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Your Guide to Interviewing and Inspecting an Assisted Living Facility

Is the facility state licensed?

  • What kind of license and the date of the license?
  • Does it accept Medicaid?

Who owns the facility?

  • Is it run by a large corporation or chain?
  • Is it a nonprofit or profit organization?
  • Is it a religious (faith-based) facility?
  • Is it run by individuals?
  • Is it affiliated with a nursing home?

Word to the wise: Finding out who is legally responsible and operates the facility helps you track down its record and reputation with the Better Business Bureau and government agencies. Some religious and nonprofit homes will help subsidize payments.

What's the capacity: How many people are allowed to reside in the facility?

  • How many residents currently live here?
  • On average, how long do residents live here?

Word to the wise: Find a place that is filled close to capacity and where people have been residents for a long period of time.

How many staff are employed full-time?

  • Can you describe their positions?
  • How many aides do you employ? Are they certified as nursing assistants?
  • What's the average length of employment of your employees?
  • How many staff are employed part-time?

Word to the wise: Watch out for facilities that have high staff turnover rates, or too few staff to care for a large number of residents. If the residents appear to have quite a few needs, then the facility is probably understaffed.

  • What kind of ongoing training does your staff receive?
  • Has all your staff been cleared by a background check (police check and state registry for nursing assistants)?
  • Could you please describe the needs of the current residents?
  • What percentage are wheelchair bound?
  • What percentage need help with eating?
  • What percentage need help with bathing?

Word to the wise: If these percentages are high, make sure the facility has a good staff-to-resident ratio because these folks are going to need a significant amount of help every day.

What core services does the facility offer under the monthly rate?

  1. Meals
    • How many a day?
    • If my parent is sick, will you deliver to the room?
    • Is there a dietician overseeing the menus?
    • Can I see a copy of last month's menu?
    • Can you meet my parents' special diet needs (for example, healthy heart diet, diabetic diet)?
    • Do you provide assistance with eating?
    • Who prepares the meals? What is their training?
  2. Daily Living Task Assistance
    • What kind of housekeeping will be done in my parent's room and how often?
    • What laundry services do you provide?
    • Does my parent need to bring his or her own linens (washcloths, towels, sheets, pillowcases)?
    • How often is the bedding changed?
    • Do you wash all clothing or is this an extra charge?
    • What personal belongings can my parent bring (such as small appliances like a microwave, humidifier, small refrigerator; bedroom furniture, chairs, wall hangings)?
    • Is there a dry cleaning service?
    • Do you provide assistance with bathing?
    • What kind of training does the person have who assists?
    • What kind of safety features are installed in the bathroom?
    • Is there an emergency call button in the bathroom?

Is transportation provided?

  • Where to?
  • Can arrangements be made for doctor's appointments?
  • Is there a charge? How much?

Are there any formal relationships with hospitals, primary care clinics, and nursing homes?

  • Do you help my parent get help if he or she gets sick?
  • Is there a physician on call?
  • Should my parent have his or her own physician?
  • If my parent is out for an extended period of time such as in the hospital or at a rehab facility, does my parent keep the room and is there a lesser charge?
  • Do physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists come regularly to the facility?
  • Will the facility automatically call me if my parent is sick?

What social and recreational activities are offered?

  • May I see a copy of the most recent month's activity calendar?
  • Are the activities varied and interesting? Do the residents have input in planning the activities?

What safety features does the facility provide?

  • Does it have a sprinkler system?
  • Are there adequate numbers of smoke detectors?
  • Are there handrails in the hallways?
  • Are there panic buttons in the rooms?
  • Is there air conditioning? (Heat waves are lethal to older people, so make sure there is proper temperature control for all seasons.)
  • How does the facility protect older people from wandering off (and yet, not lock them in case of a fire)?
  • What is the fire escape plan?
  • Is the staff bonded in case of theft?

What extra services are offered and what is the charge? For example:

  • Do you provide assistance with finances and bills—taking residents to the bank, help with paying bills, etc.? (Be sure there is no conflict of interest. Chances are, however, that most of your parent's monthly income will be going directly to the assisted living facility. Look into paying bills for your Mom or Dad electronically and having all income directly deposited into his or her account.)
  • How much does telephone service cost? What does the facility provide for residents who do not have a private phone? Does each resident have their own line?
  • Is there a hairdresser or barber on the premises? What are the rates?
  • Is massage therapy available? What is the cost?
  • Do you offer dry cleaning pickup and delivery? How often? What is the cost?

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents © 2001 by Linda Colvin Rhodes, Ed.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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