Moving an elderly parent into an assisted living facility is one of the toughest choices you’ll ever make. Many people feel a tremendous sense of guilt, and wonder if it’s the right choice. Some people just don’t have the space or financial resources to have a parent move in. If a parent needs assistance with daily activities, or suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s, they may need more care and supervision than you’re able to provide.
Fortunately, the concept of assisted living has changed over the years. Most of us still get the mental picture of a cold, sterile nursing home when we hear the term assisted living, but that’s really not the case anymore. There are many types and styles, from elegant hotel-type living, to large complexes with individual units, to small home-like private residences.
Choosing the right facility can seem daunting, but it’s so important to select the most pleasant environment for your parent. You don’t want them to be uncomfortable, you want them to enjoy their new surroundings, continue living as independently as possible, and to stay active and healthy.
Here are 5 questions you absolutely have to ask (and get answered!) before choosing an assisted living facility:
1. What is the staff-to-resident ratio? A small number of staff responsible for overseeing a large number of residents is not optimal. You don’t really want your parent to have to wait for help. Ideally, staff and residents should be familiar with each other. An alert staff member who really knows their residents is more likely to notice altered behavior or signs that medical attention is required. Also ask if there is awake night staff at the facility. If your parent has an accident at 3 am, is there someone around to help them get cleaned up and change the sheets?
2. Is this a locked/secured facility? People diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s have a tendency to wander off, caught up in a memory from the distant past. It’s one of the main reasons why children feel they’re no longer able to care for an aging parent in their own home. Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients require extra supervision for their own safety, make sure the facility has taken the appropriate precautions to keep residents safe.
3. What is the policy regarding alternate placement? At some assisted living facilities, the care and assistance provided is actually quite minimal. If your parent suffers a fall, or starts to decline physically, you may be told they will no longer be able to stay, forcing you to find placement in a nursing home or other facility that can offer more assistance. Some of the smaller, home-like facilities believe in aging in place, and will provide increasing levels of assistance and care, as the resident requires it, rather than putting them through the stress of moving to a new facility. It’s best to find out ahead of time what an individual facility’s policy is.
4. What services are included, and which cost extra? You may be surprised to learn there’s really no standard answer to this question. Some facilities include meals, housekeeping and laundry in a bundled price. Others offer a base price, with a cafeteria-style menu of upgrades and additional services you can obtain for additional fees. Know exactly what you’re getting before entering into any agreement.
5. What type of assistance is actually provided? Some facilities are happy to assist with incontinence care, bathing, dressing and shaving. Others are not. If your parent needs assistance with daily hygiene, it’s best to ask about their policies during your visit or tour. If it’s not something they provide, there’s no point in continuing.
Finding a great living situation for your parent isn’t easy, but it’s a task you have to complete with determination and love. With a little time and effort, you can find a place that’s both safe and comfortable, giving both you and your parent peace of mind.