As caregivers we must realize that,
at some point, our loved one will not be able to live
independently anymore. The next step may be
setting up your loved one in an assisted living
facility. But what exactly does that mean, and
what does it entail?
An assisted living facility is a
combination of housing, personalized help, supportive
services, and healthcare designed to meet your loved
one’s specific needs. The supportive services are
around-the-clock and may include medication reminders,
bathing and dressing, housework, even balancing a
Residents in these facilities
usually have their own space in the form of a room,
apartment or suite, but also may live with their spouse
or roommate should they choose to do so. The key
factor here is that there is constantly some level of
supervision of the residents and responsibility for the
loved one’s well being. This may help caregivers
catch a break and find some relief.
Residents usually arrive at an
assisted living facility from their own homes, the homes
of their children, nursing homes, or hospitals.
Simply put, an assisted living facility is ideal for
someone who needs nursing care, but is far too frail to
live at home anymore.
An assisted living facility should
be licensed by a state agency (usually an agency for
elder affairs). The general requirements might
include room and board, medication management, meals,
the development of an individualized service plan, a
qualified and certified staff, and a 24-hour, on-site
staff. Other services might be the organization of
recreational and social activities, housekeeping, and
transportation to shopping or doctors.
Assisted living residents sign a
lease when they enter one of these facilities. The
rent may cover everything or there may be additional
charges above and beyond the monthly rent.
Insurance may cover some of these costs, but families
usually pay out of their pockets.
So how should caregivers choose an
assisted living facility? It is imperative that
you check out several of them in person. This is
not something you can do on the Internet or the
telephone. Check for the atmosphere, common area
cleanliness, well-kept grounds, and the type of
residents living there. Following are some things
that should be considered when choosing a facility for
your loved one.
Has the facility been open for
long? Many of these places start recruiting
before construction is complete. The drawback
to signing on to a brand new facility is that not
all policies and procedures have been established
which might lead to delays for certain services.
Is the facility licensed?
Assisted living facilities are not federally
regulated. It is up to the individual state to
define what they are and to establish a set of
licensing requirements. Each facility should have
some kind of credentials, so ask to see them.
It is probably best to go with a state licensed
place as they are reviewed regularly and must adhere
to at least minimum standards.
What are the hiring standards for
the staff? You can talk to the admissions director
about the facility’s hiring standards. Ask about any
ongoing training and that employees are at least 18
years old, have at least a high school education,
and some previous experience working with elderly
people. Also check to make sure that employees are
screened for criminal offenses.
Will the staff here be available
to my loved one 24 hours a day? Most
facilities do have that kind of emergency
assistance, but ask to make sure. Also be sure
that the staff will be able to assist your loved one
with any special personal needs such as dressing,
grooming, eating, bathing, and using the toilet and
telephone. Other important details include
policies on medication assistance, and whether the
facility is willing to work with you on your loved
one’s individual service plan.
Does the facility provide
activities that promote recreation and socializing? This is important because your loved one needs human
contact to keep from feeling isolated and
exercising—even just a walk—will help maintain good
physical health. Ideally you want to find a
place that feels like one big happy family.
This should get the ball rolling on
you and your loved one finding an assisted living
facility suitable for both of you. Remember, the
most important thing is to visit any potential facility
in person and ask questions. Make an informed
decision. Your loved one’s well-being and your
peace of mind depend on it.
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