The problem of how best to care for a beloved parent when you and your spouse are working full-time and your relative needs more care than you can provide could be solved by a move to assisted living. However, choosing a suitable facility is not a simple decision. You want to ensure that your loved one is going to be well cared for and happy. That means receiving both the help that they need and the independence that they are used to. The best way to decide on an assisted living facility is to make a tour of several. These tips will help you to be prepared with all the most important questions.
Before the Tour
Before visiting any assisted living facilities in person, check out their websites online. This will give you a good idea of the types of services available. It will also give you a chance to see what is in your price range. Some of these sites have virtual tours or photographs that are useful for comparison. For example, Belmont Village offers private tours of their assisted living facilities.
It is vital that the staff-to-patient ratio is adequate and gives staff enough time to spend with residents. According to a study conducted by the US Department of Health and Human Services, 25 percent of assisted living communities had a ratio of one attendant for every 23 residents. This is obviously not a good state of affairs. You want to be sure your parent receives adequate assistance.
So, consider it a warning sign if the person showing you around is in a rush or is unable to answer all your questions. Remember that these are the people you are entrusting your loved one to.
Be prepared with a list of questions that you want to ask your tour guide. The most basic question is whether the facility only caters to the elderly needing frail care or if they accommodate more independent, healthier residents, and what the mix is. This needs to be matched carefully against your parent’s state of health and how much assistance they are going to need. You also want to know if the assisted living facility can manage the transition for someone who is initially healthy and self-reliant but whose needs will probably change over time.
One of your biggest concerns is probably about the quality of meals the facility will provide. A good facility will offer a choice of dishes at each meal and include sufficient fresh fruit and vegetables. If your loved one has special dietary needs, ask how this will be handled. Check if residents are permitted to have meals delivered to their rooms. If possible, try to eat a meal in the dining hall, which will also give you time to assess the overall mood of staff and residents while you vet the food.
Security is a huge priority in the modern world. The assisted living facility should have 24-hour security. Ask what type of training security guards have received or what background they have. For example, if the security personnel are former police officers this would be more reassuring than if they had no security experience.
Another important question is how potential employees are screened and what their qualifications are. Is the facility able to provide nursing care with qualified staff? How are medical emergencies handled?
Emergencies do arise. What is important is how these are handled and what proactive measures are in place. Does the facility have regular fire drills and what is their plan of action in the event of a real fire to evacuate all residents safely?
Find out what arrangements the facility has for doing laundry and if your parent needs help that this will be provided. You will want to check how often rooms are cleaned. Ask how they manage social distancing with Covid.
Your observations will either confirm or refute what the tour guide says. Remember, actions speak louder than words.
When you take the tour, you want to be on the lookout for the type of relationship staff have with residents. It should appear natural and uncontrived. Staff should not be in a rush but should be actively engaged with the residents.
It is also important to note how residents interact. Ask yourself if you can picture your loved one in this setting and if you will have peace of mind. Make a mental note of whether or not residents seem happy and are relaxed amongst themselves. Does it seem like an environment where your parent would thrive?
Notice if the corridors are wide enough for elderly people with walkers to navigate easily and that these spaces are well lit. Dark areas are more likely to lead to falls that are traumatic and often serious for the elderly.
Take note of the overall cleanliness and freshness of the facility. Is it attractively painted and comfortably furnished in the common areas? Does it have a welcoming feel?
Finally, ask the tour guide if you can look around by yourself. Make a point to check out what activities and recreation options are available.
The location of the assisted living facility is important. You want to be able to visit your parent regularly so that they do not feel isolated from family. Remember that this is a life-changing decision, and your parent will be giving up their home and all that is familiar. Being nearby allows you to see that they have settled in and made friends and to continue providing support.
A facility that is close to home and meets all your requirements is ideal. It also gives you a chance to check up on their well-being and assist with problems such as banking and drawing up a will. Armed with your list of questions, and having checked out various assisted living facilities online, you are ready for the tour. Your observations will provide context to the answers to your questions and enable you to make an informed choice. With a list of the top two or three facilities that are within your price range, you can now take your parent on a tour to reach that final decision.