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Top Five Questions to Ask an Assisted Living Facility #2


All this week we are taking a look at what the five essential questions to ask when evaluating an assisted living facility are. Today, we address question number two: What services does the facility offer?

The services your loved one will need at a facility vary depending on their level of current ability, as well as how quickly they might need more help as their abilities weaken.

"Level of care needs is determined by how well an individual can carry out his or her Activities of Daily Living (ADLs); the more help they need with ADLs, the higher the level of care required," said Robert F. Bornstein, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies at Adelphi University and co-author of When Someone You Love Needs Nursing Home, Assisted Living, or In-Home Care: The Complete Guide. The easiest way to evaluate what the future resident might need is to look at what you, as the adult child, are already providing. Does your mother take her medication at the prescribed times and dosages, or do you need to call and remind her? Is your father able to shower on his own, or do you go to his house every other day to help him? "Once a person can no longer carry out basic ADLs, they may require skilled nursing, nursing home, care," said Bornstein, so be sure to factor in the possibility of a higher level of care depending on how quickly your loved one's ability is deteriorating.

Andrew Carle, MHSA, Director of the Program in Assisted Living/Senior Housing Administration at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., advises prospective residents and family members to meet with more than just the facility's sales staff to determine whether the community can provide the level of service necessary to keep someone healthy and happy. "Start with the marketing director, but also meet with the administrator and get a feel for who they are. A community is only as good as the administrator. The staff and services in most communities will mirror the skill set and attitude of the administrator."

If a community tells you the administrator is too busy to meet, or at least speak with you, it may be a red flag. If a resident moves into the community and encounters a problem requiring the administrator - will he or she be too busy then, also? "If an administrator can't meet with you upon request prior to moving in, then that's your answer," Carle said.

"My mother always used to say, 'buy the worst house in the best neighborhood, you can always fix up the house,'" recalls Janice Williams, Vice President of Matrix Home Care headquartered in West Palm Beach, Fla. She advises bringing in one's own furniture, getting new curtains, or repainting the walls to improve the room itself, "but you can't change the staff that are there. It's easier to build it up than to tear it back down."

Williams suggests visiting the facility more than once. "Do a two-part tour, first to see if you like their bricks and mortar, the apartment itself, the building. Think of your own childhood. What kind of home did you grow up in? What was your town like? Our parents picked the community we grew up in." On the second visit, meet the administrator, the food service manager, the bus driver, and any other staff members they will be interacting with on a daily basis. She advises to make sure to ask how long people have been there, and if they seem kind and pleasant, as this is a strong indicator of the quality of life in the facility. "People stay if they're happy," she said.

It's always worth taking into account the old adage: location, location, location! How convenient is the community to doctor's and dentist's offices, hospitals, hair salons, pharmacies, etc.? Which, if any, of these amenities are either onsite, have visiting schedules, or have shuttles for residents? Keep in mind if these amenities are not offered, the onus might fall on the adult child to provide transportation to access them. Is this something you have the time and resources to handle?

Dr. Robert F. Bornstein, Professor of Psychology at the Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies at Adelphi University, advises family members to consider facilities that are close to their homes, so they'll be more likely to visit. "Try to anticipate what getting to the facility in a January snowstorm would be like," he said.

About Matrix

Based in West Palm Beach, Matrix provides a complete array of services, home health care, disability management so injured employees can quickly return to work, independent senior care based on the needs of the elderly and specialty nurses' services, including wound care, infusion therapy and rehabilitation nursing. Certified as a woman minority owned business, Matrix serves Southwest and Southeast Florida from locations in Tampa, Jupiter, Bradenton, Venice, Boca Raton, Pompano Beach and Coral Gables.

For more information, www.matrixhomecare.com.

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