3 Tips for Choosing an Assisted-Living Home for Your Parents
Seventy percent of people age 65 and older will need long-term care at some point in their lives, according to a 2014 study by CareScout, a division of Genworth Financial Services. But that doesn’t mean they have to sacrifice quality of life. In fact, a person who needs some assistance with day-to-day living will often find he or she is much happier in a good assisted-living community with an atmosphere that reminds them of their former home.
And it doesn’t have to be outrageously priced. The CareScout report notes that the median price for a private, one-bed home in an ALF community is $42,000. By contrast, a semi-private nursing home bed costs a median of $77,000 a year.
However, it’s up to prospective residents and their families to ascertain the quality of the community and whether it’s a good match for the person who will be living there. ALFs are not federally regulated and states vary widely on the breadth of oversight they provide, so you can’t necessarily rely on the law. And don’t rely on salespeople either – that’s the biggest mistake people make.
There are, however, a number of easy ways to see if a home has a truly caring atmosphere and well-trained staff.
• Ask to see the home’s state licensing survey, an assessment that usually includes inspections, audits, and interviews with residents. Every state has an ALF licensing agency and all have some form of survey system for ensuring that certain standards of quality are met, according to the Assisted Living Federation of America.
Requirements vary from state to state about how often the surveys are conducted and how the public can access the reports, but no matter what state you live in, you should be able to ask the ALF for its most recent report, or obtain it from the licensing agency. The surveys will tell you if problems were found – or not – and what the ALF did to address them.
• Visit the ALF during non-business hours.
Go before breakfast or after dinner – times when the administrators aren’t around. What’s the atmosphere? How do employees behave with the residents? That’s a good time to talk to residents, too. Be a “mystery shopper”. Pretend you’re just visiting the community – not scouting it out as a prospective customer.
• Ascertain how truly “homelike” the community is.
In your own home, if you don’t feel like eating breakfast at 7:30 a.m., you don’t have to. You can have breakfast at 10. You can get snacks when you want them. Depending on what’s important to your loved one, there are potentially many rules that can affect how “at home” a person feels. Some communities allow residents to have pets, others don’t. Some provide lots of activities. At some, residents can quickly and easily arrange for transportation or a service such as hair styling.
Not every community can offer everything, That’s why it’s important to look for those features that are especially important to your loved ones.
Editor’s note: For comprehensive information on topics such as available care options, financial support, and free resources that are available from each state please visit Assisted Living.org.