The most frequent asked question from families is I hear is “With so many assisted living choices, how do I know which one is the right one?”
This is almost like asking “how long is a piece of string?” The answer is different for every family. There are so many things that I consider when making recommendations of communities for seniors.
I’ll give a few highlights here to give you an idea of things to contemplate during your decision making.
What Kind of Senior Care Do You Need?
First and foremost, care and the ability for an assisted living facility to provide it is your number one concern.
Do you need assisted living, or is a personal care license more appropriate? In personal care, there is typically a nurse who can do things like take blood pressure, give injections, check oxygen or blood sugar levels. Assisted living is very appropriate in most cases, but sometimes personal care is required and beneficial to the more physically fragile.
Ask for ratios of caregivers to the number of residents. You should also ask if the facility brings on additional staff if they have a higher number of high acuity cases.
If someone has 2 caregivers for 24 people, no matter what the care needs are that could be a red flag. Just be inquisitive and have the salesperson explain the philosophy of coming up with staffing for the needs of the resident.
If they don’t know, ask them to have someone contact you who does.
Make Sure the Facility Provides Services You Require
All licensed communities are not equal. What I mean by this is that some communities take the license to the letter of the law, and others find gray areas.
Don’t assume that if one assisted living facility does things a certain way, that all will. You have to ask the right questions.
For example, I worked with a family whose mother needed help transferring from her bed to her wheel chair. While this is allowed under assisted living licensure, there are some communities who won’t provide that service.
What Activities Does My Senior Enjoy and Does the Community Provide Them?
Activities, activities, activities! This is the cornerstone of finding where your loved one will be happiest. What do they enjoy now, or did they enjoy in the past?
All communities are similar, but some have some niches that speak to very specific interests. A good activities director is like a cruise ship fun director and can make or break a community.
I love this story….I went to see a 97 year old woman who was homebound due to her fear of elevators. She insisted she was happy at home, reading and watching television.
I finally drew out of her that she liked to play cards. I asked if it was Bridge? She looked at me and said “No! Texas Hold ‘Em.” Her daughter and I convinced her to at least look at a couple of places.
I found two communities that had Texas Hold ‘Em games and first floor apartments, due to her fear of elevators. Once in the car, she complained the whole way to the first community. Once we entered the foyer, her attitude changed.
She hadn’t expected what she saw, I imagine, because she was expecting to see something more like a nursing home. After finishing the second tour, she said she’d like to move in, that night!
Now I can work fast, but that was a little fast even for me! While her daughter worked with the office to get the necessary paperwork started, I asked, “why the big turnaround?” She told me it was because she didn’t want to miss the 4 o’clock game! So we made arrangements for her to stay and play in that game and come back the next day as well until she could move in the third day. A very happy ending!
Think of the Little Details of Everyday Life
Another very important thing to consider is the food. Is it any good, how is it served and when? Don’t take anyone’s word for it either. Ask the residents, they are brutally honest! Have a meal there yourself.
You should also get a good picture of the transportation policies. Some have very robust transportation and others are fairly sporadic.
Observe the Current Residents
Finally, what are the current residents like? Are they active? Do they have similar interests to your loved one? This is like match-making. You want a community where your loved one will make friends and be able to share time comfortably.
There are some facilities that are beautiful, but fairly cold where residents tend to keep to themselves. Others that are very warm and welcoming where residents hang out in common areas and are very social.
Neither is better than the other, but only one will be right for your loved one. Don’t always listen to the sales person. What do you see and experience when you’re there?
Rely on a Professional to Help
I hope this helps give you a sense of the complexity of making a sound choice. That is why I love what I do. I am in and out of these facilities on a regular basis and can help guide you where you should start looking and what to ask.
I actually go on the tours with you to make sure you’re hearing and seeing what is important in your particular circumstance. Please feel free to call anytime for information or advice. It’s always free!