If you’ve recently made the decision that assisted living is the right choice for a loved one, we’re with you. That can be a tough call, and you’ve made it through the first step of this challenging process.
The next step is finding the right home: the assisted living facility that best fits your loved one’s needs. Everyone’s family, health, and personal situations are different, so here are some things to consider and do as you begin your search for assisted living.
Decide What’s Important
Talk to your family and your loved one about their needs and wants. Talk about location; if family is spread out, living in different cities or states, where should you start your search for a facility? Assess your loved one’s needs. Do you think they’ll need special services like physical therapy or dementia care? Make a list of your family’s top requirements for a facility. Unlike nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities, which employ more licensed medical professionals, not all assisted living facilities have a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse on staff. However, some assisted living facilities do, so think about if having this staff available is important to you.
Talk to People You Trust
You probably know several people whose relatives have been in assisted living facilities. They would most likely be happy to share their experiences, both good and bad, with you. This will help you narrow down your search and may add to your list of questions to ask facility staff when you call or visit. Talk to your loved one’s doctors about which facilities they recommend. You can also contact your area’s long-term care ombudsman, who can provide you with additional checklists and inform you about any citations against local facilities.
Do Some Preliminary Research
While it can be hard to find all of the information about each assisted living facility, you can find out some information to help narrow down your search. For example, you can find out if the facility is for-profit or non-profit. CDC (Centers for Disease Control) data shows that about 82 percent of assisted living facilities are private, for-profit businesses, and about four in 10 belong to a national chain. Make sure the facility is licensed. Find out if the facility is part of a larger complex, medical center, or senior housing community.
Call Several Facilities
You can narrow down your list of potential facilities by finding out some information over the phone. Based on your criteria and your loved one’s needs, prepare a list of quick questions that can be answered over the phone. You can find out how many people live at the facility, if there’s a waiting list, and how much it costs. Try to find out true costs, too, not just base rates. Find out if certain services, like meal delivery, transportation, laundry, bathing assistance, and housekeeping services are extra and how much they cost.
Schedule a Visit
Some things you can’t find out over the phone, so when you have a short list of possible facilities, schedule tours of the facilities. On this visit, you’ll probably be shown around the facility by the director. Look for pleasant, warm interactions between the staff and the residents. Notice whether the residents look well cared for and happy. Check for handicap and wheelchair access. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If there’s a bad smell, ask about it. Ask questions about how long staff members have worked there; a high turnover rate might indicate problems with management.
Drop in for an unscheduled visit. Try to visit at a different time than the first time, so you can see different activities and meet different staff members. On this visit, try to get a sense of the facility’s environment and culture. If you visit during a mealtime, take a look at the dining room’s appearance. Is it clean, and is the food appealing?
So arm yourself with a list of facilities to check out, wish lists and requirements from your loved one and family, and a set of questions to ask when you call or visit. Hopefully, you’ll feel prepared to tackle this stage of the search for the perfect assisted living facility.
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