For seniors who mostly are able to live on their own, but would benefit from having a certain level of assistance available if needed, and from the social opportunities of living in close proximity to others at about the same stage of life, an assisted living facility may be the best choice.
An assisted living facility is not synonymous with a nursing home. Both are intended for elderly residents, but a nursing home is generally for people who need considerably more medical attention and assistance in performing basic tasks such as eating and toileting. An assisted living facility is more like an apartment building for older people who can do most of what they need to do on their own, but would benefit from lower level assistance, and from being in proximity to greater assistance in the event of emergency.
When a person is admitted to an assisted living facility, a resident care or wellness coordinator is usually assigned to the new resident, and a service plan is developed. This plan is the basis for the resident’s individualized services based on his or her physical, psychological, and social needs.
Clearly, choosing the right assisted living facility is crucial for the health, happiness, and well-being of the elderly person, and the peace of mind of family and friends. There are many factors to consider in making the choice:
In most states, there is a process by which assisted living facilities are licensed or certified. Check with the regulatory body in your state to make sure everything is in order with any facility you are considering.
Assisted living facilities are not cheap, though precisely how expensive they are varies considerably. But you also need to take into consideration just how much is being covered that a person no longer needs to pay for separately. If a person did not move into an assisted living residence, obviously they would have to pay for housing one way or another. But on top of that, the facility provides a certain amount of meals, so there is less if any need to spend money on groceries or restaurants. There is often a shuttle service for running errands, so less need for spending on taxis, buses, or an automobile. There are various recreational and social activities available in the common areas, some of which might cost money in other contexts. Typically, housekeeping, laundry and other services are provided.
So it can be a lot, but maybe not as much as it sounds like when you realize all that it covers.
One piece of bad news is you’ll typically get little or no money from programs like Medicare and Medicaid for an assisted living facility.
As a person gets older, and their spouse and the friends and family around their age die or become incapacitated, there is the danger of isolation and loneliness. So if at all possible, an assisted living facility should be chosen that is conveniently located for the important remaining people in the resident’s life to visit frequently.
Not to mention the location should be conveniently close to other things that would enhance the resident’s life, whether it be the seashore, museums, a bingo hall, mountain scenery, or a park. Assisted living facility residents are typically not bedridden or completely unable to get around; if they choose, they can go out and about in the area and be quite active.
4. The facility itself
Your research should definitely include one or more visits in person to any assisted living residence you are considering.
Online you can find some very helpful checklists to take along with you. Here’s one good one. These checklists can be quite detailed and thorough, but just to hit some of the main points, investigate the following in your visit:
* What specific services are available? As a resident’s needs change with age and changing health, will appropriate additional services be available? At what point would the resident be expected to move because they can no longer be properly cared for at this facility?
* How many meals are provided? What is the quality of the food? (Ask to join the residents for a meal.) Is there a variety of meal options available? Is the kitchen equipped to handle special dietary needs?
* Is the facility clean and well-maintained? Are there smoke alarms and other appropriate safety devices?
* Are the residents happy and active? (Converse with some of them and ask them questions about living there.)
* Is staff screened, and appropriately skilled. Do they have a pleasant demeanor and interact comfortably and respectfully with the residents? Does it appear they like the residents and the residents like them?
It is a good idea to have an extended meeting to discuss in detail the potential resident’s needs and whether they can meet those needs. In effect come up with a preliminary or hypothetical service plan together.
If possible, research and visit multiple assisted living facilities. This is not a decision to rush or make lightly.
In the end, don’t underestimate the importance of intangibles. If there’s nothing specific you can put your finger on that’s wrong with the place, but the person who is to live there is uncomfortable with the choice, move on. Pick one that feels right.
“10 Tips for Choosing an Assisted Living Facility.” CCAL.
“Assisted Living Checklist: Choosing the Right Facility.” Aging Parents and Elder Care.
“Choosing an Assisted Living Residence: A Consumer Guide.” American Health Care Association: National Center for Assisted Living.