Assisted living facilities are a growing alternative for individuals with disabilities or aging individuals who may need more companionship or assistance than is provided by living alone or in a planned retirement community, but at the same time do not need the same specialized round-the-clock nursing care provided in a more-advanced long-term care facility. Providing that important independence and privacy with security and companionship, assisted living facilities address the deteriorating physical and social issues common among senior citizens, and provide comfort of mind for family members.
Choosing an assisted living facility for oneself or a loved one can certainly be both a rewarding and daunting process. Remember that, just like choosing which college is the best fit for a potential student, choosing an assisted living facility involves making lists of priorities and questions.
Most assisted living locations are tailored to meet specific needs. These facilities are operated, staffed, and maintained to best meet federal, state, and local guidelines as well as serving the needs of their residents. Individual residents receive any assistance or services as they prefer, underscoring the resident’s right to live the way they choose in a safe and comfortable home.
Below are some examples of questions one may ask when searching for the perfect home for themselves or their loved ones. Visit a local facility today with a notepad, and be sure to write down any questions or concerns along the tour. That way, when it is time to conference with an employee, access to those hard to remember questions will be right at your fingertips—along with the tools to write down their answers!
What is the facility’s resident care philosophy? Does it provide holistic care? Is the care personalized?
Before the Visit…
Before the visit of an assisted living facility, do some research online. Many facilities have websites full of photos and information to help make the decision easier. Knowing about the total costs involved, the location of the residence, and the size of the facility help with negotiating expectations of care. Location is quite important—consider attributes like distance from family and friends. The size of the facility is equally important. Some facilities are built like homes single story, shared common areas, private or shared bedrooms). Other facilities are built like apartments (private or shared suites, multiple floors, shared public rooms). Looking at the website also may give you information about included costs. Consider the needs of the resident and match them with a home that can grow with their level of independence as time continues.
- Is the facility licensed and are the staff qualified to provide care?
- Is the community well-designed for your needs? Is the community spread out over a complex or placed in one building?
- What are the facility’s rental and leasing options? Are utilities included in the total costs?
- Does the facility accept Medicare/Medicaid, Veterans’ Administration benefits/vouchers, or long-term care insurance?
- Are funding options available?
During the Tour…
After doing research on the assisted living facility and their websites, a great next step would be to make a Top 3 or Top 5 list and make contact with the residence for a walk-through tour or an informational meeting. Notice the safety features and amenities. Enjoy a meal or activity with the other residents to get to know potential neighbors.
- Are you able to talk with residents about their experience? Do the residents appear happy? Were the residents engaged in activities?
- Are the staff members conducting your tour open and friendly? The facility staff?
- Does the community have appropriate safety features (elevators, grab bars along the walls, handicap accessible bathrooms)?
- Can residents go anywhere in the facility? Are there special areas for residents with dementia?
- Do other residents appear happy and comfortable? Do neighbors socialize with one another? Are visits with the resident welcome at any time?
About the Staff…
When you go to the residence for a tour, try to meet the administration team and staff, and as many of the other residents as possible, if the opportunity presents itself. Learn about the community and its caretakers. Ask for licensing information. Quality care facilities will share their experience and oftentimes enjoy caring for the elderly. Visit multiple shifts, if possible, to see how staffing changes.
- What are the facility’s staffing patterns? How many staff members are in the facility during the day? Are there always staff that are awake 24-hours a day?
- What is the patient-to-staff ratio? Does the residence have enough staff to support the number of residents at all times?
- Does a doctor, physician’s assistant, or nurse visit residents regularly (weekly, biweekly, monthly)?
- Are any special community services offered on-site (pharmacy, barber/beautician, cafeteria, physical therapist)? Are community events and activities a part of the residence’s culture?
- Does the facility provide any sort of recreation, activities, classes, or shuttling options?
About the Facilities…
The ideal residence may differ based on a senior’s needs and experiences. In general, focus on how the facility improves the quality of life. Understanding the environment is an important part of choosing an assisted living facility. Look for supportive, encouraging staff who reach out to their residents and know their names. Many facilities have literature that explains emergency procedures or medical operations which influence the choosing of that specific residence. Make sure to pay attention to how the residence can grow with the needs of the person living in the community.
- Does the residence include help with daily tasks (dressing, eating, hygiene, cleaning, shopping, or laundry)?
- What dining options are available for residents and guests?
- Are there set menus with multiple options per day every day of the week?
- Are food options available 24 hours a day / 7 days a week?
- Are the meals overseen by a nutritionist? Does the residence offer three balanced meals daily?
- Does the facility provide proper medical management?
- Are medical services available?
- What are the residence’s policies regarding medication (storage of medication, assistance with medications, medically-trained or well-supervised staff)?
- Is self-administration of medication allowed?
- Is a 24-hour emergency response system accessible from the unit?
Before Moving In…
Before moving in to a new assisted living facility, it is vital that the residents are comfortable in their new environment. Sometimes, planning the move can be emotional. Ask the administrative team what furniture, if any, the residence will provide. Choose the most significant furniture, clothing, and personal items that will go far in making a residence feel like a home. Many assisted living facilities have staff members who can help arrange and organize the new home to manage the stressful transition.
- Are residents able to bring their own furnishings for their unit? What may they bring?
- What items or furnishings are provided?
- What items are not allowed (flame-bearing candles, heating units, hot burners, etc)?
- Are residents allowed to have guests (visiting hours, overnight, etc)?
- Are residents allowed to bring or have pets (small animals, fish, birds, etc)?
Independence, privacy, security, and companionship are all important facets of the assisted living facility. Understanding the specific needs of the resident and planning ahead are a part of the process. Do research to address the complex physical and social needs many senior citizens experience. Knowledge is power. Understanding one’s options provides comfort of mind for residents, friends, and family members alike.
Don’t be daunted choosing an assisted living facility for oneself or a loved one. Consider the cost, location, size, and experience to meet specific needs. Check up on certifications and licensing—residents that follow federal, state, and local guidelines serve the needs of their residents.
If you’re still concerned, write down your most important questions from the listing above. Add questions or concerns of your own. Bring your concerns and visit a local facility with questions and comments. Remember, just like choosing a college, doing quantitative research will help with the decision which residence is the best fit for you and your loved ones.