TOP 10 CONSIDERATIONS WHEN SELECTING AN ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY FOR YOURSELF OR A LOVED ONE
Authored By: Margie J. O'Donnell
Selecting an Assisted Living Facility for yourself or a loved one is an important decision as it will greatly influence the quality of daily living for the latter part of one's life. This is not a decision to be taken lightly. There are many facilities available, some are excellent, and unfortunately some are only fair. Sorting out information and asking the right questions is crucial when comparing facilities. The following Top Ten Considerations will help you focus on areas that need to be examined carefully before signing a Resident Contract.
1. Caregiving staff ratios: Perhaps the most important consideration when selecting an Assisted Living Facility is the ratio of caregiving staff to resident. Do not be misled by a facility including administrators, maintenance, housekeeping, and kitchen help in their staff to resident ratio. Ask specifically about the resident to caregiving staff ratio. It is important to know how many residents an aide or nurse is responsible for. If you are told that it is a common industry problem to be short staffed, that it is difficult to find or keep workers, under no circumstances should you lower your standards for quality care. Facilities can attract and keep good workers by offering good working conditions, training, benefits, competitive wages and incentive programs. It is the responsibility of the facility administrators to hire and retain enough qualified staff members to provide the level of care promised. Understaffed facilities equal poor care.
2. Training of staff members: All staff members must be properly trained; state certified, licensed, degreed, or be otherwise educated in their job capacity. Additionally, ongoing training, such as seminars, conferences, workshops, or in-service educational programs should be required on a regularly scheduled basis. Many facilities are lax with employee background checks, proper training, and supervisory procedures.
3. Customer Service Attitude: The attitude of the staff directly correlates to the resident's quality of life. Carefully observe the behavior of staff members. Are they unhurried, patient, positive and cheerful? Are they interacting with the residents? Do they know them as individuals? Do they treat them as individuals? Do they enjoy and appreciate older people? Are the administrators and department heads available and willing to discuss problems and concerns or answer questions? Is the facility adaptable to special dietary needs, cultural or religious practices or ethnic customs? Does the facility feel more like a home or an institution? Do residents and families have input into policy changes and procedures through Resident Council or Family Council meetings? Most importantly, are the residents treated with dignity and respect?
4. Age in Place Feature: As people age their needs change. Are increased services available within the facility as they become needed? Does receiving increased services necessitate a move to another floor, wing, or building, or can these services be provided within the resident's established apartment or room? Would it mean separating a married couple? Can this facility remain a resident's home until the end of life?
5. Medical Emergency Procedures: Emergency procedures are critical. Ask to be "walked" through the procedure in the event an ambulance needs to be called. It is extremely important that medical information accompany each resident to the hospital in an emergency situation. Patients in crisis are often unable to speak for themselves. Emergency room personnel will be delayed in responding quickly and appropriately without a list of medications and medical conditions. Please do not assume that this is common sense and will automatically happen. In some facilities it does not, with disastrous results. Ask to see a sample of their emergency medical packet.
6. Safety: It is essential that twenty four hour security be provided. If you are placing a family member with Dementia/Alzheimer's disease in a facility, be sure the unit is secure; keyed, coded, or alarmed. Check for adequate lighting inside and outside the building, hand rails, non-slip floors, sturdy furniture, smoke alarms, sprinkler systems, back-up generator, lighted emergency exits, fire extinguishers, and emergency call buttons in each resident's room. Confirm that all staff members are well trained in emergency procedures as well as CPR. Ask if wellness checks take place during the night time hours or following injury or illness, and be certain that all staff members have been specifically trained to recognize and assess medical emergencies.
7. Activity Program: A wide range of activities should be offered to accommodate a wide range of resident interests. Review the activity calendar to be sure the activities offered are appealing to you. Be aware, although an activity calendar may look impressive, these activities don't always take place and at times do not meet even minimal expectations. There is no substitute for observing things for yourself. Visit at a time when an activity is scheduled and watch the activities staff interacting with the residents. Do the residents appear to be enjoying themselves? Does the facility own a van or bus to transport residents to community or cultural events? Is the van used on a daily basis? Is the activities staff willing to accommodate personal interests?
8. Apartments or Rooms: Does the facility offer a choice of apartment or room sizes and layouts? Is the option of private or shared living space available? Most importantly is the apartment or room spacious and comfortable enough to adequately contain a resident's cherished personal belongings in order for it to feel like home?
9. Location of the Facility: Evaluate facilities located in an area that is familiar to the resident and where they would be able to enjoy familiar activities. It is desirable for a facility to be located close to family members and close friends allowing for frequent visiting. The facility should also be in an area that is senior citizen friendly; safe, well lighted, handicapped accessible, and serviced by the Council on Aging or other senior citizen groups. It would be helpful if the location was close to the resident's primary care physician, a hospital, a pharmacy, and a grocery store.
10. Actual Cost: Rates are normally quoted on a monthly basis. Be aware, however, of hidden costs. Are all services included or are you charged for meals on a per meal schedule, are additional personal care services charged at an hourly rate, is laundry included, is there a community fee, are activities an extra charge, is there an application fee, a security deposit, are transportation services included? Be sure all add-on fees have been carefully explained and described to you in your resident contract.
The above Top Ten Considerations are only a starting point when choosing an Assisted Living Facility. Jaguar Management Consulting Group, Inc. offers a comprehensive Checklist for selecting an Assisted Living Facility for Yourself or a Loved One containing 667 items to be considered and evaluated. This workbook enables you to clearly and easily compare 5 different facilities, prioritize your needs, and choose the Assisted Living Facility that best suits your (or your parents) expected lifestyle. Additional features include a sample medical emergency packet, an Alzheimer's section, and helpful hints for a caregiver. For more insights with selecting an Assisted Living Facility and a detailed description of the checklist, including sample pages: More Info.