it’s own page and discussion.

questions to ask if you are opening your own assisted living home



So many people who visit our site, and that page, specifically, have dreams of opening an assisted living facility – probably seeded from a desire to help people, or having had experience (good or bad) with the assisted living industry in some way, or possibly due to simply having a strong entrepreneurial spirit (with some caregiving chops to boot).

Most of the messages we get are positive, but at times, I feel like the people making the comments may not be aware of the true nature of what they may be getting into by running an assisted living or residential care facility.

So, here is the comment we received – I am interested as to what everyone thinks (please comment below):

“I’ve had my own AFC home in Michigan for 20 years. Some people think it will be so easy but believe me it is NOT. You need to be prepared to give up your life as you know it. Meaning no more vacations anytime the mood strikes… Family and friends will be put #2 on your list of priorities. Be prepared to spend a lot of money on insurances. And everything else. You will definitely need money. Just be prepared. So many think they can do this without realizing all it requires .” – Tonia

Wow. That’s certainly telling it like it is, or at least from one person’s perspective.

But, I have to agree, for the most part. I’ve had the opportunity to visit a good many assisted living homes over the course of running our site, Assisted Living Directory (9 years and running), and I’ve interviewed quite a few facility owners, and administrators, many of whom started from scratch, with a dream and a vision to open, own and run their own home.

It’s rewarding work in so many ways, but in others ways, it is demanding, deflating, exhausting, gross, and leaves not very much in the way of a personal life, as Tonia alluded to above.

So, if your desire is to become a professional caregiver-slash-assisted living home owner, ask yourself the following first:

1) Are you prepared to deal with death, dying and terminal sickness?
2) Can you handle cleaning soiled sheets, clothing and people?
3) Are you prepared to handle demanding, and often times borderline-crazy family members (I say ‘crazy’ not in any clinical sense) on a daily basis?
4) Can you handle such a business from a marketing standpoint, knowing that this is a very competitive industry?
5) Are you willing to build an online and social presence to promote your business?
6) Are you up for the challenge of dealing with residents who may all of a sudden not be able to pay their bills?
7) Can you be ready on any given day for health and licensure inspections?
8) Can you anticipate, and be prepared for natural disasters, like floods, fires, pipes freezing, or broken equipment?
9) Do you have the financial capital to build a home “to code” with all of the proper equipment, bedding, dishes, food, cleaning supplies, and all the rest, and then have enough left over to pay your staff?
10) Are you prepared to have your life be your work? Many assisted living home owners live inside the business, perhaps in a basement suite, and are always on call for their residents, or if their staff doesn’t show up, or if there is any sort of an emergency. Want a night off to go to the movies, to have a date, or just some personal time? It may not be possible.
11) Can you operate on minimal sleep, or low-quality sleep in a position that needs extreme attention to details every single day?

You will need to be able to fill in for any staff member when (not if) they eventually call in sick, even if it means cleaning the toilets, washing clothes, or even telling a family that their loved one passed away during the night.

Needless to say, it can be less-than-glamorous, tedious and physically / emotionally taxing work on the best of days.

These are just a few of the realities that are inherent in this industry. If you think you can handle all of the above, you are meant to do this type of work, and you are a rare person indeed.

If you have any to add, or if you’ve had a unique experience or perspective on owning an assisted living home, we’d love to hear it.

-David

3 thoughts on “Opening An Assisted Living Home? Ask Yourself These Questions

  1. Keith

    If you are a residential care facility owner or run a smaller assisted living home, your residents basically become your family. You will spend most of every day with them. You really have to love what you do.

  2. David Post author

    Thanks for your comment – it’s not unlike the hospitality industry that I was a part of for over 20 years – your co-workers become your family. However, to be a caregiver takes something incredibly special that is sort of an ‘x’ factor that can’t be described easily. Special folks indeed.

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