As the baby boomer generation ages, assisted living has become a big business, and it’s only going to get a lot bigger. Today there are 750,000-plus elderly people living in more than 30,000 assisted living facilities across the nation. These numbers are expected to grow significantly.
For too many residents and their families, it’s also a big problem. Uneven regulation has created a dangerous situation wherein some facilities are not equipped or properly staffed to care for an increasingly ill population. Consumer advocates are also concerned about facility worker regulations and employee hiring criteria. A recent investigative report – Life and Death in Assisted Living – show concerns over caregiver age requirements, educational attainment in administrators, staffing levels, and frequency of health inspections.
Seven Tips for Finding Quality Care
Before you check in your loved one, you should know how to find quality assisted living. Here are a few things to think about:
- Define your needs. Assisted living might look like a great option, especially when promoted as an alternative to nursing home care. But some facilities may not be capable of caring for people with complex medical conditions. Familiarize yourself with the basic services provided by different assisted living facilities and how to compare one to another.
- Have you visited enough? Visit prospective facilities often and at different times of the day. Take time to talk to residents and staff. And ask tough questions like: What is the ratio of caregivers to residents? How many staff work overnight shifts? What type of nursing care is provided? What is the turnover rate?
- Decide For-Profit or Non-Profit. The pressure to earn profits can impact staffing, food and available activities. That doesn’t mean you should dismiss for-profits as there are good and bad facilities in each category, but do your homework.
- What are the total costs? Assisted living can be expensive, averaging $3,550 per month. Also note that the base price may not reflect fees for additional services from meal delivery and laundry to bathing assistance and medication management.
- Watch that admissions agreement. The devil’s in the details when it comes to admissions agreements, which are often lengthy and complicated. Many assisted living facilities and nursing homes now include forced arbitration clauses in admission contracts, thus protecting themselves from accountability in an open court of law. If any part of the agreement is unclear, consult an elder care attorney.
- Where is the facility? Sure, it’s easier to visit a loved one if the facility you choose is conveniently located near friends and family. But experts warn that the first criteria should be quality care and a facility that is a good fit for the prospective resident.
- What Does the Ombudsman Say? Look for reports that present less than flattering news. Check the property’s regulatory history and complaint record for the past five years. Your state’s health department or long-term care ombudsman will have that information.
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Are you taking care of your Mom or Dad? Are they in an assisted living facility, or are you considering one? Your input is welcomed. Please leave us a comment below!