Some fear it; most will never need it; all should know that it is an option. Assisted living means moving from your home to a place where you can be looked after by professional staff. How can you know if it the best option for you or someone you care for, and how do you choose the right place?
Facing the Decision
Most people know if they are reaching the stage in life when they cannot manage alone at home, but it is a hard thing to admit to yourself or to your family. In that respect it is rather like discussing funeral arrangements—it is easier if you research the options on sites such as InvoCare.com and if you talk about it sooner rather than later.
The pointers about care needs may become clear if you can sit down and discuss them.
- Do you have difficulty doing the everyday tasks of washing, dressing, using the bathroom, feeding yourself?
- Do you find the whole business of maintaining your home a burden?
- Do you feel isolated and lonely for much of the time, and are you restricted by lack of transport?
- Do you worry that your home is no longer as clean and tidy as you like it to be?
- Are you concerned that you are not eating properly?
You may find after considering these issues that, if your family cannot realistically meet your needs, assisted living may be a good option for you.
Choosing a Provider
If you come to the conclusion that assisted living may be the answer, you need to research the facilities in your area. After studying the brochures and websites it is important to visit several homes. Be very clear about what you are looking for and don’t be afraid to ask straight questions.
- Trust your instincts and first reactions. Is this a place where you would be content to end your days?
- Meet the staff. Are all staff members approachable and caring? Do they appear to know the residents well and understand their individual needs?
- Observe the residents. Are they clean and well-groomed? If they ask for help is it provided immediately? Do they seem to have enough to do, and what is the social program like?
- Try the food. Is it nutritional, well cooked, and well presented? Does the menu for the month show variety and interesting options?
- See a typical room. Is it homely? Is there provision for personal furniture and ornaments? How often is it cleaned?
- Grill the management. What is the staff to resident ratio? What is night-time cover? What are the security arrangements, fire precautions, and emergency protocols? What will happen if things don’t work out and you need to move?
Make a Good Choice
Going into assisted living is not everyone’s ideal picture of their last days. But take heart—for many, it turns out to be one of the best decisions of their later years. Plan for it wisely and realistically, and it may provide a whole new experience of life.
Linda Webb has years of experience working as a resident assistant in an elder care facility. Now retired she is sitting down to share some of her knowledge on how to help, care for and better understand the everyday needs of our elderly population.