Assisted living facilities have been popularized because they provide residents with assistance with basic daily living needs such as: meals, cleaning, bathing and socialization. However, it is important to remember that unlike nursing homes, assisted living facilities can not provide medical care.
Like living facilities of all types– and for all ages, a little leg work is necessary to help distinguish the good from the inferior.
As someone who frequently receives inquiries from individuals and families regarding the selection of these facilities, I was happy to see a very informative article to help families with many of the difficult decisions they encounter when placing a loved one.
The following suggestions are from Kimathi Lewis’ article “Ten Tips For Finding the Right Assisted Living Community” that recently appeared on CascadePatch.com. I hope you find these as valuable as I did.
1) Know what you or your family member needs
An honest assessment of you or loved one’s physical and mental needs is important. Perhaps a doctor’s input can help. But the assessment should include whether they can bathe and dress on their own? Do they need help with their medications? Do they need laundry and/or housekeeping assistance?
2) Understand the pricing and what it includes or excludes.
What happens to the charges if your loved one needs more care and services? How much notice will they give if the monthly fee will increase? Are meals, laundry and housekeeping included in the monthly fee? Are there extra fees for medication reminders or assistance? Are there any entrance fees or move-in fees? Are there any additional fees for cable or local phone services? Ask staff if there are any charges that you haven’t asked them about. Also ask them what happens if your family member runs out of private funds.
3) Observe the staff and find out about their credentials and training.
During the tour, watch how the staff interacts with the residents. Do they know their names and talk with them respectfully? Ask the administrator about the hiring process. Is staff given background checks? Is there on-going training and education after they are hired? Is there a licensed nurse on-site 24/7 or just on call? What is the staff to resident caregiver ratios?
4) Understand how the community handles increased level of care needs.
Regulations are sometimes broad in assisted living, so find out how the facility evaluates resident’s needs and how often. How is that information communicated back to you and how quickly? What additional services do they have available when the need arises? What kinds of conditions would require your loved one to transfer to a nursing home or other level of care? If a move is necessary, how much notice would they give you?
5) Investigate the opportunities for socialization and recreation.
Some residents have physical challenges that can lead to isolation, find out if the staff provides adequate opportunities for socialization. When you are touring these facilities, observe if there are any group activities or events. Are residents participating? Ask to see the events calendar and find out about planned activities for the year. Are there opportunities for residents to go on shopping trips to area malls or out to local restaurants? Does staff go along to assist residents who need extra help? The evening meal is often an important part of the day for assisted living residents. Observe a meal. Do residents seem to be socializing and enjoying the dinner?
6) Find out about health-related activities.
Some residents have dietary needs that require special meal plans. Find out the facility will accommodate those needs. Are there exercise programs that are geared towards a resident’s specific needs? Are their opportunities to exercise their mind and what programs do the facility provide for mental stimulation.
7) Assessing the facility’s environment
In light of the need for support, is the location convenient for family and friends to visit? Is the facility located in a safe neighborhood? Is there a nearby hospital? Is there a physician that makes rounds onsite? If not, how far away is to a physician’s office? Does the facility seem clean and well-maintained? Is the facility handicap-accessible? Are there features like handrails in the hallways and elevators if the community has more than one floor? Are there handrails in the bathrooms? Is there a walk-in shower? Is there room for a wheelchair? How far is the walk from suites to the common areas such as the dining room, kitchen and activities areas? Is there a 24-hour emergency response system? Ask to see it and be sure it is accessible in the bathroom as well as the main living and bedroom areas of the apartment. Are there smoke alarms and sprinklers in the suites and throughout the community? Are residents allowed to decorate their suites as they like including hanging pictures on walls?
8) Assessing the facility’s programs
Some residents seek out daily devotions. Is there a room allotted for church or daily devotion? Are events and activities planned for evenings and weekends too? Are there intergenerational events planned with local schools, scout troops, and youth organizations? Are there additional fees to participate in daily programs? Are there planned outings to weekly community events? Is the transportation that takes residents on outings handicapped accessible?
9) Assessing the facility’s dining
Take the time to check out the weekly menu and find out if all three meals are included in the monthly fee? Are beverages and healthy snacks available all day long? Does a dietician help in menu planning? Does the dining room and kitchen look and smell clean? Are tables and chairs clean and in good repair? Can the community accommodate special dietary needs? Is the dining room easily accessible to those with wheelchairs? Are there staff members available to help escort residents to the dining room at meal time? Observe a meal and note if there is additional staff to help accommodate the increased physical needs assisted living residents sometimes require.
10) Assessing the facility’s residents
Perhaps, the best way to find out the intimate details of a facility is to talk to residents and their families. Introduce yourself to family members you see arriving and departing as you tour. Ask them how long their loved one has lived there? What do they like and dislike about the community? Introduce yourself to residents you pass on the tour. Ask them how long they’ve lived there and how they like it. Ask current residents what they like and don’t like about the community. Pay attention to the appearance of current residents. Do they seem cared for and well-groomed?
Related Nursing Homes Abuse Articles