Because not all assisted-living facilities offer the same services or levels of care, choosing one that’s the right fit for a loved one requires some research.
“You would never buy a home or rent an apartment without seeing it, getting a feel for the community, or learning about the amenities,” said Andrea Giaquinto, the resident services director for Asbury Methodist Village in Maryland.
Finding out about living conditions is important whether the person you’re shopping for is experiencing increasing medical needs or there simply is no one available to help care for them in their home.
Recognizing When Care is Needed
Signs that a loved one may need assisted-living care include such things as decreased mobility, cognitive limitations, injuries, or unsteadiness, said Mitch Waks, CEO and founder of Cooperative Home Care in St. Louis.
“It is better to start the conversation as soon as you begin to observe that their independence is declining,” Waks said. “A good starting point is to listen objectively about what they want, and about their goals for their future.”
Moving into a group home setting isn’t always the right solution, he added. It’s also important to investigate ways to provide additional care for people in their own homes.
“There are options to help seniors stay in their own homes, even when they need assistance,” he noted. “Home care is a more affordable and desirable option for many.”
Downsizing Into Assisted Living
Once the decision to move into an assisted-living facility has been made, your loved one likely will need to downsize in order to fit their belongings into the new living situation.
“A starting plan is to categorize things as follows: essentials that must be kept, things that can be safely stored to consider later, and things that can go,” Waks said. “Make the time commitment so that you are not forcing or rushing anything, and remind yourself that any progress made is an achievement.”
Some facilities provide help with moving and storage issues, but there may be a fee. Waiting until a new resident is fully settled before selling their home will reduce their stress.
Staying in Touch
Waks recommends regular visits to assisted-living residents so they don’t feel abandoned following a move.
“Try very hard not to miss or cancel visits, especially in the beginning as they are settling in,” he said.
Florida attorney Joseph Landry of Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, PLLC, said frequent visits are critical for two reasons. First, the resident may have anxiety associated with the move, he explained. Visiting provides a sense of stability that can reduce worry.
“Secondly, continued visits are an important tool in reducing the likelihood of abuse,” he said. “The more frequent the visits, the more incentive the staff will have to be prepared by providing proper care.”
Maintaining Quality of Life
Because the quality of care can change over time, it’s important not to decide that everything is fine and stop checking on conditions.
The more a family monitors care to confirm that a resident is receiving correct medications, good food, and adequate activities, “the greater the likelihood that the resident will thrive at the facility,” Landry said.