Finding the Best Assisted Living Community

Finding the best assisted living community isn’t easy. And it shouldn’t be. This is a new and important chapter in your life. The decision to leave your old life and start new is an emotional one. It’s a financial one and for many seniors, a necessary one. But it is a process that can be made easier with some guidance.
What is an Assisted Living Community?
Assisted living communities are for those seniors who want an independent lifestyle but who may need assistance for their individual needs. In these communities, you should feel like your independent and have the peace of mind knowing that your specific daily needs are met. These needs include daily meals, dressing, bathing, help with medication, transportation and personal mobility.
Most assisted living communities also provide (at extra cost) housekeeping, access to health services, Alzheimer’s care, staff available for personal needs, 24-hour security, an emergency call system, exercise programs, medication management, personal laundry service, and social and recreational activities.
Communities typically consist of apartments of 25 to 120 units from single rooms to full apartments. Some are even in subdivided houses with live-in staff.
They can be operated by non-profits or for-profit companies.
How to Select the Right Community?
The best way to find the right community is to visit one. Then another. Then another until you find one that is just right. And how do you know if it’s right? Before you visit, think about these different aspects and questions. These questions will get you thinking about other questions.
Does the facility feel home-like? Do you like the décor? What are the apartment and room choices? Do you have a full apartment with kitchen? Do you have a private bath? Will you share an apartment? Are there grab bars in the bathroom? Is there a separate thermostat in your room? Is there plenty of natural lighting? What is the view like? Is there enough closet and storage space? Are kitchen cabinets easy to reach?
Talk to the residents and staff? Does the staff seem to genuinely care? Would you enjoy sharing meals with the residents? Do you share common interests? Are the residents somewhat independent? Is there social activity in the common areas? Do the residents seem happy?
Is staff there around the clock? Are all entrances and exits secured? Is there a fire sprinkler system? Smoke detectors? Emergency call system in the rooms? Are the halls and grounds well lit? Are there handrails in the hallways? Are the hallways and doorways wide sufficient for walkers and wheelchairs? Are there walk-in showers?
Is there a monthly events calendar posted? Are the spiritual services on-site? Are there transportation schedules for shopping? Workout facility? Crafts room? Computers and printers? Massage therapy?
Is the community near a beauty salon and barber? Library? Grocery store? Movies? Mall?
Other Considerations
Is there a meal menu and can choose when to eat? Ask to sample the facility’s food.
Ask to see the facility’s licensing and certification reports. These show any patterns of neglect and medication errors.
Ask to see a copy of the resident agreement which spells out the facility’s obligations. And it will list the charge of items that are extra like laundry service.
How close are you to friends and relatives? Are they allowed to stay overnight?
What is the staff to patient ratio? A good ratio for fairly independent residents is 1-to-15. In some smaller facilities, the staff will perform all the duties while in larger communities there is a separation. What is the staff turnover rate? Rates in the double digits could indicate a problem.
If a resident becomes more disabled can the facility accommodate those needs?
Who dispenses medication and how much training have they had? States have training requirements.
According to a Genworth Financial survey on the cost of senior care, the median rate for a private one-bedroom apartment in an assisted living residence is $3,300 per month. Of course this is only a mid-point. There are many options below and above this price.
Medicaid in many states does cover some assisted living services. If your annual income is below $12,000 you may qualify for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 202 and Section 8 senior housing. This provides rent subsidies for assisted living facilities.