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Caring for Seniors

How to Make the Right Decision When Choosing an Assisted Living Facility

Gary Edward Barg

Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Today’s Caregiver

Learn how to ask the right questions and seek the right information when faced with choosing a long-term care facility for your loved one.

One of the most important challenges we face as family caregivers is deciding if and when to contemplate long-term care placement for our loved ones. So many caregivers fear they have somehow failed their family members by considering facility placement, but nothing could be further from the truth. If you choose an appropriate facility partner, you can spend your time with your loved one being a loving spouse, son, or daughter, rather than dealing with care-taking issues such as wandering, sundowning, and incontinence.

Cover all the bases

The first thing to do when entering a facility is to trust your own senses. Follow your gut, and take the following steps to ensure you choose a facility that suits your loved one’s health, needs, and comfort.

  • Conduct a “smell test:” If the facility has a strong scent of urine or even an overpowering disinfectant smell, it’s not the right choice.
  • Speak to as many different staff and residents as possible: You want a facility where the people living and working there feel good about.
  • Notice how the staff treats the other residents: How they treat current residents will be how they treat your loved one.
  • Visit at differing times of the day: The quality of care and cleanliness should be the same at all times of day.
  • Ask about staff numbers: How many staff are on duty? During the day, overnight, and on weekends?

Petition for the policies

Once you get a sense of the physical space and personalities of those in it, check on the policies the facility has in place regarding safety, liability, and emergency.

  • Request to see the results of the facilities most recent state licensure survey: They should be readily available for your review.
  • Learn about the facility’s bed-holding policy: If your loved one must go to a hospital or rehabilitation facility for a temporary period, will they still have a place at this care facility afterwards?
  • Request a copy of the facility’s contract: You may want to consult with an attorney before signing a contract.
  • Ask about the facility’s disaster and emergency plan: What are its plans for preparedness and evacuation? When was the plan last updated?

More Qs as caregivers

Your role as a family caregiver and how you get to interact with your loved one is still hugely important even if others will be providing primary care. So you want to be sure to ask how the facility communicates and treats family members of residents.

  • What is the facility’s philosophy towards family caregiver participation?
  • What are the visiting hours for family members?
  • How do you inform caregivers about care plan meetings?
  • What activities does the facility have for family caregivers and residents?

Take the time to visit a few area facilities and truly get answers to all your questions before making a choice. You are in charge of this important decision and should never be made to feel that you were pressured to choose a particular facility.

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