If you or someone you love has decided it would be nice to have help with the cleaning and housework or has noticed that they need more help to accomplish daily activities, it may be time to consider an assisted living community. Assisted living is a wonderful way to enjoy senior life and help reduce the stress of caring for loved ones.
It may seem intimidating – most of us don’t have any idea how to shop for the right assisted living community. It can be daunting to be responsible for choosing the senior community where a loved one will reside and receive care. How can you know you’re getting the best possible care, or that your needs won’t be ignored? You have high hopes that your loved one will be happy in their new residence – where to start?
Begin by taking a deep breath – senior living communities have changed dynamically from what you may remember about a grandparent’s nursing home. Assisted living facilities today meet the needs of residents who enjoy vibrant, active, friendly communities catering to seniors in a variety of ways, including both physical and mental health.
Now that you know there are options, it’s time to explore them.
KNOW WHAT YOU NEED
Before you begin to look for options, you’ll want to think about what your needs may be so that you can discover if the community offers the services that you require. Find out how you can visit a loved one, and think where they might want to live. Would they like shopping and entertainment nearby? Where is the nearest hospital?
Retirement homes generally offer varying levels of care:
- “Skilled nursing” involves nursing assistance 24 hours a day.
- “Assisted living” provides for seniors who are largely independent, but need daily help with medications, cooking, bathing, and other daily needs.
- Seniors who can perform basic daily activities without help but would like assistance with cooking or cleaning are happiest in independent living communities.
GET TO KNOW THE TEAM
Talk to the team members during your visit. Find out if the staff are friendly and make eye contact, if they seem to enjoy senior care and are familiar with their residents, and if they are eager to meet you and your loved one. The managers should make a point to introduce themselves to you and assure you that the assisted living community is concerned making a good impression on you. It’s important that you have confidence in the team.
KEEP IT CLEAN
Look around and take a good sniff. The community should feel fresh and clean – you should even check for dust. Find out how often rooms are cleaned and how the cleaning procedure affects residents. It’s important to discuss laundry services and find out about extra costs associated with laundry or housekeeping.
Plan to visit during an activity – how many participants there participating? Do the instructors engage with seniors? What kind of classes and activities does the assisted living community provide? Look for activities that you or your loved one like. Find out if trips away from the assisted living community are planned, and if you would like religious services, find out if they are offered.
Outdoor areas should be safe and should be accessible to residents. Make sure common outdoor areas are safe and secure, fenced, and clean, without trash or litter. Check walking areas and make sure they are safe and easy to use.
SAMPLE THE CUISINE
Have a meal at the community with your loved one – do you enjoy the food? What are the dining room hours? Ask for a sample menu, and take the time to ask other residents about their experience. Find out what happens in exceptional instances, including times when a resident can’t make it to the dining hall or has dietary concerns.
Discuss personal care issues with the team and manager of the assisted living community:
- Ask about issues like bathing preferences and daily routines.
- Notice whether the residents are well groomed, clean shaven, and wearing clean clothes.
- When you are outdoors, look to see that residents are wearing appropriate clothing.
- The team should treat residents with compassion, dignity and respect.
- Ask about “move out” policies – be sure you understand why and when a resident may be asked to transfer from their room to another within the assisted living community, and what might be cause for a resident to be expelled.
Find out about the specifics of the security and safety features at the community. Who can visit the community and how are visits scheduled and monitored? How and when do residents leave and return to the community? Make sure bathrooms are handicapped accessible and include safety bars. How is the team instructed to deal with an emergency and what is the staff routine? Who is on-site at all times, and is a resident nurse on staff? Discuss 24 hour access to care, medication needs and other special health concerns you might have.
ASK FOR REFERENCES
Get references from the assisted living community, and hunt down references of your own – talk to other residents and families who reside in the senior living communities you visit. Ask to meet the community council – they’ll be happy to talk to you about the community and its concerns. Look for online reviews – web sites like “A Place for Mom” can provide thousands of reviews and references.
TRUST YOUR HEART
You’ll know when you’ve found the right senior living community. Look for a place where you trust the team and managers, where you are comfortable, where you feel you questions are answered and your needs are met. Ask as many questions as you need to feel like you are safe and secure, and remember – your instincts are worth more than anything else to know you’ve chosen the right assisted living community.