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Choosing an Assisted Living Facility

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How To Choose An Assisted Living FacilityThere are hundreds of thousands of assisted living communities all across the United States. With so many options to choose from, selecting the right facility may seem impossible. When you start your search armed with the right information, making a choice will become much easier. Another way to help streamline your decision process is to break up your search into manageable steps. As always, Senior Guidance is here to help you select a suitable facility that meets your needs and your budget. During your search, always remember that your focus should be on choosing an assisted living home that not only will meet your basic needs but one that also keeps you happy and actively engaged.

Step 1. Identify Your Needs

Before you start looking for an assisted living community, it is important that you determine your needs. Think about your current needs as well as your future needs, since assisted living is generally a long-term arrangement. Some seniors may just need extra help due to the basic restrictions that come with the aging process. Others may have medical conditions that will require more care over time or as their condition progresses.

There isn’t a way to really know how you will like living in an assisted living community until after you actually complete your transition. You can get an idea for the culture of the community if you visit each location in advance. In this age of instant gratification and a world of information available via the internet, most people want to get everything done online. While this may be okay for consumer services, you never want to choose a long-term assisted care facility sight unseen. Would you rent an apartment or buy a house without doing a walkthrough? Probably not, and you should approach your search for an assisted living home in the same fashion.

Step 2. What Geographical Location Interests You?

The location of the facility is also important. Many seniors prefer to live within a short distance of their friends and family, while others may place more importance on being close to medical centers. More often than not, loved ones of seniors who require assisted living look for assisted living facilities near them so that it’s easy to visit their loved ones. For active seniors, facilities that are in urban areas or near entertainment and shopping are highly desired.

Step 3. What Are the Amenities & Dining Options?

Do you still want to cook or entertain on your own? Make sure that you look for assisted homes that offer kitchens in resident apartments as opposed to only dining packages. Traditional assisted living facilities offer dining services in a communal hall or a restaurant-style dining area for their residents. Depending on what levels of care they offer, in-room meals may be provided free or at an additional cost.  Many seniors still prefer to cook for themselves and will opt for a suite or a senior living apartment that has a kitchen. Usually, supplemental meal packages can be purchased for occasions when they do not care to cook on their own.

Housekeeping and wellness programs are also common amenities offered in most long term assisted living communities. The point of assisted living is to help seniors help themselves to stay active and present during the golden years of their life. Many facilities will offer programs and accommodations for seniors with memory care conditions. There are also special programs for seniors who suffer from diabetes, depression, or heart conditions. As a senior, it is important to think about the care you need now and the care you will need in the future. If you suffer from a condition that may require dementia or memory care or one that requires specific management, look for a facility that can accommodate your needs.

Step 4. Activities & Extracurricular Amenities

Staying active is an important part of the aging process. Just because a senior has retired or because they may need more help as they grow older shouldn’t exclude then from living life to the fullest. Consider what type of activities bring you joy or what type of hobbies hold your interest. Are you a social butterfly that enjoys mingling with others or do you prefer to singular hobbies and quiet pursuits? Assisted living communities have a broad range of activities to keep residents engaged.

Some locations may offer bars, salons, swimming pools, guided hikes, exercise classes, art studios, planned social events and much more. Depending on the type and location of the facility, there may be more or fewer activities offered. It is important to think about your desired level and type of activity and choose a location that is able to meet your entertainment expectations.

Step 5. Assisted Living Home Safety & Security

Safety and security are two of the top concerns for senior citizens. Living in a private home offers a certain sense of safety that is hard to replicate. As seniors age, it is much easier for them to fall victim to unscrupulous people or suffer accidents in silence. Seniors who suffer from memory condition such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are especially at risk.

Relocating to an assisted living community helps to decrease the risk of accidental harm, theft, and other security concerns. When you are looking for a suitable facility, it is critical that you consider what type of assistance and safety concerns you will need both now and later down the line. This is especially important if you suffer from a memory condition or any other progressive condition that will prevent you from taking care of even your most basic needs.

Ask about the security measures the assisted living home has in place to keep the resident safe not only from the outside world but also from the side effects of any condition they may have. Some senior living communities are gated while others are enclosed buildings that required keyed or approved entry for non-residents. Your selection should be based on both current and future needs.

Step 6. What Is Your Budget for Assisted Living?

