There is a lot to consider when it comes to assisted living. First is figuring out when the time is right. But if assisted living may be in your future, do some preliminary shopping both locally and in an area to which you may move (perhaps to be near your children. Assisted living is geared to those who are healthy enough to live on their own but may need some help to live independently, perhaps with bathing, dressing or managing medicines.
Of the one million seniors living in some 31,000 assisted-living centers across the U.S., more than half are age 85 or older, and nearly 40% require assistance with three or more activities of daily living.
When you start your search, consider only state-licensed facilities. You should visit each community of your list. Have a meal at the community and talk with residents about their experiences. Then walk around and see if the residents look clean and attended to.
Another consideration is the type of facility. Assisted-living arrangements vary widely from a handful of residents in a home-like setting to a high-rise building with hundreds of neighbors to a campus-like atmosphere with high-end services. Residents typically lease apartments on a monthly basis and eat in a common dining area.
Care services and amenities also vary widely. Some communities may provide a resident doctor, skilled-nursing care and physical therapy whereas others provide little care. Some communities have concierge services, in-apartment dining, happy hours and top-notch fitness centers while others don’t offer much more than transport to doctors’ appointments. Typical services include access to health care and medical services customized to specific needs, 24-hour emergency call systems for residents, three daily meals served in the dining area, housekeeping and laundry services, assistance with eating, bathing, dressing, toileting and walking as needed, as well as shuttle buses, and exercise and wellness programs. Some assisted-living communities have specialized assistance for residents with dementia.
It’s important to read the contract which outlines services, pricing, extra charges and staffing. Inquire about how much and what time help is available and the level of care. Make sure the community conducts criminal background checks on employees. Inquire about employee turnover rates and the staff-to-resident ratio.
Before you sign a contract, consider having an elder law attorney review it. Also, it is important to be honest and upfront about the care needed or behaviors of a loved one, such as combative behavior. Be certain such issues are addressed in the care plan rather than left as a potential cause for eviction.