If you’re just starting to wonder whether your parents or loved one might be ready for assisted living, it may be the perfect time to start looking. Experts advise planning ahead when possible – that’s far better than the prospect of being faced with the person being discharged from a hospital, for example, and in immediate need of a place to go.
According to Consumer Reports, “More than 900,000 Americans now live in about 39,500 assisted-living facilities.” However routine the shift to assisted living may be coming, it’s always a major shift for those involved. Where to start?
Your overall goal should be to find something good, safe and affordable. “The best time to look is six months to a year before your parent will need to make the move,” Paula Carder, who teaches at the Institute on Aging at Portland State University, told Consumer Reports. One way to start is to ask friends who have relatives in assisted living for recommendations. Naturally, what you’re looking for may vary according to the needs and personality of the person who will be living there.
Assisted living facilities typically provide varying levels of assistance. Many have:
- In-unit kitchens so residents can choose to eat privately or join others at the cafeteria;
- Housekeeping services;
- Transportation available for medical and other appointments; and,
- Activities within the facility and in the community.
Some facilities are stand alone, while others are part of “continuing care” communities that allow you to age in place. This means nursing homes and deeper levels of residential care are available in other facilities on site.
When looking for the right “fit” – each facility will have different levels of activities and socializing. Take a look at a weekly or monthly calendar to get an idea of typical events.
Also watch how staff and residents interact for clues into mutual respect and familiarity.
Experts suggest that you pick the top two or three and make several unannounced visits. Go at different times in the day to see how things run in busy times and in quiet. Don’t forget to eat a meal or two as the quality of food is important.
Of course, you’ll want to meet the facility administrator and review the licensing or certification inspection report for any complaints or problems. There is no federal oversight, so each state’s regulations vary. Licensing is completely up to each state; states can even choose their own definition of what constitutes “assisted living.”
See Consumer Reports for detailed recommendations on what to look for in a contract before you make any final commitments.
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