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As the population ages, more people are discovering assisted living and the benefits and peace of mind it provides. Assisted living is for those who need some help in their daily lives, but don’t require the medical care provided by a nursing home or other institutional setting. It provides housing and services when it is no longer safe or practical for an older adult to live alone in his or her home.

Most assisted living communities offer individualized care on a need basis and have a nurse on call 24 hours a day. Services vary, and usually include bathing, dressing or medication management; nutritious meals, a variety of planned activities, transportation and a comfortable apartment.

"With the help of today’s assisted living communities, older adults are getting the traditional care they need, while maintaining much of their independence and dignity in a place they can call home," said Charles Richardson, director of assisted living for Brookdale Senior Living, a leading owner and operator of senior living facilities throughout the United States. "Assisted living communities alleviate the challenge of care from the families, and in turn are making a commitment to enhance the quality of life for today’s older adults."

Reputable assisted living facilities will offer similar levels of basic services. How these services are delivered and presented distinguishes one community from another. Beyond the basics, it’s up to the prospective resident to find the particular assisted living community that he or she will be happy to call home.

Assisted living communities come in a wide variety of sizes and building styles, ranging from apartment buildings to converted homes. They can be free-standing or part of a larger campus which includes independent living and/or skilled nursing. Offerings vary from one room to a full apartment, and are operated by both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.

When researching assisted living facilities, consider the following:

Staff and Residents

  • Are residents interacting with one another? Do they appear happy, comfortable and well-groomed?
  • Does the staff at the assisted living facility treat each other in a professional manner?
  • Does the staff interact warmly with residents in a caring and friendly
  • Does the staff appropriately greet visitors and competently answer

Physical Features

  • Are the location and appearance pleasing?
  • Is the assisted living facility clean, free of odors and appropriately heated and cooled?
  • Are the floors non-slippery?
  • Do all areas have appropriate lighting?

Needs Assessments

  • Does each resident have a written plan of care?
  • Is there a process for assessing and periodically re-assessing a resident’s needs?
  • Are the resident, family, community staff and resident’s physician involved in the needs assessment?

Contracts and Finances

  • What are the policies regarding termination of contracts and refunds?
  • Is there an availability of programs to help cover the cost of services?
  • Will you receive a copy of a contract which includes room, personal care, health care and supportive services provided?
  • Are there additional services if a resident’s needs change

Medication and Health Care

  • Are there written policies regarding storage of medication, assistance with medications, training and supervision of staff and record keeping?
  • Is self-administration of medications allowed?
  • Is staff available to coordinate visits from a home care nurse or therapist?
  • Is a physician or nurse regularly on-site?
  • Is there a written policy for responding to a resident’s medical emergency

Services

  • What are the available services provided at the assisted living facilities?
  • Does it include housekeeping and local transportation?

Individual Unit Features

  • Are a variety of apartment sizes available?
  • Is a 24-hour emergency response system available?
  • Are furnishings provided or can a resident bring his or her own?
  • Is a telephone and cable TV hook-up available?
  • Is the building secure?

Social and Recreational Activities

  • Are activities available in the assisted living community? How often and what type?
  • Can family members participate in the programs?
  • Are pets allowed?

Food Service

  • Do menus vary from day to day and meal to meal?
  • Are snacks provided?
  • Can residents at the assisted living facility request special foods?

In addition to the above, look for an assisted living facility that offers any other non-tangible needs for a loved one, including maximizing independence, encouraging individuality, nurturing of the spirit and, above all, a safe, secure residential environment for an enhanced peace of mind.

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