As our nation's population ages, assisted living facilities are a rapidly growing healthcare option for seniors who need help caring for themselves or are no longer able to live alone.
There are many variations and levels of care provided at assisted living facilities, which may range from independent living to basic nursing home levels of care. Before you start your search for an assisted living facility, it is important to know your immediate and long-term care needs and expectations.
It is also important that you explore all different living options and take the time to personally visit any facility you may be considering.
Ask yourself, "What is your overall impression of the management, staff, care staff, residents and living environment?"
Trust your instincts. If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't the right community for you. Leave no question unasked and no question unanswered. Don't be afraid to look around and ask questions. This is going to be the home of someone very special in your life and their safety, sense of well-being and care is very important.
IS ASSISTED LIVING RIGHT FOR YOU?
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Are you able to do all the maintenance required with your current home including routine chores?
2. Do you feel safe and secure in your home?
3. Do you prepare and eat, regular and nutritious meals?
4. Do you have a compelling reason to get up and get dressed every day?
5. Would you like to maintain your independence, but still have ready access to services if needed?
6. Are you worried about being a burden to your family and/or friends?
7. Do you sometimes wish you could spend more time with other people?
An important item to consider is that making a move before you "have to" can allow you to be able to evaluate options and make a well-informed choice. Waiting until an illness or injury occurs can force you to make a decision, but the choices and options may be much more limited. The actual move then becomes physically and emotionally more trying.
Before making your decision, be fully aware of your financial obligations and the level of services you can afford, as well as the facility's licenser and compliance history and its history with the Better Business Bureau.
The Top Five things you should know before choosing an assisted living facility are:
1. The Type of availability of services on site and in the community.
2. Tour the property and surrounding community and think about what it will be like throughout the entire year.
3. Explore the long-range financial commitment and funding options available. Are you getting your money's worth? What would happen if your funds run out? What options does the facility provide for financing?
4. Speak with the staff and residents. Don't be afraid to ask any question or inquire about any aspect of the operation.
5. Don't call ahead. Arrive unexpectedly. Take note of how you are greeted. What is it like when an unexpected guest arrives? Does this feel like a place you could call home?
Other aspects to consider are:
* 24 hour care services. This assures that scheduled and unscheduled needs can be met, regardless of time of day. These needs may include bathing, grooming, dressing or just lending a caring and comforting hand during an anxious moment.
* Medication management. Look for a facility that has the appropriately trained staff to deliver complex combinations of medications in a proper and timely manner.
* Nutrition. Your loved one should receive three well-balanced meals a day, plus snacks. The facility should accommodate special dietary needs for diabetes, hypertension and other needs.
* Aging-in-Place. Is a facility adequately staffed, managed and equipped to handle all aspects of aging, including Alzheimer's and memory impaired diseases? Will they be able to receive the care they need through all stages of aging without the disruption of moving to an unfamiliar place?
* Trained, professional staff. The staff needs to be trained to understand the unique and frequently changing needs of seniors. These professionals include licensed nurses, and should provide care in an atmosphere of respect and dignity.
* Need-based services. The facility should be able to provide personalized care to residents based on individual assessment and on an as-needed basis.
* Residential atmosphere. Services should be provided in a warm and inviting setting where they can enjoy all the comforts of home.
* Activities. Activity programs should go beyond the realm of simple crafts and crafts or card games. They should be designed to address the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of older individuals, while enriching the quality of their lives.
* Transportation. The facility should be able to make arrangements for residents to be transported to doctor's appointments, shopping and local events. This will help the resident stay connected to the community.
* Housekeeping. Residents should be free of the burdens of everyday hours. The facility should regularly clean the resident dwelling, and provide laundry and linen services. Choosing the right assisted living facility for your special loved one is a major decision. Take your time, involve other family members, and get the opinions of others. Then, know the peace of mind of having made the right choice at the right time.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.