What to Ask When Choosing an Assisted Living Community

Posted on

Dec 09, 2021

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When determining what senior living option would be best for you or a loved one, you may find yourself thrown into a world that you have minimal experience with. How can you tell whether you will need to choose assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care or independent living?In an effort to shed some light on assisted living communities and help you find options that will work for you, our team at Barrington Terrace of Naples has compiled some items to watch for when touring an assisted living community.
What healthcare services are provided?
Your assisted living community likely will offer more than physician visits on the premises. Check to see if there are flu shot or pneumonia vaccination clinics as well as podiatrist, psychiatric and dental visits available at the community, and how often those services are offered. If the community has an on-staff doctor, find out what his or her specialty or board certifications are to determine if the physician can meet your needs. Are other healthcare providers such as home health care, hospice, or private duty agencies available?
Are the apartments safe?
Assisted living apartments should have safety items such as grab bars in the bathroom and a step-in shower. There should also be emergency pull cords or another type of safety system in the apartments; some assisted living communities use a pendant necklace for each resident that alerts the nursing station to falls or other emergencies. Are exterior doors alarmed and locked at night?
Are there good meal options?
Assisted living communities offer three meals per day and snacks in a social setting, the dining room. Make sure that the assisted living community offers choices for meal entrees as well as specialized diets to support medical diagnoses or goals that may arise in the future. Some assisted living communities will deliver meals to a residents room if he or she is unable to take meals in the dining room. Ask what the policy is and if there is a service fee for in-room meal delivery.
Which is more important to you, care or luxury?
Although theres nothing wrong with a designer landscape and a grand front lobby, finding the right assisted living community requires more than picking the most luxurious-looking option. Remember that fancy features are just icing on the cake; whats really important (the cake, if you will) is that you or your loved one receives the highest quality care possible. For instance, if a resident needs support with dressing, bathing or toileting, 24-hour access to excellent personal care assistance is far more important than the pretty gazebo seen from the parking lot. Likewise, a high staff-to-patient ratio is probably more meaningful than that stunning Persian carpet in a community living room. By all means, dont rule out luxury communities if they are in your budget. But look closely enough to be sure you are choosing a community that combines luxury and comfort with a quality of care that will give you and your family peace of mind. Ask what the nurse and caregiver schedule is so that you can determine if a nurse is in the community 24/7 or just during day and evening hours. How many caregivers are there at night to assist residents with needs? How often are residents checked overnight by staff? In the middle of the night, if your family member needs help with a breathing treatment or medical need, who will be there to provide that assistance?
What types of programs are offered?
Assisted living communities often have a very busy social calendar of opportunities, trips and events for residents. Ask to see a copy of the monthly calendar; you can also ask to sit in on an activity as well. Are the programs appealing? Are there specialized bridge or transition programs for residents who have early cognitive loss? When determining what senior living option would be best for you or a loved one, you may find yourself thrown into a world that you have minimal experience with. How can you tell whether you will need to choose assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care or independent living?
In an effort to shed some light on assisted living communities and help you find options that will work for you, our team at Barrington Terrace of Naples has compiled some items to watch for when touring an
assisted living community.
What care do you need now and in the future?
Although you or your loved one probably wants to have as much independence as possible, dont choose freedom over adequate health care. Take an honest look at health needs now and try to anticipate what lies ahead. Its crucial to find a community that can provide needed support and deliver a higher level of care as circumstances change.
In particular, if your loved one shows cognitive decline, check whether the residence has a memory care wing or a bridge program that will allow eventual transition into more specialized care. And keep in mind that moving seniors from one residence to another can be stressful, especially if they have dementia. If your parent or loved one has already been diagnosed with Alzheimers disease or another form of dementia, it will be very important to make sure he or she is provided with specialized memory care by experts who understand the unique needs that come with cognitive decline of this type.
What care do you need now and in the future?
Although you or your loved one probably wants to have as much independence as possible, dont choose freedom over adequate health care. Take an honest look at health needs now and try to anticipate what lies ahead. Its crucial to find a community that can provide needed support and deliver a higher level of care as circumstances change.
In particular, if your loved one shows cognitive decline, check whether the residence has a memory care wing or a bridge program that will allow eventual transition into more specialized care. And keep in mind that moving seniors from one residence to another can be stressful, especially if they have dementia. If your parent or loved one has already been diagnosed with Alzheimers disease or another form of dementia, it will be very important to make sure he or she is provided with specialized memory care by experts who understand the unique needs that come with cognitive decline of this type.
Are there hidden costs?
Some families have been caught off guard by unexpected fees or price increases. To avoid surprises, carefully read the assisted living communitys contract; when meeting with a senior living provider or care counselor, ask for copies of the communitys resident agreement that outlines services, prices, extra charges, move-in and move-out criteria, staffing, and house rules. After carefully reading the contract, resident agreement and other fee schedules, review them with family members, making note of anything that is not clear. If the community doesnt answer the questions to your satisfaction, consider reviewing the contract with a lawyer. It is very important to have a crystal clear understanding about the services included in the basic fee. If the fee only covers room and board, find out theadditional cost for services such as housekeeping and laundry, personal care assistance, transportation, and telephone, cable TV and Internet services. Make sure to ask about annual increases and whether the fees go up when a residents level-of-care needs change.
Understanding the costs in light of a realistic evaluation of your familys budget is critical in ensuring consistent, long-term care. Know what options you have for financing assisted living so that you can make a decision with confidence for the long term. The community should be able to refer you to professionals who can help with veterans benefits or trust and estate professionals. If you have long-term care insurance reach out to your insurance provider and ask what types of communities are covered under your plan. Many times these are specific to license types or the type of care provided. The community representative should be knowledgeable in this subject and can guide you on how to determine benefit eligibility and open
a claim.
How involved is the executive director?
Assisted living communities are often led by an executive director. Ask if you can meet the executive director and find out how involved the director is with residents and staff. It is good to know and trust the person in charge of the community.
How accessible is the management team to families and residents?
A good way to determine this is to visit the community multiple times, find out where the executive director and nursing director offices are and see if they are visible in the community interacting with residents or behind a receptionist and hard to access.
Good luck in your search. The more information you have before touring each community, the more prepared you will be to ask questions that will help in your decision making.

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