My next installment of What’s Out There for Seniors deals with various areas of assisted living. In the last issue I discussed the advantages of residential care homes as a relatively new form of assisted living. There are other choices of assisted living that you might consider when looking for help for yourself or your loved one. If you have decided that in-home care or family assistance no longer works well for your loved one and you are concerned about his or her safety, assisted living facilities may be an answer for you. Obviously, moving out of one’s home is traumatic at any age. Yet if your loved one is dealing with dementia or Alzheimer’s, the realization of needing to move can be extremely confusing and emotional. You need to be aware of what is available for seniors in order to find the best care. It is important to know that assisted living homes and facilities are not the same as nursing homes. Assisted living is independent living with a support structure that can check in on the elderly residents on a given schedule, monitor the taking of medicines and provide a level of service depending on the personal needs of each resident, such as bathing or dressing.

So, how do you know if an assisted living facility is the best choice for your loved one? First, consider whether he or she requires a high level of care or support or is basically independent but may have issues of maintaining a home or need reminders. Think about whether his or her lifestyle has become a safety question. Does your loved one have trouble with stairs or remembering to turn off water or stove burners or to lock or unlock doors? These are things to consider when deciding that an individual needs care outside of the home. You can benefit greatly by using a professional locator service to help you find the assisted living environment that provides the senior with the right level of independence, yet offers enough support to meet his or her needs. Families often need professional services to help them find what is appropriate and also to help them deal with making decisions that will affect their loved one and the family. You don’t want to choose a facility based on how pretty it is or merely because the next door neighbor said her uncle is there. Each facility is different, and you need to choose one based solely on the needs of your loved one. Choosing the right place is essential to avoid having to move because it really wasn’t the place for your senior. Careful planning ahead of time can make the transition a lot easier for the senior and the family. So what do you look for in a facility? Cost will certainly be a factor. Some facilities cost more than others and can provide more activities and staff. Understanding your budget or the budget of your loved one is vital, as you don’t want to consider a facility that is beyond your budget and that might cause another move at a later date. Be aware that costs can also change, often based on the level of care needed now and in the future. The assisted living facility you choose needs to provide what is best for your family member. Cost is important, but so is the need for social activity and, of course, the food provided. Make sure you take time to visit the facility a couple of times before you make the final decision. Pay attention to the staff as well, noting how visible they are. Check out the dining room and stay for lunch to make sure the food is what your loved one needs. Talk to the staff about meals that your senior might need because of special diets or diabetes. If it is difficult to get him or her to doctors’ appointments, check to make sure transportation is provided.

Location of the facility may also be a consideration for your loved one, who may want to stay in a familiar part of town or be close to relatives. Understand that the facility will become the senior’s home, and you can’t ask too many questions or check everything too carefully before you make the decision to move your loved one. It is very important that he or she be happy and, above all, safe and secure. If your senior is able to help in the decisions, consider his or her feelings regarding the facility. Always remember there are choices, so don’t just settle because you think there aren’t other alternatives. Knowledge of what’s out there is extremely important when handling the next life stage of your loved one. Consider using professional services to take on the legwork for you and steer you in the right direction toward assisted living situations that best fit your family member. You will save a tremendous amount of time and effort by contacting a professional service rather than trying to take on this important decision by yourself. There’s a lot out there!

By Wendy Huston

Wendy Huston is owner/CEO of Bloom Where You’re Planted, offering free adult and senior living resources.