5 Steps for Choosing an Assisted Living Facility
I just read a great article authored by John North of the Better Business Bureau titled "5 Steps Before Choosing an Assisted Living Facility." I'll hit on a few of the high points plus a few of my own thoughts, but I encourage you to read the article.
1. Deterimine if assisted living is the correct level of care for your family. Many people are incorrectly placed in assisted living facilities. Some people need skilled nursing care which requires being placed in a nursing home. Others will be better off with home health. You should consult with your doctor about the appropriate level of care. A geriatric care manager can also help. Unfortunately some assisted living facilities are so eager to fill beds they accept residents who should be in a different setting.
2. Investigate the facilities, i.e. do your homework: In Virginia, assisted living facilities are licensed by the Department of Social Services and they are inspected regularly. If you go to the DSS website you can review regulatory violations. A couple minor violations should not scare you away, however, a pattern of serious violations should be a signal to look elsewhere. The Better Business Bureau can also provide you with a list of accredited assisted living facilities. However, I do not know if there is a strong correlation between BBB accreditation and quality of care.
3. Visit the facility. This one should be obvious. However, many people skip this step which is surprising. When you visit talk to the activities director to see if the facility offers activities that fits your family member's interest. Ask to eat in the dining room to taste the food and to talk to the residents. Weight loss is a big concern in long term care facilities so you want to know if the food is appetizing, if there are sufficient staff to assist the residents, if the residents look happy, etc.
4. Read the admissions documents before you sign. This is tedious since we are probably talking about 20+ pages of paperwork, but it is important. Does the facility have an arbitration agreement? That is a waiver of your right to a trial by jury if something goes wrong. Ask yourself why would the facility be afraid of a jury? Ask them to strike that part of the contract if you really like the facility. Watch out for hidden fees for services like medication administration, laundry, etc.
5. Lastly, ask about professional liability insurance. Assisted living facilities are not required to have insurance. If your loved one is injured he or she may be left without a legal remedy. In Virginia the facility must tell you if it has insufficient insurance or no insurance at all. I would be very skeptical of a facility that lacks liability insurance.