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Choosing an Assisted Living Facility: Asking the Right Questions

Here's a list of factors to consider when selecting a senior care community.

Naturally, adult children and caregivers want to find an assisted living facility that is best suited for their parents and their individual needs. Choosing a community can be a difficult and time-consuming process, but there are ways to make an informed choice.

I recommend that all caregivers and family members take a proactive approach, visiting out a number of communities and asking important questions of the professionals at each facility. This makes the evaluation process easier and ensures an informed decision that is right for your loved one.

Begin your search process by identifying the communities you will be considering and developing your list of  questions and then visiting the communities in person. Following is a list of points you might cover with the  senior living professionals at each assisted living facility:

  • What were your community’s last two survey results from the Agency for Healthcare Administration?
    • Annually, the Agency for Healthcare Administration evaluates assisted living facilities and ranks them. By law, the facilities are required to share the results of those surveys with the public.
  • What is your patient to staff ratio for  patient care staff?
    • Often, assisted living facilities will give you a staffing ratio that incorporates housekeepers, healthcare professionals, administrative staff and others who don’t have any role in caring for seniors. An ideal staffing ratio is 1 to 10 and should only incorporate care staff.
  • Can my parents age in place at your community or would they eventually need  to be discharged to a higher level of care?
    • When considering assisted living facilities, this is a question that is frequently overlooked by caregivers. Always look for a community where higher levels of care and end of life care are provided so you can avoid a difficult move for the senior in your life down the line.
  • Can I pay a higher application fee to reduce the overall monthly costs?
    • It’s important to investigate all funding options. Ask questions about acceptance of Aid and Attendance and the long term care diversion program. If your senior doesn’t qualify for these benefits, ask how to reduce monthly costs by paying more in advance.
  • Does the breakdown of cost of assisted living at the community affect my parents’ eligibility for benefits like Aid and Attendance?
    • Some communities offer items à la carte based on a senior’s individual needs. If a community does this, often times assistance with daily tasks like bathing or brushing hair cost more per month and may render them ineligible to receive benefits. Look for assisted living communities with all-inclusive approaches since this won’t negatively impact the senior’s eligibility.

There are many factors to consider in choosing a senior care community, but asking astute questions of senior living professionals can minimize some of the stress and confusion and provide you with a way to measure the communities against each other. 

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