What Caregivers Need to Know About Assisted Living

What Is Assisted Living?
Assisted living is a type of housing for people who need various levels of medical and personal care. Living spaces can be individual rooms, apartments, or shared quarters. The facilities generally provide a home-like setting and are physically designed to promote the residents’ independence. Services are offered to assist residents with daily living.

What Services Do Assisted Living Communities Provide?
The services offered by assisted living communities vary from facility to facility. Services often include:

  • One to three meals a day
  • Monitoring of medication
  • Personal care, including dressing and bathing
  • Housekeeping and laundry
  • 24-hour emergency care
  • Some medical services
  • Social and recreational activities

How Can I Know What Services I Need?
Talk with your family and caregivers about what services are needed. Take time to consider what services are important to you before you visit assisted living communities. This step will help ease your transition. Think about these questions:

  • Why do I want to change my residence?
  • What daily activities do I need help with (bathing, dressing, toileting, eating)?
  • How often do I need help?

What Should I Look for in an Assisted Living Community?
The following checklist will help you and your family evaluate assisted living facilities. Review the checklist before your visit to the facility and take it with you.

Assisted Living Consumer Checklist

General Concerns

  • Does the residence meet local and/or state licensing requirements?
  • What is the policy on insurance and personal property?
  • What is the procedure for responding to a medical emergency?
  • Are visitors welcome at any time?

Needs Assessment

  • Is there a written plan for the care of each resident?
  • What is the procedure for assessing a potential resident’s need for service? Are those needs reassessed periodically?
  • Can a resident be discharged for refusing to comply with a care plan?

Contracts, Costs, and Finances

  • Is a contract agreement available to include accommodations, personal care, health care, and support services?
  • When may a contract be terminated and what is the refund policy?
  • Are additional services available if the resident’s needs change?
  • How do you pay for additional services that are needed on a temporary basis (such as nursing care)?
  • Are there different costs for various levels or categories of services?
  • Are there any government, private, or corporate programs available to help cover the cost of services to the resident?
  • What are the billing, payment, and credit policies?
  • May a resident handle his or her own finances with staff assistance (if able), or should a family member or outside party be designated to do so?

Professional Staff

  • Is staff appropriately trained?
  • Did you receive a warm greeting from staff? Are staff members personable and outgoing?
  • Is staff appropriately dressed?
  • Do staff members greet residents by their first names and interact warmly with them?
  • Is staff available to meet scheduled and unscheduled needs?
  • Is staff available to assist residents who experience memory, orientation, or judgment losses?

Residents and Atmosphere

  • Do residents socialize with each other and appear happy and comfortable?
  • Do residents, other visitors, and volunteers speak favorably about the facility?
  • Do the residents seem to be appropriate housemates for you or your loved one?

Facility Design

  • Do you like the appearance of the building and its surroundings?
  • Is the decor attractive and home-like?
  • Is the floor plan easy to follow?
  • Do doorways, hallways, and rooms accommodate wheelchairs and walkers?
  • Are elevators available?
  • Are handrails available to aid in walking?
  • Are cupboards and shelves easy to reach?
  • Are carpets secured and floors made of a non-skid material?
  • Is there good natural and artificial lighting?
  • Is the residence clean, odor free, and appropriately heated and cooled?

Medication and Health Care

  • What is the residence policy regarding storage of medicines, assistance with medicines, and medicine record-keeping?
  • Is self-administration of medicine allowed?
  • Who coordinates visits from a nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, or other specialist if needed?
  • Does a doctor or nurse visit the residents regularly to provide medical checkups?

Services

  • Is staff available to provide 24-hour assistance with activities of daily living, if needed? Do daily activities include:
  • Dressing
  • Eating
  • Mobility
  • Hygiene and grooming
  • Bathing, toileting, and incontinence assistance
  • Using the telephone
  • Shopping
  • Laundry
  • Housekeeping in unit
  • Transportation to doctor, hairdresser, or other activities

Features of Individual Units

  • Are different sizes and types of units available?
  • Are units for single and double occupancy available?
  • Do residents have their own lockable doors?
  • Is a 24-hour emergency response system accessible from the unit?
  • Are bathrooms private? Do they accommodate wheelchairs and walkers?
  • Can residents bring their own furnishings? What may they bring?
  • Do all units have a telephone, internet access, and cable television? How is billing handled for these services?
  • Is a kitchen area/unit provided with a refrigerator, sink, and cooking element?
  • May residents keep food in their units?
  • May residents smoke in their units? May they smoke in public areas?

Social and Recreational Activities

  • Is there an activities program?
  • Do residents participate in the neighboring community’s activities?
  • Do volunteers, including family members, come into the residence to conduct or help with programs?
  • Does the facility require residents to undertake any chores or perform specific activities that benefit all residents?
  • Are residents’ pets allowed in the unit? Who is responsible for pet care?
  • Does the residence have its own pets?

Food Service

  • Does the residence provide three nutritionally balanced meals a day, seven days a week?
  • Are snacks available?
  • May a resident request special foods?
  • Are common dining areas available?
  • May residents eat meals in their units?
  • May meals be provided at times the resident prefers or are there set meal times?