An assisted living facility can be the perfect next step for older adults who need help with some aspects of daily life but generally function well independently. With assistance for activities such as housekeeping, preparing meals, taking medication, bathing and dressing, many people can continue to enjoy life fully and safely. When necessary, residents can easily transition to rehabilitation services and skilled nursing care.
With many options out there, choosing the right facility to meet your needs can be a challenge. Here is a list of considerations to help you make the best choice.
Location is an important factor in terms of proximity to loved ones or a desire to remain in a particular area. However, location also dictates how a facility operates based on local laws. For example, some states limit the amount of medical assistance that can be offered to residents. In those states, the emphasis is typically on socialization more than medical care. Be sure the facility you choose can provide the services you require.
Size in terms of the number of beds varies greatly among facilities and can certainly impact the general atmosphere. Similar to choosing between a small town and a large city, this is mainly a matter of preference. Keep in mind that in addition to your experience, size can impact the types of services available. Larger facilities tend to have a wider array of amenities, such as swimming pools and entertainment. They may also offer units specifically for memory care.
Beyond the number of beds, a key consideration is the staff-to-resident ratio. Knowing there is sufficient staff to take care of you or your loved one before selecting that facility is critical.
Services are often based on supply and demand. While dining, housekeeping, medication management, exercise and wellness are typical offerings in most assisted living communities, more specialized services may be provided in response to the needs of the residents. These may include programs for diabetes, heart health, depression, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Consider the next likely move after assisted living and the availability of services that might ease that transition. Some assisted living facilities are part of a broader continuing care community that allows residents to move to skilled nursing when they need that level of care. Some work with other residential health care providers as referrals for patients when the time comes. Using the move to assisted living as a springboard for creating a longer-term plan makes good sense.
Cost certainly can’t be ignored as a factor in this decision. People on Medicaid may have more limited options than those who have access to other means of payment such as personal savings, long-term care insurance, home equity life insurance benefits, veterans benefits or a combination of resources. How payments are made also varies. Facilities may have an upfront cost or charge monthly rent. Narrow your list to those you can afford and then evaluate those options based on all the other criteria.
A good facility will offer a variety of activities to meet the physical, spiritual, social and intellectual needs of the residents. Examples might be art classes, games, musical performances and trips to local venues.
Visit potential options in person to get the best idea of what living there will actually be like. Talk to staff and residents, attend a meal and observe the environment to make sure it feels right for you.
Amenities vary and may include a swimming pool, community entertainment, a dining hall, a garden, a hair salon or barber, a bistro or coffee shop, a library or a computer room. Choose a facility that has amenities you know you will use and enjoy.
Staff should be technically knowledgeable and compassionate caregivers who are genuinely motivated to care for the elderly. In addition to adequate numbers of staff for the resident population, be sure to ask about staff accreditations and training.
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