Every adult with an aging parent dreads the day that Mom or Dad (or both) can no longer live independently. There are usually signs … maybe the house is starting to look unkempt because the cleaning has gotten to be too much. Perhaps there are signs of forgetfulness or confusion, or your parent is losing weight because they aren’t eating well. If basic chores like food shopping have become too difficult or personal hygiene is being neglected then it’s time to consider other options, and assisted living may be your best answer.
Assisted living provides your parents with a level of independence while giving you the peace of mind of knowing that somebody is there for them, making sure that they are safe. Choosing the right assisted living facility for your parent requires careful research. You should begin by asking yourself and your loved one exactly what you are looking for and what the right community will provide.
One of the first questions that needs to be addressed is whether assisted living is the appropriate place for your parent. It’s important that you understand that assisted living is just one aspect of a continuum of elder care that is available. It is generally a middle ground between living alone and going into a nursing home. Assisted living can provide help if needed but is designed for those who are still able to – for the most part – care for themselves. Medical staff is available, but it is not a constant. A geriatric care manager can help you to assess what the right living arrangements are for your parent.
Once you have determined that assisted living is appropriate for your loved one’s needs, you should evaluate several options, making selections based on the specifics of your situation. There are several important points that need to be considered. These include cost and what it includes, what additional amenities and services are provided, and how medical care and medications are handled.
Assisted living can be extremely expensive, and it’s important that you know what you are paying for and what is important to you. A facility can be beautifully decorated and situated in a golf-course type setting but if it doesn’t provide for your specific needs – or if addressing those needs costs extra – you may need to move on to the next place. Ask pointed questions about whether, meals, medication management, cleaning services and activities are included in the fee, and if not what each will cost.
When selecting an assisted living facility for your parent you want to take a good look at the residents and assess whether they are well groomed and seem happy. Are they engaged in activities, and are those activities that your parent will enjoy? Is transportation provided, and on what kind of schedule? Where does the facility take residents on a regular basis? How does the staff respond when you ask them questions, and do they seem welcoming to you being there? How does the food look, and where is it served? Does the facility provide a dining area where people can get together to share meals? And what if your loved one prefers to dine alone, in their living quarters… is that an option?
The most important thing that you want to take into consideration is what happens when there is a change in your parents’ health status. As people age, things can shift quickly. You want to find out who is providing assessments of Mom or Dad’s health, how often that is being done, and what happens if they require emergency medical care or hospitalization. In many cases people find it desirable to select an assisted living facility that is part of a continuing care community so that there is an easy transition from one living arrangement to the next.
Choosing an assisted living facility for your parent is a challenging responsibility, and one that is best managed when it is anticipated early. Talking to your parent about the eventual need for a change may be uncomfortable, but doing so as early as possible means that they will be able to participate in the conversation and let you know their wishes.