Assisted living is known by a number of terms – alternatives to nursing homes, senior living, senior residences, personal care village, retirement community – each state has its own variables and regardless of what it’s referred to as, it offers a solution that many families can appreciate. So is this nursing home alternative right for your loved one? Keep reading as we explore assisted living, its benefits and potential pitfalls.
The first obvious benefit is that it allows your senior or elderly loved ones the opportunity to remain relatively independent. Assistance is always nearby in case of a fall or other medical emergency and in some instances, assistance with bathing, cooking and other daily activities is available within seconds.
Assisted living is generally reserved for those seniors who are still independent to some degree and don’t require around the clock medical care. Plus, depending on which state you live in, the laws may vary – licensing requirements, Medicaid payments and other variables are just a few.
Many assisted living facilities provide private units along with recreational opportunities such as golf, tennis and swimming. This is ideal for those who are active and want to stay that way.
For those who may not be as mobile as their contemporaries, but who still like to get out, many assisted living facilities offer day trips to restaurants and movies. This isn’t always available, but there are those that do offer these types of amenities.
Some assisted living facilities will also offer laundry service, health monitoring (though again – this isn’t to be confused with more in-depth medical care) and ensuring prescriptions meds are taken on time, transportation and housekeeping. Families feel better about an established assisted living facility because many afford around the clock security. With Alzheimer’s and dementia always a possibility, security can keep Mom or Dad from wandering off.
Things You Should Ask
Before you select an assisted living facility for yourself or your parents, there are a few things you’ll want to consider, not least of all the costs associated with them. Medicaid or Medicare may or may not pay a portion of the costs, depending on the classification of the facility.
Other important questions to ask is whether there are ample handicap ramps (wheelchairs, for instance). Have there been any health code violations and if so, were they significant? Were they handled and not repeated? What about continuing education for employees or employee turnover? If it seems as though new employees are in and out on a regular basis, you might want to explore that a bit deeper. Check with the Better Business Bureau and don’t forget your state’s licensing board. Does the facility conduct background checks (most do – but to varying degrees)? Are they legally bound to conduct background checks? Are you allowed to visit any time? Is the staff willing to take you on a tour during meal time so that you can see for yourself the quality of food being served? What about pets – do they allow them?
Also, a meeting with your loved one’s eldercare lawyer can provide insight, as well. He can help ensure the proper documents are in place: financial and medical powers of attorney, living wills and other estate planning documents.
Does the facility have a mission statement? Is the facility clean? What kind of reaction are you getting from employees during your initial tour and visit? Are they willing to answer questions or are they clearly humoring you with an obvious effort of keeping their voice steady with less sarcasm? Once you’ve explored all of your options, you should have a much better idea on what’s best for you or your family member.
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