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Choosing an Assisted Living Home For Your Elderly Parent
It can be difficult to decide whether your elderly parent needs more than help in their own home. However, finding the right supported home for your needs can make the process easier. What aspects should you consider when choosing an assisted living home?
1. Proximity. If possible, choose a home that is close to your own so that you can visit it often and spontaneously. Knowing you’re only a few minutes away will put your parents at ease and make the transition easier.
2. Caregivers. Visit the home during each shift to meet the caregivers. States require training and certification, but you should look for experienced caregivers who truly enjoy caring for seniors. Sometimes you can tell by their facial expressions if they are happy there or just going through the motions. Ask how many caregivers there are per shift and how many residents live in the home. Try to find an assisted living home with a high ratio of carers to residents.
3. Eating. Visiting during a meal. It is important that the food served is nutritious and tasty. The elderly eat less as they age. Appetite decreases over time and taste buds deteriorate. Food should be appetizing, fresh and of good quality so that the amount consumed provides adequate nutrition. Ideally, choose a supported home with a nutritionist or a home that consults nutritionists about meal planning. Make sure the home meets dietary needs and substitutes for limited items.
4. Activities. Activities should nurture body, mind and spirit and create community. Ask for the monthly activity calendar. Are the activities interesting, fun, engaging and varied? The primary reason seniors are placed in nursing homes is concern for their safety when they are alone. An assisted living home should not only be a safe place, but also a community for your loved ones. Are the residents in the common areas or are they all locked in their rooms? Do they talk to each other during meals or activities, or is it just the caregiver’s voice?
5. Amenities. Equipment can greatly improve the quality of life in nursing homes. Here, care homes can differ significantly from each other. Ask what makes their home special. Do they nurture the body, mind and spirit? Do you offer holistic therapies? Special programs? Do they have family doctors?
6. Volunteers. Make friends with the volunteers, as they can be the eyes and ears of everything in the home. Homes that are interested in the well-being of their residents often employ volunteers, such as reading aloud, helping residents write cards or checks, etc., because that way they can offer more to their residents.
7. Pets. There are organizations across the country that train pets and their owners for therapy visits. Visits with animals are especially appreciated by the elderly, especially those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Find out if volunteers come to the home and what they do for the residents.
8. Cleanliness. Is the home clean and tidy? Do the bathrooms look and smell clean? Are the common areas tidy? Are the residents well-groomed, are their clothes clean? (Residents have rights and are free to refuse showers, food, medication, assistance with dressing, and hygiene, all of which may cause the resident to appear uncared for; however, the resident’s physician, guardian, or next of kin must be notified, (that all underlying problems can be addressed. If all residents appear to be unkempt, there may be a problem with care.)
9. Violations. States have regulatory agencies that monitor assisted living violations. You may not be so concerned if a care home failed to map out one of its routine fire drills, but if there have been multiple reports of abuse, neglect or safety issues, it is cause for concern.
10. Cost. In nursing homes, there are usually sliding fees depending on the size of the room, regardless of whether it is a suite with its own bathroom, or depending on the level of care required by the resident. The more care, the higher the premium. The bigger the room, the more it costs, and suites are the most expensive. Personal items such as Depends, other hygiene items, denture creams, medications, etc. are the responsibility of the resident. Meals and snacks, assistance with daily needs such as getting up, going to bed, bathing, grooming, cleaning, laundry, activities and entertainment are usually included in the monthly fee. See what’s not included in the fee so there are no surprises at the end of the month. And don’t be afraid to ask what their policy is on rate increases: do they cancel, how often have they increased rates in the past, do they expect a rate increase in the next six months?
Prepare a checklist or list of questions when you visit care homes. Make sure all of your questions are answered so that you are fully informed when making your decision. Once you’ve done your homework and narrowed it down to the top 3-4 that fit your needs, if possible, take your parent to tour the homes. Allow your parents to choose what is right for them. Including your parent in the decision-making will make the transition easier, and you can both feel reassured that you made the best decision.
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