Assisted Living Basics and What To Look For

Deciding to place a loved one in long-term care can be heart-wrenching. Making the final decision might be the most challenging part of the process, but there are still many issues to face after the decision is made.

The assisted living communities you choose should meet all health care standards required by law. You'll also want to negotiate the best contract terms possible. This article contains useful information to help you ensure that this challenging period goes as smoothly as possible.

What To Look For in a Nursing Home

The key requirement for a nursing home is that your loved one enjoys living there and feels safe.

When considering different nursing homes, think about factors such as:

  • Cleanliness
  • Staff friendliness
  • Whether the residents seem happy
  • Whether recreation is made available
  • What amenities are provided
  • Level of medical care provided

It's a good idea to interview nurses and other staff and to speak with residents. You might ask staff about their understanding of legal duties such as reporting abuse. You can ask about medication management, care options, memory care, and other basic services.

If the team appears reluctant or refuses to allow you to speak with residents, that's probably a good indicator that you should avoid that facility.

Nursing Home Contracts

Nursing home contracts can have a wide variety of different terms. For example, some nursing home care may ask residents to sign a liability waiver so that they cannot hold the home responsible if a resident is injured.

If Medicare or Medicaid covers your loved one, ensure the residential care facility is adequately certified for those programs. Check to see exactly what care services are covered by the basic daily rate. Some homes offer more services but at a higher price.

It's essential to understand each term of the contract to avoid misunderstandings or problems in the future. You need to ensure that the personal care and medical services will meet any special needs your loved one may have.

Know a Resident's Rights

Under federal law, nursing home residents have the right to be treated with respect and dignity and to be free of abuse. Residents also have the right to privacy and voice grievances without retaliation. Some states have passed laws requiring nursing homes to allow residents to:

  • Choose their own physicians
  • Prepare meals that suit a resident's religious or dietary needs
  • Specify certain terms in residential agreements

Caregivers should know these rights. Know when to speak up if the level of care or quality of life is below standard.

Assisted Living Residence Services

Assisted living residences offer more services than independent living facilities. The type and level of assistance an older adult requires will depend on the individual.

One of the most frustrating parts of growing old is the loss of independence. These long-term, skilled nursing facilities allow older adults to retain their independent lifestyles and support the tasks and activities that become more difficult with age.

Assisted living residences typically provide such services as:

  • Meals, housekeeping, and other domestic assistance
  • Personal, but not nursing care
  • Recreational activities or guided daily activities
  • Health and safety monitoring

Assisted living offers many benefits to older adults, but it isn't for everyone. The residences, while set up to provide a homey feeling, are not a perfect substitute for a home, especially one that an older adult may have lived in for decades.

Assisted living residences also organize older adults' schedules. This can annoy someone who can handle most tasks but wants someone around to do the cooking and cleaning.

Types of Rooms Within Residences

Assisted living facilities offer a wide variety of living spaces for full-time residents:

  • One-bedroom apartments that may be indistinguishable from a standard rental unit
  • Studio apartments with small kitchens
  • Studio apartments with no kitchens
  • Single private rooms
  • Shared rooms
  • Separate bedrooms with a common living area

The living spaces may come with furniture, or the resident may be able to bring in their own furniture. The living areas will often have special accommodations for older adults, such as handrails, non-slip surfaces, and special fixtures.

Typical Activities of Daily Living

As people age, they may start to have problems with activities of daily living (ADL):

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Eating
  • Using the bathroom
  • Getting in and out of bed

Assisted living residences can provide the kind of personal attention that will help older adults with ADLs and allow them to retain more autonomy.

Health and Safety Monitoring

Family and friends of older adults in assisted living facilities will appreciate having someone around to ensure the resident is healthy and safe.

Assisted living residences will monitor their residents and check for signs of illness or distress. If there is a problem, this can be crucial in ensuring that older adults receive timely care.

Grocery and Meal Providers

Shopping for groceries and preparing meals can be a chore for everyone, but it can be challenging for older adults. Assisted living facilities can prepare meals for older adults, which can help them maintain a proper diet and stay healthy.

Cleaning Services

While most people take pride in keeping a tidy house, many older adults may struggle with the physical activities that this entails. In an assisted living residence, the staff can handle the housekeeping and let the older adults focus on other things.

Socializing, Hobbies, and Exercise

A good assisted living facility will encourage its residents to stay mentally and physically active. It will provide them with opportunities to socialize with other residents, take up hobbies and get a healthy amount of exercise.

What Does It Cost?

The cost of an assisted living facility will be different based on the size of the living space, the level of services provided, and the area in which it is located. People considering an assisted living residence should be aware that the living space is usually rented, and the rents, like any other apartment, can go up over time.

Many assisted living facilities also charge various fees at different points, so inquire about that as well.

How an Attorney Can Help: Rights, Contracts, and Safety

You and your loved one must fully understand their rights as nursing home residents. An attorney can explain those rights to you, including any additional rights your state may provide.

It's also important to understand the laws and regulations that apply to nursing homes in your area and to check whether the nursing home you have chosen or are considering meets the requirements.

An attorney can also help you and your loved one understand the residential agreement's terms. This is key so that your loved one knows their rights and obligations and what services the nursing home agrees to provide.

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