How to Choose the Best Assisted Living Facility
As you’re about to send out your aging loved one for care, you would want to search for a place where he or she will feel comfortable, happy, safe, and well cared for the rest of their life. However, many families would not begin their search unless they’re faced with a health crisis that needs urgent action. This situation is oftentimes associated with time pressure, and you may not find the best facility/community for your loved one if that is the case. The particular community that you want for your aging parent may have waiting lists as well.
What is Assisted Living?
Assisted living is a facility/community for older adults who are not capable of living on their own, but do not require full-time medical care. According to assisted living expert Peggy Flannigan, PhD, assisted living residents typically need help with at least three activities of their daily living activities, such as transferring to and from a wheelchair, toileting, bathing, eating, and dressing. Older adults who need less assistance may want to consider a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) or an independent living community.
Making it to the best assisted living facility can be challenging even when you’re being realistic about the necessity to look for a facility/community for your aging parent. There are innumerable assisted living services available. You might be thinking of ways on how to choose the best assisted living facility for your aging loved one.
Finding the Best Assisted Living Facility
When looking for the best assisted living facility for your aging parent, location is one of the most important decision factors. You have to decide whether to choose a facility in the community where your aging loved one is currently living or maybe you want her/him to move close to supportive friends or relatives who can visit and coordinate with the staff.
Once you have decided on the location, you can begin your search and create a list of facilities in the area. Then using the ideas we’ve set below, you can begin your strategic assessment. Although you can find potential facilities on the Internet, it’s still better to ask your family and friends, faith communities, and agencies that advocate for the aging if there are any residential facilities they can suggest.
With a solid list of facilities, you can start with the following steps before you visit and tour facilities.
- Be realistic about the needs of your aging parent, and what she might need in the future. Making a list of priority concerns and needs can help.
- Start making calls to the facilities you’re interested in or head to each community’s website and look for important information, such as assisted living services, costs, and brochures.
- Create a budget plan to make this move. Remember that, according to AARP, 4 out of 5 people pay out of pocket for assisted living services.
- List all your priority questions, using your own research and our guide below.
- Set a schedule to visit and tour the facilities of your best choice. During your visit, talk to the staff and some of the residents and keep track of the details.
- To know and get a feel for the facility outside of standard touring hours, you can make a second visit without calling them ahead.
- Before signing the contract, ask for a copy for your review. Make sure you read and understand everything in the contract from the services offered to the costs and extra costs. If you’re unsure what the contract says, you can also ask for help from family or a lawyer.
The decision to help your loved one move out of the home she has lived in for years can be bittersweet. Your aging parent will also likely be downsizing, which can contribute to their sense of loss.
It’s a great idea to see some of the available rooms of the facility and ask about what decorations your aging parent can bring with them.
Activities of Daily Living Assistance
Your aging parent’s inability to manage independently throughout the day is sometimes the main reason to decide to move to assisted living. Activities of daily living include cleaning, undressing, laundry, hobbies, bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, and shaving. During your visit, it is important that you ask for the services provided and whether it has extra costs. You would want a cheerful and helpful community staff to assist your aging parent; thus, assessing the mood of the facility is also important.
Food and Dining
One of the top concerns of many resident families is their aging parent’s meals.
Fortunately, most facilities today provide various eating options for residents, like chef-prepared meals in a shared dining room; others even provide kitchenettes so your aging parent can make her own snacks or meals. It would be even better if you try and experience eating at the available locations in the community during your tour/visit.
Exercise and Fitness
Assisted living services often include fitness options for its residents who want to find low-impact ways to stay fit, become more active, or stay active. Don’t forget to look for walking paths or tracks, fitness rooms or gyms, or group exercise classes for all abilities during your tour to the facility. Some facilities also provide access to a pool or other fitness programs as well.
During your visit to the community, take a look also at their activity calendar and ask about specific activities that your aging parent is interested in. If they’re not available, feel free to talk to the activity director about requesting new activities. Socializing is essential and it will be more comfortable for your aging parent to be with people in a similar mobility level or similar age range; thus, considering the age of the residents you see is also helpful.
It is highly important to ask about the medical assistance provided as your aging parent might need it on an as-needed basis. Make sure you understand which of the services are covered in the residence base cost and which may entail extra cost.
