Choosing the correct assisted living for your loved one is a complex decision (emotional and physical).
#1. Family Meeting: In this meeting make a list of top 3 things that our important to you and your family. This preparation will make the search faster and easier. Suggestions may include: location, food quality, amenities (gym, activities), aging in place options, ala carte vs. bundle services, nursing component, staff training, or will they allow 2-person transfers or require Hoyer?
- Location: Do you want the building location to be close to a specific family member, near their church/synagogue, or current doctors? Is the environment important: wooded area, lake, or city landscape?
- Food Quality: To many individuals, food is a true joy in their life. Ask to sample a meal on the tour and/or see a menu. Are there several meal options per day, variety from week to week, snack options, when are meals/times, cost to have meal brought to room? Ask to see reviews.
- Amenities: Is the gym and/or activities important to your family member? Will they participate and/or initiate going independently? Ask for a list of activities and frequency. Are all activities group or is 1:1 available?
- Aging in Place: Many want the full spectrum of care on one campus. What is the process to increase or decrease level of care? Can community services be brought into the facility to stop moving to higher level of care?
- Ala Carte vs. Daily Cost of Care: Typically, there is a flat rate for rent depending on building type (independent, assisted living, or memory care) and size of apartment. Additional costs include food, laundry, med administration, and care provided. Care provided is charged either ala carte (charge per button push) or daily rate based on care level. This is an important distinction when planning a budget. It is important to get the specifics when it comes to either. How is it determined when a higher level of care is needed? How much notice is given when services need to increase and is this decision up for discussion?
- Nursing Component: The nurse is often the most critical piece to many. Not only are they responsible for designing the care plan and oversight of the caregivers, but they are also typically the first to be notified concerning medical issues. Many older adults’ medical needs are complex so having a nurse that will investigate issues is very important. Make sure the nurse’s philosophy and yours match when it comes to medications, hospitalization, aging, etc. Be very clear about your expectations: i.e., “I do not want my Dad to ever use a mechanical lift. What is your company policy on lifting?” or “I want my parent to keep walking? What is your procedure if you see a change in walking ability?”
- Caregiver Training: What training do you do and how do they show competency? Who trains new caregivers regarding my loved one’s expectations and routine–the nurse or other caregivers? How are changes in care reported to the nurse? Is a specific family member notified of changes?
- 1-2 Person Transfer vs. Mechanical Lift: It is important to understand transfer protocols before going into a facility. Will your family member be transferred using a person or mechanical lift? If transfer takes time, but little physical assistance is needed will the staff take the time to do? Who determines if mechanical lift is required?
#2. Call Facilities: Call the facilities you are interested in first and do a phone “interview” to inquire if they can fulfill on your specific requests/wishes. When doing the research treat it like a job interview and don’t settle for less than what you desire for your loved one. There is the right fit out there.
#3. Touring Facilities: I recommend touring over 3 locations. This allows a comparison of services and philosophy. If possible, have multiple family members present during the tour and one person be responsible for taking notes. During the tour ask your questions and state YOUR priorities. Again, this is the time to interview them.
If touring seems daunting and you feel totally out of your comfort zone there are companies that will help you tour and ask the correct questions based on your “wish list.” Most of these companies are free to you but do get paid a commission if the person signs a lease in the building.
It is important that you pick the correct HOME for you and your loved one. Your number one priority may be completely different than another person’s priority. When you explain your expectations to each facility, the one that is suited for your situation will rise to the top.
Also remember that no company is perfect so inquire about conflict resolution. Who do you call if you have an issue? How quickly should you receive a response?