Choosing the Right Assisted Living Facility

At some point in life, many of us will have to face the challenge of finding an assisted living facility for a loved one—or for ourselves. There are now a million Americans living in such facilities, which run the gamut from offering a little help with daily chores to providing full-blown nursing care.

Finding information about them isn’t as easy as you might think. When I started my research for this post, I was surprised to find very few objective articles on the subject. Instead, most information comes from the care facilities themselves or from service providers that help people navigate them. One of the most helpful articles I found was this Wise Bread piece about exploring your options for assisted living.

So how do you go about choosing the right care facility?

One of the first things you need to ask about is the level of care. You should consider not just what services your loved one needs today, but what they might need in the future. For example, some facilities are fine with wheelchairs, but others require residents to be mobile on their own. Do you think your loved one would be OK with another move if it becomes necessary? If so, would you be able to assist with the move, or would you need to find help?

It’s crucial to determine what you can afford. The cost of care facilities varies widely. Some have entry fees of hundreds of thousands of dollars, while others have none. On the other hand, a place with a $200,000 entry fee may have lower monthly payments than one with no move-in costs. If there is an entry fee, what happens to the money if a resident moves or passes away?

Next, you need to learn about quality of life. Do research to find out whether a facility is licensed and whether it has had any citations or complaints. Ask about the staff-to-resident ratio.

What about amenities? Does the place provide three meals a day? What about cable TV, field trips, exercises, art classes? The more entertainment options it offers, the better chance residents have for finding things they like to do.

The best way to get a sense of what life is like at a facility is to take a tour. Does it look and smell clean? Visit with a few of the residents. Do they seem happy and well cared for? Eat a couple of meals on-site and chat with your tablemates. If you enjoy your experience, chances are, your loved one will too.

While dealing with the need for assisted living is never easy, if you do your due diligence, the result can be a smooth transition to a positive living experience for years to come.