Living Can Be a Good Choice When Carefully Considered
An assisted living facility can be
an ideal middle-ground between completely independent living
and a nursing home. Most of these facilities allow for some
personalized care, while also allowing residents to maintain
Hardly available a decade ago, assisted living facilities have
grown tremendously in numbers and popularity because they offer
services in a more residential and less restricted environment
than a nursing home or long term care facility. Retaining one's
independence is, after all, everyone's goal.
Services vary widely and choosing an appropriate assisted living
facility can be a daunting task.
What is an assisted living facility? If you are considering
a move to an assisted living facility, what are some of the
questions you should be asking? What are the important considerations?
Residents typically have their-own room or apartment, two or
three meals per day and assistance with personal care, laundry,
transportation and very limited medical supervision.
Some facilities also arrange for residents to participate in
elder community services such as adult day care and recreation.
Facilities should include: special safety features such as grab
bars in the bathroom for the toilet and shower, doors should
open with handles instead of knobs, wheelchair ramps, health
and exercise programs, housekeeping and laundry, common areas
for socializing, nurse or medical clinic in the building, and
organized social programs available to residents.
Costs vary widely, depending on location, services available,
etc., and residents (and/or their families) generally pay the
cost for assisted living. Some health insurers or long term
care insurance may pick up part of the cost, but under very
If you are considering Asisted living for yourself or a family
member, do your homework. Be sure that the facilities you are
considering are fully licensed by the state to meet various
fire and safety codes. Most facilities and their staff must
satisfy special training requirements, and some states require
a nurse on duty or on call at all times.
You will find that assisted living facilities vary greatly in
terms of accommodations and costs. Call ahead to schedule appointments
and, if possible, stay for a meal and take the time to observe
and speak with residents. In addition, consider these critical
- Do you like the location and appearance of
- Does the staff greet you warmly? Do they
call the residents by name?
- Do residents socialize with each other? Do
they appear content? Are many residents dining alone?
- Is the community well-designed for residents'
needs? Does it have important safety features ...Is it well
lit? Is it well-ventilated? Check for fire alarms, sprinkler
systems and emergency doors, which are all required by law.
Also check for 24-hour security and emergency call systems
that are accessible and can easily be used by residents.
- Is the food nutritious, appetizing and plentiful?
Can it be prepared according to individual dietary needs,
such as sugar, fat and sodium restrictions?
- Do residents have a choice of eating in dining
rooms or in their own units? If a resident is sick, can food
be delivered to the room? If so, is there an extra charge?
- Does the facility meet local and state licensing
- What public transportation, taxi service,
shops and places of worship are nearby? Does the facility
offer transportation to and from doctors' offices, pharmacies
- What types of units are available? How much
does each cost? Where might your unit be located in relationship
to common areas and dining rooms?
- What exactly are the costs? What do monthly
fees cover'? Read the contract.
- If you move in, is the level of services
reviewed and adjusted periodically by a professional? If additional
assistance is needed, who supplies those services and at what
- What professionals are on staff full time?
What are their qualifications and availability? What are the
hiring and screening practices of the facility?
Moving into an assisted living
facility is no small matter. Ask questions, review the attitudes
and answers of those being questioned. Does the facility offer
the services that are currently needed or may be needed in the
future? Is it affordable?
Consider the reputation of the facility, its history, ownership,
staffing and services. Finally, double-check with the state
licensing board and long term care office. Be sure that what
you've been told agrees with state records. Call Consumer Protection
and/or the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have
If an older individual does not require 24-hour a day care,
yet is not totally able to take care of him/herself, an assisted
living facility might be appropriate to help manage daily needs.
Keep in mind that none of us likes change. This is a time when
many things are changing dramatically for older individuals.
If you are dealing with just a short-term situation, and you
know that skilled nursing care will be needed soon, consider
what other options might be available and affordable in the
interim. It's difficult enough to leave your home and possessions
once, let alone again a few months later. Consult a professional
to determine what options are available.