Helping Your Aging Parent Find The Right Assisted Living Facility
Coming to the conclusion that your aging parent is ready to move into an assisted living facility is an emotional process. No matter what your relationship with your parent and how ready both of you are to move forward, it can still be overwhelming, sad and scary all at once.
Once you decided that it is time for assisted living, you’ll need to pick the right home for your aging parent. Finding the right fit is crucial to making the transition as painless as possible. Think back to when you were deciding on a university. You wanted to find an environment that matched your personality where you would meet people with similar interests and backgrounds. It is even more important for an aging parent to find the right new home.
Finding the Right Assisted Living Facility
If you’re ready to start looking at assisted living facilities for your parents, be sure you keep these questions in mind.
Q: Is the proximity of the assisted living facility convenient?
A: You don’t want to pick a home that is too far from family since it will make visits more challenging. Ideally, you want to choose a place that is close enough to family so that visiting your parent won’t feel like a chore. Being able to pop in at various times of day is helpful in evaluating staff and how your parent is really doing.
Q: Does the assisted living home’s environment “match” your parent?
A: I had a client who was an artist. When she was looking at assisted facility homes, she wanted a place that was bright and had outdoor space, since that inspires her. She looked at many facilities that were dark (dark carpet, not enough sunlight) and knew that living in that environment would be depressing for her. Make sure you find a place that fits your parent’s personality.
Q: Do the people in the assisted living facility “match” your parent?
A: It isn’t just the space that’s important, it’s the people that occupy that space. If your aging parent is very social and still fairly active, look for a facility with an active community. You can usually figure it out by taking a look at their newsletter or social calendar. I had a client who chose to move out of her daughter’s home and into a facility because she was lonely during the day while her daughter was at work. She picked a place that had movie night and trips to the theater and then became active on the social committee and started a happy hour club. Since most residents in assisted living facilities dine together, it’s important to find a place where your parent will fit in so they don’t feel like they’re back in clique-y high school.
Q: Are the common areas clean and fresh? How often do they clean the resident’s home?
A: Does the environment smell clean and fresh? Are the floors clean – even in corners or behind furniture? Think of the type of environment you would like to live in and try to match that for your parent. Also, living in an assisted living facility isn’t cheap, so be sure that they are properly maintaining the home.
Q: Do residents participate in activities and how does the staff treat residents?
A: It’s one thing to have a full activities calendar. It’s another to have a full calendar with active, involved residents. And even more important, it is important to have staff that treat residents with respect and like adults, not staff that talk down to residents or treat them like children. If you can, visit the assisted living facility at different times of day to get an idea of what happens throughout the day, rather than when they know visitors are coming.
Q: How does the assisted living facility handle introducing new residents?
A: Remember your first day of high school when you had to figure out where to eat lunch and who to sit with? That’s basically what your aging parent will experience the first few times he or she dines in the dining room. Does the facility have a welcoming committee or a way to introduce new residents or is your parent on his/her own?
Q: Is the property safe?
A: Are there appropriate safety features in the resident’s rooms? Is there on site security or secure entry/exit? Is there sufficient staff to manage needs of the residents? What is the emergency procedure at the property? Can you view their licensing or certification inspection reports?
Q: Does the assisted living facility provide caregiving support? What happens when your aging parent needs more support?
A: Some facilities are strictly independent living facilities and only provide basic housekeeping service. What happens to residents who need more support? Are they moved to another facility or can they bring in their own independent caregivers? These are important topics to discuss even if your parent is physically and cognitively able to remain independent.
Q: Does the facility manage long-term conditions and what happens as the condition progresses?
A: For example, if your aging parent has diabetes, do they have a menu that supports your parent’s dietary needs? How will they work with your aging parent as the condition progresses?
Q: Are you and your aging parent comfortable with the staff?
A: Are the staff (not just front desk and management) accessible and friendly? Do you see them interacting with residents (not just handling needs but actually communicating with residents)? Do they speak to residents respectfully or are they indifferent or rude? The one thing that turned me off to a potential hire immediately was when they referred to seniors as being just like children. That statement (which came up more than you’d think) immediately took a person out of the running for a job. If the staff treats the residents like children, think twice about that home. They will make your parent feel uncomfortable and disrespected.
Q: Can you view the residence contract early in the process?
A: If a facility doesn’t want you to review the residence contract before you are ready to sign the contract, consider it a red flag. They should be open and willing to share their requirements and fees. Some things to look for in the contract are: how medication is handled, if the facility assesses resident’s ability to live alone safely, what happens after a hospital stay and how long are rooms held?
Q: Are their additional charges that will increase the cost of the assisted living facility?
A: Make sure you understand all of the pricing. Some places charge additional fees for services you may think are included in the monthly fee. Don’t get surprised by a big bill.
Making the decision that assisted living is the best option for your family can feel overwhelming. Once you find the right place, it can truly be a wonderful experience. I had several clients who moved from living alone to assisted living and all of them are so much happier in their new home. One client even said that she hadn’t gotten sick once in her new home and thinks it’s because she has so many great friends, eats well and is truly happy. If you choose the right place, it can be a wonderful change for your aging parent.