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Choosing an Assisted Living Facility

With the array of assisted living facilities available throughout the United States, the sheer amount of choices can seem overwhelming; however, making the right choice is made easier when you start the search prepared. Think of the process in three steps:

  1. Decide what you need
  2. Find locations that match your needs
  3. Evaluate locations using multiple resources

Throughout the journey for your new home, keep the focus on finding a residence that will keep you or your loved one happy and healthy in the present and for the years to come.

How to Find an Assisted Living Facility

Before you begin looking at assisted living facilities, think about your needs and desires for a long-term residence. Consider your preferred location. Some people desire a location near doctors and a major hospital, while others prefer a location central to shopping and entertainment. You may desire a location near your children and grandchildren.

Decide what features you desire in your living space. You may want an extra bedroom for a guest or desire a kitchenette or patio for entertaining. Think about the amenities and activities that bring you joy. Assisted living communities may have pools, movie theaters, art studios, putting greens and on-site cafes, salons and bars.

Additionally, it is important to carefully consider the safety and assistance features you need now and those you may need in the future, especially if you have a progressive disease, such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. While presently you may only need a grab bar in the shower and housekeeping assistance, in the future you may need wheelchair access and assistance showering and dressing.

Finally, set a budget. Prioritize your list from what you must have to what you would like to have and look for communities that match your needs.

What to Look for in Assisted Living

Once you have found an assisted living facility that meets your needs, schedule a guided tour of the location. Take a list of questions for the staff, and take a friend or family member for that trusted second opinion.

Assisted Living Guided Tour Questions

  • Can I see a contract that details all the fees, rules and regulations?
  • How are services billed?
  • Can I continue to see my own physicians?
  • Can I have a pet and my own furniture?
  • Can I come and go as I please?
  • Are any activities prohibited in private rooms or apartments?
  • What training and background checks are required of staff?
  • Is there a registered nurse or other medical professional available at all times?
  • What happens if I run out of money?
  • Do you participate in Medicare, Medicaid, VA Aid and Assistance, long-term care insurance or any other payment program?
  • What circumstances would force a resident to move out of the facility?
  • If I require a higher level of care in the future, is that available at this community?
  • If I have a long-term stay in a hospital or rehabilitation facility, do you hold my residence?
  • How many rooms or apartments are currently empty?  (A high number of empty beds or rooms can be a red flag that residents are unhappy with the facility and that the facility has financial trouble.)

After a successful tour, drop by the facility at least once during the day and once at night. During the day, observe the social atmosphere, including activities and meals. Try the food and read the menu to make sure your taste buds would be satisfied eating those selections on a daily basis. A night visit gives you a feel for the atmosphere during quiet hours, and it allows you to evaluate the night staff.

Assisted Living Visit Checklist

  • Are the grounds well taken care of? Is anything run-down or broken?
  • Do you see dirt, stains or smell odors? (An odor contained to a small area may suggest a recent accident, whereas an odor in a larger area suggests a problem.)
  • Are appropriate safety measures in place? (Look for grab bars, emergency exit guides on walls, call buttons, safety locks on windows and doors, smoke detectors and overhead sprinklers.)
  • Are the residents well groomed, happy and friendly? (Ask residents how long they have lived there and how they feel about the facility.)
  • Do residents willingly participate in social activities or do they seem distant and bored?
  • Are staff members friendly and attentive?

How to Choose an Assisted Living Facility

When you call or visit an assisted living facility, remember that the staff members you speak with are there to make a sale. While they are important resources for answering questions about the day-to-day operations of the community, they are not the best resources for objectively evaluating the community.

Talking to residents and their families provides you with the inside scoop on a number issues, including how promptly staff handles maintenance issues, how often new activities are scheduled, how well residents get along and how often staff turns over.

Another resource is the long-term care ombudsman for the facility's state or local area. An ombudsman will tell you about any complains against the facility. For facilities that participate in Medicare, Medicare provides a star-rating system that evaluates facilities based on health inspections, staffing and quality of resident care.

To help you compare and contrast each facility on your list, we provide expert overviews and reviews, as well as a unique database of reviews from residents and their loves ones.

How to Find an Assisted Living Living Facility Near Me

Location is one of the top priorities for many seniors choosing an assisted living facility. Ideally, you want to be near the people and the places you love. To locate an assisted living facility near you, we have a quick, easy and free search tool. Simply enter your zip code to access our database of assisted living facilities in your area. You will also find important details and pricing for each location.

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