When the need for assisted living becomes inevitable, whether due to an injury or the effects of aging, finding a place where your loved one will thrive can be a difficult decision, to say the least. Since these types of major life changes can come with an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty and even fear, your first steps should be visiting nearby facilities to gather as much information as possible. When considering a senior assisted living situation for a loved one, asking the following questions about accommodations, staff, location, and residential life can help alleviate the stress and fear everyone is likely experiences.
1. What types of housing are available at your facility?
Some senior facilities offer single and double rooms, apartments, and even detached homes for residents. Which type of housing is best depends upon how much assistance your loved one needs, what you can afford, and their personal preferences.
If they are accustomed to living alone, an apartment or standalone cottage that fosters independence may be most appealing. On the other hand, if a loved one finds living alone to be too difficult, they may prefer a more centralized location in the facility and enjoy meals in the communal dining rooms.
2. What services and amenities are included in the monthly rate?
To fairly compare costs at different facilities, you should establish what is included in the monthly costs. Some of the particular items to ask about include:
- Cable connection
- Emergency response system
- Housecleaning services
- Laundry room or service
- Parking space
- Landline phone
- Car service to appointments
- Included special events on/off site
- Incontinence supplies
- Physical therapy
- Pet fee
3. What levels of assistance do you provide to residents?
The term “assisted living” can mean different things at various facilities. However, many provide more than one option to best meet your loved one’s needs. Some facilities categorize three levels of care: low, moderate, and high.
Low level care provides occasional help with everyday tasks including reminding residents to take their medications. Moderate level assistance includes more frequent help with daily activities while high-level assisted living involves continual assistance, administration of medications, and more frequent health checks. Your loved one should be in a facility that provides the appropriate amount of care with the flexibility to adjust the level as their needs change.
4. What’s on your menu, and do you accommodate special dietary needs?
Food is an important aspect of any senior residence, and both you and your loved one should be comfortable with the menu at the facility you select. Some facilities let potential residents and their families sit down for a meal when conducting an initial visit, which is a great way to chat with your loved one’s potential neighbors and see if the menu will suit their liking.
If your loved one is diabetic, gluten intolerant or has other special dietary needs, make sure that the facility has the flexibility to accommodate those needs. Also, find out if the food is freshly prepared on site each day and whether you can share a meal with your loved one from time to time.
5. Do you have trained and certified medical staff?
Assisted living residence standards vary from state to state and even within the same metropolitan areas. It may surprise you to know that some facilities do not have full-time medical professionals on staff. Ask about staffing when you visit to find out whether it includes people with nurses’ training, such as RNs, LPNs or CNAs. See how often an MD visits, as well. While non-medically trained staff members may be very good at their jobs, in case of a medical emergency, it is important to know professional care is available on site.
6. What is the staff to patient ratio?
A primary concern when choosing an assisted living facility for an elderly parent, relative or friend is ensuring adequate care. Quick and responsible care should be available, in addition to helping with everyday tasks including transfers from bed to wheelchair, using the bathroom, preparing food or safely maneuvering throughout the facility.
Only a few states have mandated staffing to patient ratios for assisted care facilities, but those that do, such as Florida and Georgia, require minimums such as 1:20 during daytime hours and 1:25 at night. Ideally, the assisted-living residence you select should have a lower ratio so that help is available when needed.
7. Can residents enjoy the outdoors in and around the facility?
The location of the senior assisted living residence makes a difference if your loved one likes to get outside and enjoy exercising. Some places are located within busy commercial parts of town where walking is not an option. Others have lovely grounds with walking paths or are adjacent to parks. Most facilities have an exercise room or swimming pool to encourage physical activity and fun games. If your parent or friend likes to garden, look for a location with a communal growing space.
8. Do residents have the chance to interact with the community?
Staying active socially helps seniors stay engaged and energized. Inquire as to whether the facility encourages social opportunities within the surrounding community for assisted living residents. From sharing visits with school groups to meeting visiting pets, even those who are confined to the facility can enjoy fun interactions that make their day more exciting.
9. What kinds of activities are residents offered?
On-site classes, book clubs, knitting circles or hobby groups are the types of activities on tap at many senior residences. When visiting each place, ask about the options. Does the activities director organize special events, such as concerts and dances? Is there a shuttle bus that regularly takes residents of the independent living wing on outings? These activities help keep elderly minds sharp while they enjoy socializing and learning fun new skills.
10. What do your staff and facility offer that other places don’t?
Perhaps one facility touts its caring staff while another boasts about an expensive new remodeling. You and your loved one are the best judges of which facility works best for their needs. One facility may stand out due to its large capacity while another emphasizes a more intimate atmosphere. Your loved one’s personality should factor into the decision to ensure their long-term comfort and happiness.
Whether shopping a dozen assisted living facilities or only a few, your main objective should be finding a good match where your loved one will be well cared for, feel comfortable, and thoroughly enjoy their golden years. Schedule as many tours as you can, talk to as many people as possible, ask plenty of questions, and if possible, include your senior every step of the way. Taking these steps will ensure a smooth transition.