An assisted living home might be on the radar for those who have found they are unable to provide elderly loved ones with the help they need on a daily basis. According to the Administration for Community Living, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, assisted living facilities provide help for adults who cannot handle daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, and eating, but who do not need extensive medical care. Assisted living homes offer a variety of different benefits and are found in many places, including retirement communities, complexes particular to seniors, or even in stand-alone homes. Before choosing a facility for a loved one, the following factors should be considered.
- The location is crucial if family members intend to visit the elderly loved one often. Current as well as future plans should be considered when settling on a location. Do family members regularly visit with the elderly loved one now? How far away is a comfortable distance? In addition, how close is the location to certain amenities, such as the elderly loved one's hair stylist, grocery store, and other particulars that are important to him or her?
- What services are available? What about specific services the elderly loved one may desire, such as being taken to church services? What about social activities? Will the elderly person fit well into the environment, and are the services offered agreeable to him or her? After all, this will be his or her new living arrangement.
- What are the food services? What meals are served, how are they served, and how often? Family members could even go so far as to taste the food themselves to discern the quality and whether the elderly loved one will enjoy it and benefit from consuming it on a regular basis. Family members should not hesitate to visit the facility at different times, and at different mealtimes to see how everything is handled.
- What are the conditions like? Family members should tour every area of the facility to see for themselves what the facility is like. Visiting at different times of the day and on different days of the week will afford a reliable feeling of what it is really like to live there. The cleanliness, safety, and mood of the facility should be assessed. It is important to remember that once a loved one is enrolled there, he or she will be at the facility day in and day out, 24/7, and family members will want to rest assured that every aspect of well-being is taken into consideration, at all hours.
- How are emergencies handled? According to Argentum, family members should concern themselves with not only the clinical procedures for emergencies, but also the technical advances of the community. Is the community using up to date techniques? It is important to ask the facility staff how they would handle specific medical emergencies around the clock. Asking for examples and detailed descriptions of how they would handle specific situations can reveal a lot.
- First impressions don't have to count. Many facilities make great first impressions, with beautiful chandeliers, pretty landscaping, and calm environments, but the true character of a facility will only be revealed through frequent visits. Family members do well to talk to the professionals there about every aspect of the care provided, the facilities available, and how the residents get along. Conversations like these should leave no stone unturned. This is vital to the well-being of a cherished older member of the family.
- Are there common areas for the residents to socialize? Life is not all about structured activities and field trips. Elderly loved ones should be able to feel comfortable heading down to the common areas and chatting, playing cards, and watching TV with the other residents. Time taken to visit these areas during different times of the day to see what the areas and atmosphere are like will not be wasted.
- Any contracts with an assisted living facility should be read through carefully. Is every detail provided in the contract? Is the contract clear? Is each service carefully spelled out? Does the contract specify the frequency of the services to be provided? Does it detail the meal service, how medical issues are handled, and what levels of care are provided?
- Are there specific visiting hours? Are the hours convenient?
- What type of training has each of the professionals who will have contact with an elderly loved one? There is nothing wrong with asking for proof of staff qualifications in order to feel at ease with the care an elderly loved one will receive.
These questions and considerations are just a sampling of where to start when looking for an assisted living facility for a loved one. More questions may occur in addition to these as family members strive to get a true feel for what a loved one can expect when making the move from being on his or her own to being in a home shared with and serviced by others.
Administration on Aging, Administration for Community Living, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Assisted Living. Available at http://www.acl.gov/NewsRoom/Publications/docs/Assisted_living_1.pdf. Retrieved 6/21/2016.
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Caregiving Checklist. Assisted Living; What to Ask. Available at http://assets.aarp.org/external_sites/caregiving/checklists/checklist_assistedLiving.html. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
Argentum. 9 Point Program to Finding a Senior Living Community. Available at http://www.alfa.org/alfa/Choosing_a_Community.asp. Retrieved June 21, 2016.