The Value of a “Winter Stay”

Last year, our client David came to us with a dilemma we often see. His mom, Mary, had always been fiercely independent and shut down the conversation any time David tried to talk to her about making a change. She was resistant to having people in her home but needed help to manage day-to-day.

When it comes to making a major life decision — one that involves some combination of time, energy, money, or something loved, like a cherished family home — people tend to overemphasize what is being “sacrificed,” and have trouble imagining all the advantages awaiting them on the other side. We often use the metaphor of a balancing scale: until the perceived advantages outweigh the perceived risks, no action is taken.

And so we made a suggestion for Mary. Why not try a short-term stay at an assisted living? She could rent an apartment with support for the winter months, easing David’s concerns about her safety and giving her a glimpse of this lifestyle.

Mary agreed. After two months in the assisted living, she loved it so much (as we had expected) that she decided to move there permanently. She found that she actually had greater independence and was enjoying life more without the burden of maintaining her home. She became eager to embrace and enter this new life chapter.

Sampling an Assisted Living Community

In the world of assisted living communities, the concept of a “respite stay” has been around for a long time. Traditionally, these were intended as a way to provide rest for an at-home caregiver by having the older adult come and live in the community on a short-term basis.

Maybe the caregiver’s spouse was having surgery, or a daughter across the country was about to give birth. Whatever the specifics, a respite stay allows the caregiver to temporarily turn his or her attention elsewhere, knowing that the older adult in their life will be well taken care of. Respite apartments in assisted living communities are fully furnished, making it easy for someone to move in quickly and temporarily.

While respite stays as described above still occur on a regular basis, in recent years, short-term stays for people who simply want to “try out” a community have become popular.

Not surprisingly, many older adults are reluctant to move from their homes. That’s where a trial stay can make a big difference. Here, the older adult has a chance to really experience (and enjoy!) what life can be like when meals and activities are provided, cleaning and maintenance is taken care of, and new friends are just a few steps away. Also, people are much more willing to go if the pressure of a permanent commitment is removed.

The truth is, though, as in Mary’s case, “going back home” rarely happens; the vast majority of the time, people convert to permanent residence. Once experienced, the benefits and many comforts of life in an assisted living are hard to give up.

Respite and trial stays are offered at almost all assisted living communities, pending availability. Every community is different, but it is common for a trial stay to have a 30-day minimum.


If the older adult in your life is not yet ready to commit to moving into an assisted living permanently, but you have found them an available apartment, a winter stay is a great option.

It will get them through the harsher months safely and help them see, firsthand, how an assisted living is an opportunity for a better quality of life.

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