Transportation and Parking
Check also for parking lot availability as your aging loved one may still be able or want to drive.
Assisted living communities typically include cleaning and laundry services. Be sure to ask about the housekeeping schedule and if there’s any add-on cleaning services that may cost more.
Other Assisted Living Services
You can also find a number of other services in assisted living facilities, including café or bank, faith services, a beauty salon or barber. Some services offered on site might be permanent, others have professionals to visit the facility on certain days to provide those services.
After you’ve visited all assisted living facilities you desire, you should have a better look at what is important to you and what is available. Make sure you’ve taken good notes of the details of the assisted living you are considering to select the best match for your aging loved one.
What to Ask and Look For During Your Search
It’s challenging to hunt for the best assisted living facility. After all, you want to choose the best place for your aging parent—a place that is well managed, clean, and within your price range. You need to know what the community is really like, and not just what the advertisements show.
Although it’s challenging, it does not need to be overwhelming or intimidating. To help you narrow down the choices of the best facility, we’re giving you three simple steps you can follow:
Step 1: Do research (online or by phone) of the assisted living facilities for your consideration.
Step 2: Visit and tour each community to personally know what it really feels like.
Step 3: Follow up for more in-depth information for the communities you like best.
You’ll have these checklists for moving into assisted living to come back to over time: the Assisted Living Research Checklist, Assisted Living Tour Checklist, and Assisted Living Follow-Up Checklist.
An Assisted Living Research Checklist
You can begin your research online to find communities near you or your aging parent using the following search terms: “assisted living facilities near me,” “assisted living near me,” “senior assisted living facilities near me,” “list of assisted living facilities near me,” “top rated assisted living facilities near me,” “list of assisted living near me,” “senior assisted living near me,” and “assisted living near me now.”
Other than online research, you can also find communities through word-of-mouth recommendations or in the phone book.
You can narrow down your options with these questions:
- Is the location of the facility convenient for the resident’s loved ones to visit? To help you figure out driving distances to and from the community, use Google Maps.
- Is the facility near hotels, doctor’s offices, a pharmacy, shops, and other important places? To explore the facility neighborhood virtually, you can use some features on Google Maps.
- Is the facility neighborhood considered safe? To evaluate neighborhood crime rate and safety, check with Trulia, Neighborhood Scout, and Crime Reports.
The first question to ask as you speak to providers over the phone for the first time is whether they’re still accepting new residents. If they respond on the affirmative, good; otherwise, ask about their waiting lists.
You may also want to know early on about how expensive the facility is. Assisted living pricing can significantly vary based on the location as well as your aging parent’s needs. It’s also important to know what the modes of payment of the provider are and when and how long do tours last. You’d also want to know what they will show you during your tour—will you be allowed to meet with other residents or try the meals provided.
Assisted Living Facility Tours
Other facilities with a little paint missing can be cheerful, and some with beautiful facilities can be a dreary place. To know what the assisted living facility really feels like, going for several visits can help you determine if that particular facility will be the best for your aging parent. Don’t forget to take copious notes of the details of each facility and capture photos as well.
It’s worthwhile to tour a number of communities first before bringing your aging parent to see the top 3 best facilities on your list.
Review your checklist first before making a visit/tour. Make sure to underline the questions most relevant to you and cross off those that are not.
As you’re on your way to the assisted living community, consider the following questions below:
- Is the facility providing safe places for your loved one to walk and socialize?
- Is the facility providing a parking lot should you want to visit your aging parent in the residence?
- Is the exterior and interior of the building clean and attractive?
- Are the grounds filled with plants and trees?
The Walking Tour
When you’re walking around, pay attention to what you’re feeling, seeing, smelling, and hearing in each of the spaces. Try to talk not only to the marketing director, but also to the staff members and different residents so you get a fuller idea of what the community is really like. Also keep an eye to the common spaces, residents’ living spaces, foods, activities, staff, care plan, and most especially, its cost.
Choosing the best assisted living facility for your aging parent can be challenging plus the decision to help her move out from the house she’s lived in for decades can be bittersweet.
Although the task is challenging, imagine sending your aging loved one to a community where she is accompanied and well taken care of by the caring and cheerful staff and can feel comfortable, safe, and happy. Isn’t it worth it?