Too many queries about assisted living start and end with “how much is it going to cost.”
While cost is a relevant question it should not be the primary focus. A better way to determine if you have the right assisted living community is to consider the value that it will bring to your life.
To help you see the value of a potential community, look at the following: health and life safety inspections, staffing ratios, resident appearance and overall satisfaction, dining services, resident programming and staff appearance and overall satisfaction.
Health and life safety inspections are a must-review before making a final decision about a particular community. When you visit a community simply ask for their most recent state inspection. The community should have these on file and make available to you upon request. You can also access this information at the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services’ (TDADS) website, http://facilityquality.dads.state.tx.us
The inspections are a barometer on the community’s compliance to state regulations. If you discover a community that has citations for either health or life safety, ensure that you visit with the community nurse or the administrator to get clarification on them and what corrections have been made.
Appropriate staffing is key to ensuring that residents receive timely and adequate care during routine and emergency situations. Each community should post their staffing for your review. If you don’t see what the current staffing is, please ask the community nurse or administrator for it.
TDADS does not specify a certain ratio of caregivers and medication aides to residents, but it is very important to determine if the community has enough staff available to assist on a day-to-day basis. To help you determine this, you should consider the number of residents the community has, the scope of the assistance provided at the location and the times that most residents would require some type of care.
To get a good idea if the community has enough staff, visit during a meal time. Observe the residents ‘ appearance, the time to get served and the staff’s ability to work together. If residents have bed hair, soiled or inappropriate clothing or body odor, this may be a sign that the location needs additional staffing. Furthermore, if the staff appear to be disorganized, frustrated or not friendly this is also a sign they may need more help.
When visiting a community you should always seek to visit with the residents and ask them about their stay. Some good questions to ask are: (1) How long have you lived at the community, (2) What do you like most about the residence, (3) What would you like least at the location and (4) What is a typical day like for you at the place.
Quality dining and a robust activity program can make or break a community. The food should look, smell and taste good, but there must also be variety to the menu. The activity program needs variety as well, but it also needs to address the social, spiritual and physical needs of residents.
A community that brings the most value may not be the least expensive, but it should have scored well in the aforementioned observation areas.