senior couple in nursing homeYou’re worried about your mom. She expresses anxiety about keeping up the house and everyday tasks like driving and cooking have also become too much for her to handle.  You are wondering if she may need full-time care. You’ve found some assisted living facilities in your area, but now what? How do you know when you’ve found a place you can trust to take care of mom properly, and how can you tell if she’ll be happy there?

What is Assisted Living?

Assisted living is a living situation that includes housing, support services and health care. Individuals in declining health may need full time care services, and assisted living is an option for most families looking for support. There are thousands of assisted living communities across the United States and often several options are available locally.

What is an Assisted Living Facility?

Assisted Living Facilities (ALF’s) provide residences to those that are in need of assisted living services. ALF’s vary both in size and services offered, and therefore the range of costs are wide. Just like choosing an apartment complex, be sure to develop a list of criteria that must be met by the assisted living facility that you choose (more on that below).

How does Assisted Living Work?

There is no standard for assisted living. Some ALF’s may provide only assistance with activities of daily living, while others provide transportation services and medical care. Depending on the level of care that you or your loved one may need, it is important to fully understand the services available to you when visiting an assisted living facility.

When is it time for Assisted Living?

Determining the right time for assisted living can be difficult and it is not the same for everyone. According to the National Center for Assisted Living, “The typical resident is about 87 years old, mobile, but needs assistance with at least two to three activities of daily living.” However, the need for assisted living should be determined on a case by case basis, and include whether the individual currently has support (professionally of from family) in place.

How Much Does Assisted Living Cost?

Assisted living costs vary widely. Each year, Genworth completes a cost of care survey to determine averages across the United States. As of 2015, the average annual cost of assisted living facilities was $43,200.

What Questions should be asked when choosing an Assisted Living Facility?

Bring this list of questions with you when you visit an assisted living facility to ensure a customized approach when it comes to facility care. The responses of the facility’s representative will help you determine if the staff, care and environment are up to your standards, and help you decide if the facility is good enough to be a new home for Mom.

  1. How far away is it? You’ll want to visit Mom as often as you can, not to mention pick her up for holidays and family events. The closer the facility is to your home, the easier this will be. Also, how close is the facility to other relatives, doctors offices, friends, and shopping?

  2. How much is the cost, and what does it cover? This is a question you can’t afford not to ask. Read the fine print to look for hidden fees and services that aren’t covered. Costs and payment options vary widely between assisted living facilities, so don’t be afraid to ask questions before you even see a contract.

  3. What is the staff like? What kind of assistance do they offer to residents? Are the staff licensed and certified? Do they seem friendly and knowledgeable? Do they seem well-attended to? What is the ratio of staff to residents? Try asking the residents if the staff are responsive and how well do they like the staff–it’s often the best way to predict your own loved one’s experience.

  4. Is the food good? To your mom, this will be one of the most important questions. Visit the dining room during a meal. Ask to see the menu for the week. Does the food look and smell appetizing? Are the portions not too big or too small? Ask the residents how well they like the food–it’s something they’ll be happy to chat about!

  5. Are there adequate activities available? Do you see a list of activities posted? Are the residents engaged in crafts, games, or group discussions, or do they seem to just be sitting around? What kind of activities are available for patients who are confined to their rooms?

  6. What are the visiting hours? Do they accommodate your schedule and the schedules of your loved one’s friends and relatives? What if schedules change? Generally, facilities that allow visiting hours seven days a week, for several hours of the day make for the happiest living situation.

  7. What kind of amenities are offered? Does the facility offer exercise classes and recreational classes? Is there a wellness office? (Your loved one might not need skilled services now, but that could change in the future.) Make sure to find out if these amenities are covered, and if not, what the additional fees are.

  8. What is the facility’s history of violations? Mistakes and complaints happen. But you want to know that the facility you’re entrusting with your family member hasn’t made any egregious errors. Ask to see the facility’s licensing and violations records.

  9. Who would you be communicating with? How does the facility handle questions and concerns? Would you be speaking to a front-desk employee, or would you be able to directly contact the facility’s director? If the facility views communication as a priority, your experience will be all the smoother for it.

  10. Would you live there? Before you commit to a facility, ask yourself this all-important question. Would you feel happy and adequately cared for in the facility? If not, it’s probably not the right choice for your loved one.

These questions will help you gauge if a facility is right for you and your loved one. If your family has elected that facility care is a must, keep in mind that a private caregiver can also provide personalized and dedicated attention to your loved one’s needs within a facility.

Do you have any other questions not mentioned here? Add them in the comments below!

  • James Clarkson

    Many of us overlook the need to select a living facility based upon the quality of food. Your parents will be very happy if they are able to eat great food. You must also consider what amenities are offered. Many assisted living facilities have a variety of different amenities that your loved ones will greatly appreciate.

  • Regina Peterson

    I think finding out what the home covers is one of the most important things to know. History of violations is one that I wouldn’t have thought of, but that could be extremely critical. My parents are very active, but they have dementia, and so I think finding out the activities would be a huge plus for them.

  • Ashley Reed

    Keeping it close is a good idea, especially if you have kids. Driving an hour to see grandma isn’t going to be very fun if there are little ones asking if we’re there yet. There are a few options in my home town, thankfully, so I’m going to check them all out. As long as it’s a place that treats her well, and she can be happy, that’s all that matters.

  • kiran