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Shopping for Assisted Living Facilities

Jul 23, 2008
Determining that a loved one cannot function as independently as he or she used to is often a difficult realization. However, once it is apparent that the health and safety of that loved one may be jeopardized in their current living arrangement, alternative senior housing options should be considered. One of the most common choices in a situation like this includes a move from independent living to an assisted living facility for seniors. Although peace of mind may be achieved knowing that your loved one is in the care of experienced health professionals, moving a loved one from living independently to living in an assisted living facility can be a difficult transition for both the individual and the family.

While the decision to move to an assisted living facility often occurs due to the inability for one to live safely independently, the choice of assisted living facility most appropriate for the individual sometimes must be made quickly. When a healthcare crisis involves a hospital stay, the individual usually transitions first to a Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, where they will received skilled nursing care. Once their health has improved, a rehabilitation facility will typically recommend 1-3 assisted living facilities. Researching assisted living facilities thoroughly is extremely important to ensure you choose the right environment, offering the lifestyle and services needed for your loved one.

If you are considering a transition from independent living for your loved one to a long term care facility, consider their health needs as well as their lifestyle preferences. The following is a list of long term care facilities available to seniors and the common services offered in each.
  • Assisted Living Communities - Assisted living facilities allow seniors to live as independently as feasible in a completely supervised and secure environment. Seniors have their own rooms complete with kitchens and are able to participate in a variety of social activities throughout each day. These communities offer services such as personal care assistance, management of medication, and flexible meal plans.
  • Adult Family Care Homes - Assisted living facilities are predominantly for seniors who do not require round-the-clock supervision. They offer family natured living in a private home for 5 seniors or less. The homeowner, who lives in the home as well, will provide supervision, personal care, medication management, and meals. Because this type of assisted living is in a private home, it does not offer the variety of services that assisted living communities do.
  • Nursing & Rehabilitation Centers - These facilities are for individuals that require round-the-clock supervision and a high level of nursing care. At least one registered nurse is in the facility 24 hours a day, and communicates directly with physicians about the individuals specific medical needs. Nursing homes offer meals, activities, transportation, and often have a salon and other amenities. Rehabilitation for occupational, speech, and physical therapy is typically available.
  • Continuing Care Retirement Communities - This type of senior housing offers various long term care facilities that focus on different levels of care. One main "campus" encompasses independent living, assisted living, nursing home care, and Alzheimer's communities, and residents can move from an independent senior lifestyle to one with more assistance as their needs increase. These comprehensive assisted living facilities offer a variety of services and activities.
  • Alzheimer's Communities - These communities are specially designed for individuals with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. They offer a heightened level of security and mental health care and maintain a staff of specially trained health care professionals to supervise residents closely. These communities may be part of another community or nursing home, or may be completely separate.
  • Hospice Services - This refers to a range of services that are offered in an individual's home or long term care facility in the final stages of their life. The goal of hospice care is to make the individual as comfortable as possible during these last stages, and assist the family through the process as well.
What to Look for When Searching for a Facility

If you determine that a long term care facility is the right choice for your loved one, you will want to determine the best location and research the communities that are available. Things to consider when conducting this research include the facility's wait list (if applicable), room options, the location's convenience for family members, whether they offer activities of interest for your loved one, and meal options. After you've decided the type of assisted living facility right for your loved one, you'll want to narrow the search further by interviewing each one. When interviewing make sure to keep notes on each facility, schedule an appointment for the visit, stop in the community at different times unannounced, and talk to the staff. Here are a few more tips for evaluating assisted living facilities:

Assisted Living Facilities
  • Verify that they are a licensed assisted living facility. Make sure to review the state survey with them as well.
  • Make sure they offer the health care services prescribed for your loved one, such as rehabilitation services or personal care services.
  • Become familiar with the staff and how many staff members are on duty at all times.
  • Find out if they accept Medicaid, and if the individual will be required to move to another room if they start out paying privately and then transition to Medicaid payments.
  • Ask if transportation is available, and about other amenities on site, such as salons.
  • Find out about the physicians that are available to your loved one including geriatric physicians, general practitioners, dentists, audiologists, podiatrists, and other specialists your loved one may require.
Alzheimer's Communities
  • Verify that the Alzheimer's community is licensed, and inquire about the staffing ratio and training requirements for employees.
  • Find out if there is a programming director, and review the program of activities regularly planned for that particular community.
  • Finally, find out if there is a social worker or other family support group available to both residents and their families.
Selecting assisted living facilities for a loved one is a difficult task. Make sure to research the type of facility most suited to your loved ones needs, and choose one that will give them the best quality of life possible.
About the Author
Stephanie Rice, a social worker supports seniors with the conversion from independent living to assisted living facilities. She advises seniors and their families on assisted living facilities, nursing homes, Alzheimer's communities, and hospice services. She was very important in the commencement www.FloridaSenior360.com, a Website for senior living and care.
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