The decision to move a loved one into an assisted living facility is never easy. It often entails giving up some independence and saying goodbye to one’s home. Once you and your loved one have come to an agreement that an assisted living facility (ALF) is the best next step, it’s time to find the right one for your family member’s financial, health and lifestyle situations.

If you and your family member live far apart from each other, the first consideration may be the location of the ALF. Will your loved one move closer to you or stay near their current home? After you’ve chosen the vicinity, you can start searching for a facility.

How to Find Facilities

  • Ask for recommendations from friends or other family members who have experience with ALFs.
  • Consult your local or state Area Agency on Aging. You can find your nearest agency on the federally supported Eldercare Locator website.
  • Inquire with your loved one’s doctor for preferred nearby facilities, if staying in the same area.

Questions to Ask

When you call the facilities, you will likely speak to a salesperson who should be able to answer the following questions. Ask as many as are relevant to your situation. Use these as a guide and feel free to add more specific questions about the activities and amenities, special care your loved one may need or other preferences.

  • How many units or beds does the ALF have? Are there units with private bathrooms and kitchens?
  • Are the units furnished? Can residents bring their own furniture?
  • What amenities are on-site?
  • Is the facility pet-friendly?
  • What forms of payment or insurance programs are accepted?
  • How does the facility bill for additional services rendered?
  • Does each resident have a personalized care plan?
  • Who is on staff to tend to the residents? Staff can include nurses, physical therapists and pharmacists, as well as housekeepers, cooks and activity directors.
  • How does the ALF hire staff? Does it require a certain level of training? Does it conduct background checks?
  • If a resident needs more medical attention after moving in, can the facility accommodate a change in circumstances?
  • Can residents continue to be treated by their own physicians?
  • When a resident who needs to spend an extended period of time in a hospital or a rehabilitation center, will his or her unit be held until he or she returns?

What to Observe during Visits

After you’ve narrowed your choices down to a few ALFs, make plans to visit each one more than once. This way, you can see how the facility is run, observe the interaction between the residents and staff and speak to those who live and work there. Bring your loved one with you, if possible. Try to go during the day and in the evening so that you see two different shifts of employees. When you’re at the ALF, look for qualities and amenities such as:

  • Condition and cleanliness of the property
  • Emergency power source
  • Safety features, including fire alarms, sprinklers, call buttons and window and door locks
  • Clearly marked exits
  • Ample common areas
  • Friendliness of staff
  • Healthiness and happiness of residents

How to Read the Contract

Before you sign the contract of the ALF you’ve chosen, review it carefully. You might want to enlist an attorney or a financial adviser to take a look at it as well. Here are a few items to take note of:

  • Pay close attention to the fees, including any security deposit, so there are no surprises on your bill.
  • Look for language regarding your right to file a lawsuit. Some ALFs discourage cases against them by requiring arbitration to settle any claims of negligence or injury.
  • What is the ALF’s policy when it comes to termination of a resident’s contract? If the facility requests the resident to leave, how much notice will be given? What are the reasons that could lead to this discharge?
  • What happens if you’re no longer able to pay the monthly rent?

These guidelines are just a start to how to assess which ALF is best for you and your family member. Find trusted resources to help you make your decision, and visit often to ensure your loved one is getting the care he or she deserves.

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