Assisted Living Facilities for Seniors

One of the hardest decisions senior citizens make is deciding when it is time to move into an assisted living facility. An assisted living facility is like a nursing home, but some differences exist. Nursing homes provide a greater level of help compared to an assisted living facility. Nursing homes are largely for senior citizens who are unable to perform basic functions in their daily lives without help. An assisted living facility is meant for seniors who want to retain their independence, but need daily, though not constant, assistance.

Both nursing homes and assisted living facilities share services, such as helping with meals, transportation and medical services. The main difference is nursing home facilities provide these services around the clock. In an assisted living facility, you work with the staff to decide when you need help. Keep in mind these several tips while you look for the right assisted living facility.

Where to Look for Assisted Living Facilities

Most states have numerous assisted living facilities to choose from when you are conducting your search. Having so many options is helpful, but it is overwhelming if you do not know where to look. While you can go through the local yellow pages to find assisted living facilities, the information is often limited. Instead, consider looking for a recommended facilities list through state facilities or the local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) office.

Look for retirement pamphlets for additional options. These pamphlets typically only include a few facilities, but the listed facilities are highly recommended. The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) has a list of recommended assisted living facilities by state, as does the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA).

Deciding on a Location

For many senior citizens, where the assisted living facility is the biggest concern. Unlike with senior housing communities, assisted living facilities provide transportation assistance. This provides more options, but seniors should stay close to locations that are important to them. Many senior citizens choose an assisted living facility which is close to their friends and family to make it easy for visits. Senior citizens who participate in community groups prioritize locations close to these activities.

Seniors who decide to move away from their current location may have to find new medical providers closer to the assisted living facility. For some seniors, this is a stressful process, and it is better to stay close to where the senior was previously living.

Size of the Community

Another consideration is the overall size of the facility. If you are comfortable socializing with other seniors, look for larger assisted living facilities. Many assisted living facilities feature common spaces where seniors gather and socialize. If you prefer a private environment, look for a smaller community.

Something to keep in mind if you are looking at a larger facility is the size of the staff. Many large assisted living facilities have a limited number of staff on hand. This means you may end up waiting for assistance throughout the day, while smaller facilities have faster response times. Staff in larger facilities are often more stressed because they are constantly going back and forth to help residents. Larger facilities have additional amenities, such as swimming pools, recreation centers and small movie theaters.

Touring the Facility

Once you have a location in mind, arrange a tour of the facility. Always take the time to visit the facility directly before you sign a contract. If possible, bring your friends or family with you on the tour for added opinions. While you are on the tour, ask several important questions. One of the first questions is how much control you have over your home. This includes whether you can own a pet, if you can make changes to the home and whether you are only allowed to have guests over at specific times. Another important question is whether you can leave the facility whenever you want or if you must request permission to leave.

It is important to ask questions about the level of medical care provided at the facility. Do not hesitate to bring up your specific medical conditions to see if the facility is equipped to handle your medical needs. Ask if your health insurance covers any costs at the assisted living facility to alleviate the financial commitment. Check to see if you can use your own physicians while living in the facility or if you must visit an approved list of medical providers.

Ask questions about staff qualifications to ensure you are selecting the best facility. This includes the general training for the staff and whether a medical professional is always available. If you are worried about your health deteriorating, ask what additional assistance is available from the facility.

While you are on the tour, pay attention to the general cleanliness and how happy other seniors seem in the facility. If possible, schedule your trip during a busier hour, such as during activity time. This gives you a chance to see how the facility operates and whether there is enough staff on hand to treat the residents. This helps you see the staff in action and gives you a feel for how friendly they are to residents.

Another good time to visit the assisted living facility is during mealtime. If there is a cafeteria, ask if you can sit in with the other residents. This gives you a chance to directly interact with other seniors to get their opinion of the assisted living facility.

Signing your Contract

Once you find an assisted living facility you are comfortable with, the next step is to sign a contract. Most contracts are straightforward, but it is worth having an attorney look over the details to make sure everything is legitimate. If you have any questions about services not provided in the contract, contact the assisted living facility for more information. Even if you are instantly smitten with the facility after a tour, do not sign a contract the same day you visit.