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What should I consider when choosing an assisted living apartment?

Status: Open    Mar 07, 2015 - 11:25 AM

Senior Living Communities

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Mar 16, 2015 - 07:39 AM

There is a list as long as your arm of questions to ask of the assisted living you are considering. The first, best resource I can point you to is the A Place for Mom resources page, which has some fantastic articles.

That being said, I recommend several more considerations:

1) A search for the right place is a search for the right people. If you are choosing an assisted living based on the crystal chandeliers but haven't met the people who you will depend on for your care, you may not be satisfied.

2) Life is beyond your living space. In the same light, the biggest room is not a consideration I would place high on the list. Sure, you want an adequate space, but the purpose of assisted living to be outside of your sleeping space. Why have a beautiful kitchenette when you never cook and you attend the dining three times per day? Is it more important to have an extra couch that will gather dust or to have a resident services program that caters to your interests and hobbies?

3) Don't (necessarily) trust the doctor. I ALWAYS recommend following a physician's recommendations, especially in relation to a patient needing the services of an assisted living. That being said, if a physician recommends a specific assisted living community over another, take that under consideration as one of the few that you choose from, but don't automatically feel that that community is the end-all of assisted livings. Always do your due diligence in researching the right community for you.

4) Try before you buy. Some communities offer a respite program in a furnished apartment. Use that program to try a few days to see how comfortable you are. If the community has a wait list, like The Fremont, then be involved in attending meals and activities before you make a decision.

5) 90-day guarantee. The move to assisted living is a major lifestyle change. The first month is spent unpacking and just becoming acquainted with the people and building. Month two is that time when you become comfortable and can start feeling your increase in wellness and independence. By the third month, nearly every resident is in love with assisted living and doesn't want to make a move. I recommend that, after you research, tour and find the right community, you stay for at least 90 days to become acquainted.

6) Level of care. Every state is different in terms of what assisted living can and cannot care for. The state of Missouri, for example, has FOUR different ratings for assisted living! Be sure to factor level of care into your decision both for what is required now and what may be required in the future. At what time must each assisted living give a resident notice to move to a higher level of care? Does the assisted living allow residents to stay through hospice and palliative care to end of life? Under what conditions are skilled nursing necessary?

7) Balance expectations and go easy on reviews. If you have expectations of the assisted living you move to (which you should), ensure they are reasonable and that they are communicated to the executive director. No assisted living is perfect, but we try to provide high quality care and meet our residents' expectations. That being said, be cautious about (but aware of) reviews. If you have a concern about a negative review, be sure to communicate it to the executive director.

8) Research with the State. Every state reviews assisted livings annually (to my knowledge). These reviews are a matter of public record and are worth checking. In the state of Missouri, a demerit or problem found by state surveyors is called a "deficiency". If an assisted living has a history of deficiencies, be sure to inquire as to why and what they have done to correct themselves. The lower the deficiencies, the closer the community is following the laws/state regulations.

As I said early on, the answer to your question could be a book of information. If you take away one thing from all this, I hope it's this: every resident at assisted living should be treated with dignity and respect while maintaining safety and wellness.


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