Today, more than a million senior Americans are assisted living residents. The decision to enter assisted living can be difficult and confusing. In this article, we discuss the many questions and considerations you and your loved ones may have about the decision to move to assisted living. We also provide smart tips to help you make just the right choice. Read on to learn more.
How Do You Begin Looking for the Right Assisted Living Setting?
It’s a good idea to begin with research, first online and then in person. Start by performing a simple Internet search.
Get a look at possible facilities near you, but don’t make contact yet. Just use your search to brainstorm with yourself and create your own list of questions you’d like to ask.
Look at the photos of the facilities, read their stated policies and descriptions and also, be sure to read their reviews very carefully.
How Do You Decide Which Facilities to Consider?
Your online search should give you some good ideas when it comes to choosing which facilities to visit. It’s also a good idea to seek out word of mouth recommendations from people you trust.
You can check the ratings of assisted living and nursing care facilities by visiting www.medicare.gov. Here you can check to be sure a facility you are considering is complying with all of the rules and regulations that apply to retirement facilities.
Unfortunately, independent living facilities are not subject to these rules and regulations, but you can check with the Better Business Bureau to get an idea of safety and performance levels of independent living centers.
What Do You Need to Know?
Choosing a happy, safe, healthy, stimulating living situation is a complex and serious matter, so don’t be shy about it. When you visit assisted living facilities, come armed with an actual list of questions. Interview the director as if you were hiring him or her for a job because that’s exactly what you are doing.
Get Down to Business
There are several areas you’ll want to cover in your questions. Start with business matters. If any of the answers to these 12 business questions is not to your liking, you’ll probably want to take your business elsewhere.
If you are satisfied with the answers to your business concerns, move on to health concerns and questions:
Find Out if the Staff is Happy, Competent and Qualified
Spend some time at the facility and get to know the staff. Sit in the common areas and get a feel for the interactions between employees and residents. Talk with employees about their experience working at the facility. Get a clear feel for their level of connection with and concern for the residents and each other. Are all residents and staff treated respectfully and in a dignified manner?
- 1Are aides present 24/7?
- 2How many residents is each aide expected to care for?
- 3Are staff members specifically trained for this job?
- 4Is there a high staff turnover rate?
- 5Is there a nurse or nursing assistant on staff at all times?
- 6Are staff members trained to administer residents’ medications?
Inspect the Private Living Quarters
Have a look at the available rooms and apartments. Find out:
Make Sure the Food is Good, Healthy and Plentiful
Have at least one meal at the facility. Eating the food and sitting at table with the residents is a great way to find out exactly what living is like in an assisted living setting. Talk with the cook and find out:
- 1Are three meals a day provided?
- 2What times are meals served?
- 3Is the food well prepared and presented?
- 4Is the food tasty and nutritious?
- 5What are residents’ favorite dishes?
- 6How often does the dining room menu change?
- 7Can residents get second helpings if they wish?
- 8Is the food culturally appropriate to your needs?
- 9Are dietary restrictions taken into account?
- 10Can residents get snacks if they wish?
- 11Can residents keep some snacks in their apartments?
Find Out About Activities and Social Events
The opportunity to make new friends and enjoy favorite activities as well as new ones is one of the most important and desirable features of assisted living. Get to know the Life Enrichment Coordinator or Activities Director and find out:
Decide if It’s a Nice Place to Visit and to Live
Evaluate the features of the establishment that would make life comfortable and enjoyable. Amenities and facilities within the assisted living may include, but not be limited to:
Sit on the sofas and chairs in the common areas. Spend some time there.
- 1Is the facility comfortable and attractive?
- 2Are you comfortable? Do you feel welcome?
- 3Would you want to live in this facility?
- 4Would your loved one be able to relax and feel at-home?
- 5Are there pleasant outdoor areas for activities, gardening and recreation?
- 6Is the facility clean and well-maintained?
- 7What is the atmosphere in the facility? Is it pleasant or hectic?
- 8Is it safe? Are doors and windows secure?
- 9Is the facility cane, walker and wheelchair accessible?
If the answers to all of your questions are satisfactory, you can get down to brass tacks and discuss these important considerations:
What levels of care are provided?
There are basically four levels of care available. They are:
Determine Whether and How You Can Afford The Facility You Have Chosen
It’s important that the facility you choose will work for you in the long term, and this means it must be affordable. It’s smart to talk with your financial planner early on to determine exactly how you will pay for long term care.
Before you give any final answers or sign on any dotted lines, be sure to identify all of your potential funding sources and determine exactly what you can afford.
Make Sure You Will Be Able to Visit Easily
Will travel to the facility be practical for you? If you are looking for a placement for a loved one, it’s best if you can find a good assisted living facility near you so that you can drop in often and be there quickly in case of emergency.
If you must choose a location that is far from your home due to poor choices or high costs in your area, take the commute to the facility into account. If it is daunting, you will be less likely to take an active part in your loved one’s life in the assisted living community.
Even though an independent or assisted living situation might be just fine now, you’d be wise to choose a situation that offers services that grow and evolve to meet the changing needs of the residents. A facility that can transition residents from independent living to assisted living to memory care and on to nursing care is a real plus. This type of facility eliminates the disruptive and often traumatic need to change locations as needs change.
Draw Up and Carefully Review Your Contract
When you feel completely satisfied and comfortable with your choice, it’s time to start working on your contract. Ask for a contract that clearly outlines fees for all specific details, including but not limited to:
Make sure that you understand exactly how you will be charged and what will be included.
Some facilities charge one price that includes all possible needs. Others may have a tiered pricing system that separates several care levels. Still others may have a base price to which you can add services as needed. Talk this over with the manager of the business office and review all written materials carefully before agreeing to anything.
Become a Familiar Face
It’s easy to see that locating and deciding on the perfect assisted living situation can be very complicated. It can take quite a while to find just the right place for your loved one (or you) to enjoy a comfortable, safe, happy retirement.
If all this seems a bit overwhelming, there is a stealth method for choosing an assisted living setting. You can begin your search by becoming a volunteer in these facilities.
If you have a special skill or talent you’d like to share, or if you would enjoy visiting, reading aloud, going on walks, etc., talk with the Life Enrichment Coordinators or Activity Directors at facilities in your area. Volunteering is a great way to get the inside scoop on your local assisted living facilities.