Assisted Living

If you’ve begun a search for the perfect assisted living facility for a loved one, you know that starting the search can be overwhelming. From pricing to accommodations to amenities, assisted living facilities can vary significantly. Here are a few questions to ask as you narrow down your search for an assisted living facility.

What does assisted living mean?

Assisted living facilities are residential communities where older adults can receive help with daily living, like dressing, bathing, and taking medication, but without the 24-hour medical care that they’d get in a skilled nursing facility. Most assisted living facilities provide three meals a day, but aren’t required to in many states. If all meals aren’t provided, residents will be given kitchen facilities in their living area. These facilities also offer transportation and, often, access to social and entertainment activities in the facility.

What are our current needs?

Assess your loved one’s current medical issues and needs. Are they ambulatory? Use a wheelchair? Are there any dementia or other memory issues? Some assisted living facilities specialize in certain medical needs, so find out what kinds of specialized services or staff are present at the facility.

What needs will we have in the future?

Medical needs change, and future needs can be hard to predict. Find out what additional services the facility has onsite to assist residents as their situation changes and they need to move from a more independent situation to a skilled nursing situation. Find out how costs and fees change when a resident must make changes in their level of care. Ask under what conditions the resident would have to leave the facility.

What are our non-medical needs?

When you find a facility that meets your medical needs, find out about their amenities. Some facilities offer fun and educational activities, like arts and crafts, or wellness and fitness classes. Some offer day trips to museums, casinos, or concerts. If it’s important to you and your family, find out about religious services, whether they’re held onsite or if transportation to services is provided.

How much does the facility really cost?

Now we’re moving into questions you need to ask the assisted living facility. Ask a lot of questions about costs and fees. Make sure you understand all costs, including things like additional services and admission fees. Some facilities charge extra for services like meal delivery, laundry, transportation, and housekeeping. If you’re considering a unit for independent living, ask if utilities are included. Ask about absences; will the facility reserve the resident’s room for the resident if they are absent for personal or medical reasons, and how will they be charged during this time? Find out what happens if the resident runs out of money. Make sure you understand how the billing process works.

Does the facility follow written care plans?

Ask if the facility creates and follows care plans for their residents. A care plan, or a plan of care, is a written document, created and kept up to date by doctors, staff, and residents and their families. It provides a strategy or “game plan” for everyone involved in the resident’s care to follow. Setting out clear instructions for residents is important because many tasks are carried out by aides who aren’t as intensively trained as doctors and nurses. But with proper instructions, all staff members can provide the care that residents need. Facilities that rely on care plans usually meet with residents and family members every three months, or whenever there is a change in medical needs.

When you’re choosing an assisted living community, we know you’ll have even more questions. Some questions you’ll ask yourself and some you’ll ask the directors and staff at the facilities. Another good source for answers is your state or local long-term care ombudsman or representatives of other citizen advocacy groups.