Is your parent in that in-between state, where independent living is no longer safe but nursing home care isn't necessary? If so, you might want to consider assisted living for your parent. Assisted living is a type of senior living arrangement that combines the best of both worlds. Assisted living encourages independence to the fullest extent possible and maintains dignity, but it also offers your parent assistance when necessary.
In an assisted living arrangement, your parent will most likely live in an individual room, apartment, or studio, but will have access to services like dining, social activities, wellness activities such as yoga and swimming, medication reminders, and personal care, such as help with bathing and dressing, if needed.
If you think that assisted living might be an appropriate senior living arrangement for your parent, there are several issues to consider. Adapted from Helpful Hints: Choosing an Assisted Living Facility by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, here are some questions to ask:
Does assisted living fit my parent's needs? Assisted living is often the perfect senior living situation for someone who can no longer live alone but who does not require nursing home care. It's also important to consider whether your parent has special needs, such as early-stage Alzheimer's disease, and whether the assisted living facility can meet those needs.
What does my parent really want? Be sure to involve your parent in the decision-making process. Assisted living facilities come in all sizes, and bigger ones are not always better. What matters is whether your parent wants to live in a smaller, more intimate arrangement or prefers a community with activities that involve larger groups of people.
What does my network recommend? Your network is your parent's healthcare team - such as doctors, nurses, and social workers - as well friends, family members, and other caregivers you've connected with through support groups or through EldercareABC.com. Ask your network for referrals to assisted living facilities in your area, because personal experiences are often the best sources of information.
How is health care handled? Because assisted living is not as comprehensive as nursing home care, there may not be as much monitoring of your parent's health status, and emergency medical care may not be as readily available. Be sure to find out how medical care is provided and if your parent would receive assistance getting to doctors for medical appointments.
Have we taken our time? Don't rush a decision as important as choosing an assisted living facility. This will be your parent's new home. Visit senior living options at different times of the day. Have a meal there. Watch how staff members interact with those that live there now.
Do we have everything in writing? I have heard disturbing stories from caregivers who thought they understood how much assisted living would cost until they received the first bill. Be sure to find out the basic monthly rate as well as costs for additional services. For example, some assisted living facilities charge a basic monthly rate for independent living but tack on extra charges for any extra type of assistance requested. Be sure to learn every detail about assisted living charges and get everything in writing.
By asking these questions, you're well on your way to finding the right assisted living facility for your parent. If you've already been through this process, please share your ideas about what other questions should be asked. Post a comment to this blog, and be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed to receive regular updates about new topics posted.
Carrie L. Hill, Ph.D