What You Need to Know About Assisted Living

What Is Assisted Living?

Assisted living is a type of housing designed for people who need various levels of medical and personal care. Living spaces can be individual rooms, apartments, or shared quarters. The facilities generally provide a home-like setting and are physically designed to promote the resident's independence. Services are offered to assist residents with daily living.

What Services Do Assisted Living Communities Provide?

The services offered by assisted living communities vary from facility to facility. Services often include:

  • One to three meals a day
  • Monitoring of medication
  • Personal care, including dressing and bathing
  • Housekeeping and laundry
  • 24-hour emergency care
  • Some medical services
  • Social and recreational activities

How Do I Know What Services I Need?

Talk with your family and caregivers about what services are needed. Take time to consider what services are important to you before you visit assisted living communities. This step will help ease your transition. Think about these questions:

  • Why do I want/need to change my living arrangements?
  • What daily activities do I need help with (bathing, dressing, toileting, eating, remembering medications)?
  • How often do I need help?

What Should I Look For in an Assisted Living Community?

The following questions will help you and your family to evaluate assisted living facilities. Print out these questions and have them answered before you decide on an assisted living facility.

General

  • Is the residence licensed?
  • What type of insurance does the facility carry on personal property?
  • How do they respond to medical emergencies?
  • What is the visitation policy?

Contracts, Costs, and Finances

  • Is a contract agreement available to include accommodations, personal care, health care, and support services?
  • When may a contract be terminated, and what is the refund policy?
  • Are additional services available if the resident's needs change?
  • How do you pay for additional services that are needed on a temporary basis (such as nursing care)?
  • Are there different costs for various levels or categories of services?
  • Are there any government, private, or corporate programs available to help cover the cost of services to the resident?
  • What are the billing, payment, and credit policies?
  • May a resident handle his or her own finances with staff assistance (if able), or should a family member or outside party be designated to do so?

Continued

Staff

  • Are staff members appropriately trained?
  • Is staff turnover rapid or slow?
  • Did you receive a warm greeting from staff? Are staff members personable and outgoing?
  • Are staff members appropriately dressed?
  • Do staff members greet residents by their first names and interact warmly with them?
  • Are staff members available to meet scheduled and unscheduled needs?
  • Are staff members available to assist residents who experience memory, orientation, or judgment losses?

Residents and Atmosphere

  • Do residents socialize with each other and appear happy and comfortable?
  • Do residents, other visitors, and volunteers speak favorably about the facility?
  • Do the residents seem to be appropriate housemates for you or your loved one?
  • Are the residents at similar levels of functioning as you or your loved one?

Facility Design

  • Do you like the appearance of the building and its surroundings?
  • Is the decor attractive and home-like?
  • Is the floor plan easy to follow?
  • Do doorways, hallways, and rooms accommodate wheelchairs and walkers?
  • Are elevators available?
  • Are handrails available to aid in walking?
  • Are cupboards and shelves easy to reach?
  • Are carpets secured and floors made of a non-skid material?
  • Is there good natural and artificial lighting?
  • Is the residence clean, odor free, and appropriately heated/cooled?

Medication and Health care

  • What is the residence policy regarding storage of medication, assistance with medications, and medication record keeping?
  • Is self-administration of medication allowed?
  • Who coordinates visits from a nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, or other specialist, if needed?
  • Does a physician or nurse visit the resident regularly to provide medical checkups?
  • Do they use a certain pharmacy? Can medications be delivered?

Services

  • Are staff members available to provide 24-hour assistance with activities of daily living, if needed? Daily activities include:
  • Dressing
  • Eating
  • Getting around
  • Hygiene and grooming
  • Bathing, toileting, and incontinence
  • Using the telephone
  • Shopping
  • Laundry
  • Housekeeping in unit
  • Transportation to doctor, hairdresser, or other activities
  • Pharmacy medication delivery

Features of Individual Units

  • Are different sizes and types of units available?
  • Are units for single and double occupancy available?
  • Do residents have their own lockable doors?
  • Is a 24-hour emergency response system accessible from the unit?
  • Are bathrooms private? Do they accommodate wheelchairs and walkers?
  • Can residents bring their own furnishings? What may they bring?
  • Do all units have a telephone and cable television? How is billing handled for these services?
  • Is a kitchen area/unit provided with a refrigerator, sink, and cooking element?
  • May residents keep food in their units?
  • May residents smoke in their units? May they smoke in public areas?

Continued

Social and Recreational Activities

  • Is there an activities program?
  • Do residents participate in the neighboring community's activities?
  • Do volunteers, including family members, come into the residence to conduct or help with programs?
  • Does the facility require residents to undertake any chores or perform specific activities that benefit all residents?
  • Are residents' pets allowed in the unit? Who is responsible for pet care?
  • Does the residence have its own pets?

Food Service

  • Does the residence provide three nutritionally balanced meals a day, seven days a week?
  • Are snacks available?
  • May a resident request special foods or diets?
  • Are common dining areas available?
  • May residents eat meals in their units?
  • May meals be provided at times the resident prefers or are there set meal times?
  • Will they accommodate physician nutrition orders?

Other

  • Is there a written plan for the care of each resident?
  • What is the procedure for assessing a potential resident's need for service? Are those needs reassessed periodically?
  • Can a resident be discharged for refusing to comply with a care plan?
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on September 18, 2016

Sources

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: eldercare.gov: ''Assisted Living.'' Assisted Living Federation of America web site: ''Choosing a Senior Living Community.''

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