You’ve decided it’s time to move your parent into an assisted living facility, a happy medium between independent living and a nursing home. They’ll get help with daily activities, be part of a community of peers, and retain some privacy and independence, but they’ll also have peace of mind knowing help is only a call away. It might have been a tough choice to make, but you know it’s the right one.
Now it’s your job to find the perfect place that will ensure your senior loved one is safe, happy, and comfortable. Here are some tips to help you choose the right assisted living facility for the senior in your life.
Involve your senior
It can be tempting to choose the place you like best, but remember, you’re not the one living there. Discuss with your senior loved one their wants, needs, and preferences, and get them involved in the search and decision-making process. It’s important that the assisted living facility feels homey and comfortable to them. It’s all about personal preference. Would they rather be in a large facility with lots of people to socialize with and activities to participate in, or a smaller, cozier environment? If they’re not able to participate in the decision-making process, be sure to consider their personality and preferences instead of your own.
You won’t be able to find out everything you need to know from a brochure. Plan an in-person visit and tour around lunchtime or for an activity or event. This will allow you to see the culture and community at the facility, when the residents are out and about. While you’re there, pay attention to how well the facility is taken care of. Once you get a sense of the place, it’s easier to go with your intuition about which facility feels right.
Look at the amenities
Laundry, transportation services, 24-hour staff assistance, housekeeping, outdoor spaces, common areas – most assisted living facilities offer these amenities. Instead of looking for the facility with the best or most amenities, look for the one that matches your seniors’ needs. What good is gym if Dad can’t move around so easy anymore? But a library, on the other hand, might be more important to him. Whether there is a shared bathroom or private one in each room, is it handicapped-equipped? Whether rooms are private or shared, is there enough storage space?
Don’t judge a book by its cover
Just because a facility is pricey and fancy doesn’t mean it offers the best care. Yes, you want to get a feel for the cleanliness, atmosphere, and facilities when you take a tour, but don’t get distracted by appearances. The fanciest place doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where your parent will be happiest. It’s more important to pay attention to the people during your visit. Are the staff caring and friendly? Are the residents happy? Do they seem like people your parent would like to get to know?
Check out activities and events
Most assisted living facilities offer activities for their residents to participate in. They are fun, give the residents something to do, and help the community come together and socialize. Have a look at the scheduled activities. Would your loved ones be interested in them? Are there outings? If it’s important to your loved one, are there religious services? Try to schedule your visit to coincide with activities and events, and see if they are well attended.
Try the food
Nutrition is important for health, especially as we age. So if your parent hates the food, that’s a problem. Ask if you can sample a meal at the facility. This will give you a chance to see what mealtime is like and if the other residents seem to enjoy the food. Make sure the food is nutritious and appetizing, and ask all your food-related questions. How many meals a day are provided and at what times? Are there different food options that cater to specific dietary needs? Can residents bring food back to their room or cook their own food if they have a kitchenette? Can visitors join residents for meals or in a private room for family events?
Get reviews and feedback
In addition to talking to the residents and their families when you visit, look online for ratings and reviews. Talk to friends who have already gone through the process. Ask for their honest opinions. You might even consider consulting with a senior advocate or geriatric care manager. This type of experienced professional can make the decision much easier.
Consider the cost
Realistically, money will likely be a determining factor in choosing a facility. However, as we’ve mentioned above, pricier doesn’t mean better. Different facilities have different price structures, and the cost will likely depend on your senior loved one’s personal needs, so it it’s important to get a clear answer from the staff. Make sure you know what’s included and what’s extra. Room and board might be a flat rate, but there might be an additional charge for services like laundry, transportation to appointments, medication management, bathing assistance and meal delivery. Does the price depend on how much care a resident requires? Make sure you understand the billing and payment, and get a sense of how rates have gone up in the past.
Feel confident about the care
To know you’re making the right choice, you need to feel comfortable with the health care provided and know your senior loved one feels safe and secure. How is the care plan developed? Are the staff well trained? How are emergencies handled? Is there 24/7 nurse staff? Be realistic about both current and future health care needs. Make sure the facility you choose is equipped to handle your parent’s needs now and as they age, so they don’t need to move again soon. This will give both you and your senior loved one peace of mind.
Location isn’t everything
Sorry to say it, but convenience for you shouldn’t the top priority when choosing an assisted living facility for your parent. You should choose the facility that best suits their needs, not one that is 10 minutes closer to you. Sure, you may say that if it’s closer you’ll visit more, but that’s usually an unrealistic expectation. Plus, if your parent is happy, has made friends, and is busy doing activities, you won’t need to visit every day.