September 21, 2012

Knowledge is Power:

You’re worried about your elderly mom. She expresses anxiety about keeping up the house and everyday tasks like driving and cooking have also become too much for her to handle.  You are wondering if she may need full-time care. You’ve found some assisted living facilities in your area, but now what? How do you know when you’ve found a place you can trust to take care of Mom properly? And how can you tell if she’ll be happy there?

Valerie Whitman, Director of the Senior Care Advisor Network at, has a team of Advisors that speak with decision makers of senior care every day.

Valerie says, “In our experience, seniors and their families look for options that will allow them to age in place, while enhancing their quality of life. Since aging in place is different for each family, we find they are most interested in a customized approach to their loved one’s care needs.”

Bring this list of questions with you when you visit an assisted living facility to ensure a customized approach when it comes to facility care. The responses of the facility’s representative will help you determine if the staff, care and environment are up to your standards, and help you decide if the facility is good enough to be a new home for Mom.

  1. How far away is it? You’ll want to visit Mom as often as you can, not to mention pick her up for holidays and family events. The closer the facility is to your home, the easier this will be. Also, how close is the facility to other relatives, doctors offices, friends, and shopping?
  2. How much is the cost, and what does it cover? This is a question you can’t afford not to ask. Read the fine print to look for hidden fees and services that aren’t covered. Costs and payment options vary widely between assisted living facilities, so don’t be afraid to ask questions before you even see a contract.
  3. What is the staff like? What kind of assistance do they offer to residents? Are the staff licensed and certified? Do they seem friendly and knowledgeable? Do they seem well-attended to? What is the ratio of staff to residents? Try asking the residents if the staff are responsive and how well do they like the staff–it’s often the best way to predict your own loved one’s experience.
  4. Is the food good? To your mom, this will be one of the most important questions. Visit the dining room during a meal. Ask to see the menu for the week. Does the food look and smell appetizing? Are the portions not too big or too small? Ask the residents how well they like the food–it’s something they’ll be happy to chat about!
  5. Are there adequate activities available? Do you see a list of activities posted? Are the residents engaged in crafts, games, or group discussions, or do they seem to just be sitting around? What kind of activities are available for patients who are confined to their rooms?
  6. What are the visiting hours? Do they accommodate your schedule and the schedules of your loved one’s friends and relatives? What if schedules change? Generally, facilities that allow visiting hours seven days a week, for several hours of the day make for the happiest living situation.
  7. What kind of amenities are offered? Does the facility offer exercise classes and recreational classes? Is there a wellness office? (Your loved one might not need skilled services now, but that could change in the future.) Make sure to find out if these amenities are covered, and if not, what the additional fees are.
  8. What is the facility’s history of violations? Mistakes and complaints happen. But you want to know that the facility you’re entrusting with your family member hasn’t made any egregious errors. Ask to see the facility’s licensing and violations records.
  9. Who would you be communicating with? How does the facility handle questions and concerns? Would you be speaking to a front-desk employee, or would you be able to directly contact the facility’s director? If the facility views communication as a priority, your experience will be all the smoother for it.
  10. Would you live there? Before you commit to a facility, ask yourself this all-important question. Would you feel happy and adequately cared for in the facility? If not, it’s probably not the right choice for your loved one.

These questions will help you gauge if a facility is right for you and your loved one. If your family has elected that facility care is a must, keep in mind that a private caregiver can also provide personalized and dedicated attention to your loved one’s needs within a facility.