Affordability is a big part of choosing a long-term care arrangement such as assisted living. While cost will always be a concern, it is more important to ensure that the facilities you consider are able to meet your specific needs. Though you should have a basic budget in mind, first make a list of communities that offer the services and amenities you require.

Many people who reside in an assisted living home pay for their stay with their own funds. That means that the overall cost will often be a deciding factor of which facility you ultimately choose. 

Seniors tend to pay for assisted living expenses with their veteran's benefits, home equity life insurance, long-term care insurance, and life savings. Typically, these resources will be combined to create a payment plan that will last for several years. Some of the more active seniors may still hold part-time jobs or consultancies. Seniors who are on Medicaid don’t often have as many options and Medicaid also does not consider assisted living facilities a necessary expense. Assisted living is viewed as an interim service or a luxury, though it should not be. Assisted living can actually prevent or decrease the need for medical care due to health maintenance and accident prevention. 

That being said, there are still many assisted care facilities that extend their services to seniors who are on Medicaid. There are also communities for senior assisted living that are dedicated solely to seniors who are only able to pay for care with Medicaid.

Every assisted living home for seniors will have their own payment schedules and billing methods. It is important to know how their fees are structured before you commit to a location. Some locations will for a deposit plus upfront payment for a certain time period of services. Other locations may have a deposit plus a monthly billing cycle. Make sure you take the billing cycles into account when you review your options.

Step 7. our Living Space

Assisted living facilities come in many sizes and layouts. Some communities are arranged in an apartment-style for seniors who are very active. Other assisted living facilities are made into dormitory-style layouts for seniors who need closer monitoring.

Consider your needs and your personal preferences when looking for an assisted living community. Senior couples, partners, or spouses may prefer to remain in a private or semi-private setting with help always on hand. Others may prefer to be closer to other residents or even make use of shared rooming arrangements. If you are fairly active and often have visitors, make sure that any facility you are interested in is able to accommodate your guest.

Step 8. Make an In-Person Visit

Once you have identified a few assisted living communities that meet your needs and fall within your budget, schedule a time to visit them. Taking a guided tour and interacting with the staff and residents will give you a good idea about what to expect at each location. It is also a good idea to take a friend or loved one with you to get a second opinion. We have put together a list of questions you should ask the enrollment manager during your visit.

  • Ask about billing options and schedules
  • Are visitors allowed overnight? What are the visiting schedules and rules?
  • May I bring my pet with me?
  • Are there background checks completed on all employees?
  • What are the contract details?
  • Are residents allowed to come and go anytime they like?
  • What activities and items are prohibited?
  • Will there be a nurse or doctor available at all times?
  • Is continuing care available?
  • What payment methods do you accept?
  • Ask about the discharge rules and circumstances.
  • Will my space be reserved if I require a long-term hospital or rehab stay?
  • How many residents to you currently have, and how many spaces are empty?

These are only some questions that should be on your list. It is important to ask questions specific to your needs such as regarding memory care, security, meals, or anything else that occurs to you. Once you have taken a guided tour, make a point to show up unannounced during a meal or in the evening as well as another random time during the day. This will help you get an unfiltered idea of how staff and residents interact. If possible, stay for a meal to see if you enjoy the offerings and to get an idea about the quality.

Step 9. Transition Options for Higher Care

Assisted living communities are ideal for seniors who need little to moderate amounts of help with their daily tasks. While this type of home may be suitable for several years, eventually a higher level of care may be required. Most, but not all assisted living communities offer extended services so it is important to ask about the transition options for higher levels of care.

Generally, moving from a private home into a senior living facility is difficult, so it is even harder to think about higher levels of care at the same time. Moving is difficult, so it is always a good idea to think about a community that offers several levels of care in one location.

Communities that offer assisted living, nursing care, hospice care, memory care, and skilled nursing as part of their retirement home package are best. This allows residents to age in place after their initial transition without drastic changes to their environment.

Assisted living faculties that do not offer on-site continuing care many have agreements with other locations. Typically as a resident nears the stage in which they will face discharge, the assisted living relationship manager will refer them to one of their connected providers.

Choosing an Assisted Living Home That’s Right for You

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a new home, especially when it will be assisted care. Keep in mind that enrollment managers are always going to present the best they have to offer to close the sale. Asking questions, speaking to residents, and visiting faculties in person will give you a more complete idea of what that location has to offer. Senior Guidance is always happy to help you with your assisted living search by providing you with detailed information about the various forms of long-term care, services, and amenities that are available for seniors.

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