How to Be Sure Your Aging Loved One Will Be Taken Care of Properly in a New Environment

What to Look for in an Assisted Living Home

By Laura Redman, Owner - Prestige Estates, Tyler, Texas

talking_with_seniors.jpg10,000 people turn 65 years old every day and it has never been more important to plan for retirement. A critical aspect of the planning should include what happens when it comes time for families to make decisions with aging loved ones about the sensitive transition to assisted living. How does one choose the best home?

Here Are 6 Important Observations to Make:

1. Make sure you sit down and have a meal at the assisted living home. One of the most important things with the elderly is that they eat a nutritious diet and the best way to monitor what is to come is to see if the food is acceptable and enjoyable.

2. Depending on the circumstances, visit the home with your loved one that is going to be living there and include other family members as appropriate so that everyone can observe and ask questions.

3. Make sure that the new environment is welcoming, warm, and comfortable: A place that your family member will love and that relatives and friends will enjoy visiting together.

4. Although some of your visits will be scheduled, it’s important to also just “drop in” during the discovery process and thereafter from time to time. Drop in unannounced through the week. Administrative personnel should always be available to assist you. 
Observe what is happening on the weekends and also “drop in”. The home should be fully staffed and the residents should be engaged in activities and enjoying life. 

5. Ask about the core values of the assisted living home and observe whether or not the actions of the staff reflect those values. Let the management team know your expectations to ensure that their values are in line with yours. 

6. Ask to see the activity calendars from the past as well as upcoming calendars for future activities. Realize that not everyone will enjoy doing certain things. Look at what is on the calendar to see what is available.

Additional observation tips:

· Are many of the residents at the home dressed and out of their rooms, socializing and enjoying themselves? 
· Are staff members available to greet you? Do you see staff members throughout the home?
· Observe how the staff working around the facility interacts with residents and other staff. Are they courteous, caring, and professional? It’s important to observe whether the staff members are engaged with the residents and attentive to their needs rather than socializing with one another. 
· If you are dropping in unannounced, always ask who is in charge. Let staff and management know who you are. How do they respond to you?
· Look for signs that the assisted living facility and residents are clean and comfortable and that their needs are being met.

“What if you drop by and you are told you cannot be here - what do you do then?”

“No one should ever make you feel unwelcome. The assisted living home should never turn someone away,” says Redman, “but also treat other people with respect, just as you would want to be treated. It’s also important to keep in mind that a staff member may be tending to a resident’s needs as well, so you will want to allow them enough time.”
“What final advice do you have for someone who has never gone through putting their aging loved one in a nursing home?”

If you have friends who have transitioned into a Long Term Care Community, visit them! Volunteer at one. Just because someone is older than you, doesn’t mean they don’t want your company. Get a domino group together and play with the residents. Establish some consistency and routine. Once a month, make a commitment to get together and play bridge, a card game or bunco. Coordinate with the activity director once a month so that your loved one has your presence to look forward to.

A new life for residents of an assisted living home can be a very positive experience. We encourage frequent visits from familiar faces and family. People are meant to be social, not isolated. Always remember that there are many wonderful assisted living homes available today, so be selective. You will rest easy knowing that your loved one is in a safe, comfortable, and happy home surrounded by lots of people that love them like their own family.

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