14 Ridgedale Avenue, Suite 254
Cedar Knolls, NJ 07927

What should I look for when evaluating an assisted living facility?

A century ago, most elderly people who became increasingly dependent and/or disabled continued to live with younger family members or moved back in with them. At present, when almost everyone is at work during the day, there is no one at home to tend to elderly loved ones. To fill this void, residential “assisted care” facilities have popped up everywhere.T hey are designed to meet the daily needs of seniors for whom everyday tasks are becoming more difficult, providing meals, cleaning service, laundry service, essential transportation, various stages of medication administration, help with hygiene, camaraderie and group activities including exercise, educational, recreational and entertainment gatherings.

The concept of assisted living is a useful one: providing older individuals with the opportunity to live as independently as possible in a safe, communal atmosphere. Of course, some such facilities serve the needs of seniors better than others. Whether you are investigating a living arrangement for yourself or for an older relative, you should be aware that one thing assisted living centers do not provide is elder law or estate planning services. This is significant because decisions will most likely have to be made regarding nursing home care down the road and it is best to arrange your finances so that the senior has prepared for Medicaid eligibility. If not, the combined expense of the assisted care and nursing home care can deplete financial resources very quickly. Also, a skilled estate planning/elder law attorney can help you ensure that asset protection and distribution and, if necessary, business succession are thoroughly addressed.

Don’t Just Ask Questions, Observe!

Most assisted living brochures make the facility they represent look appealing, full of attractive seniors, active and enthused, enjoying lovely surroundings. Remember that this is advertising and have a careful look for yourself. The facility you are evaluating is likely to have a well-decorated, cozy-looking entrance area, a pleasant dining room, a gym and a room for artistic endeavors. Make sure that all of this is not just window dressing.

What you should look for is whether current residents are well-groomed, smiling, interacting with one another. Is the gym being used under supervision? Are the library books are being read? Is anyone actually doing creative projects? If there is a musical presentation, are the residents engaged? Have a meal or two in the dining room to assess the quality of the food and whether the service is timely and friendly. Make certain that the dining room will cater to any necessary dietary restrictions. Most important, talk to the current residents to find out how they find their new home. Does it meet their needs? Do they feel well taken care of and safe? What complaints do they have? How do they like the staff members?

Take a tour of the facility.

Check out the rooms to see whether they are clean, nicely decorated and functional Make sure residents can decorate their rooms and have adequate storage. Take a careful look at safety and security measures — bathroom fixtures, smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers, CO2 detectors. Make sure there is a safe area for walking around on the grounds and that the facility keeps check of the presence or absence of their residents.

Check the Patient/Staff Ratio and the Services Provided

Make sure that you or your loved one will have the assistance that is promised. What training do staff members have? How well are they vetted? What special services are provided and is there extra cost involved? Can a sick resident have food brought to his or her room? What happens is a resident begins to need help with hygiene and grooming?

Make Sure the Assisted Living Facility Is Accredited

This is an area in which your elder law attorney may be able to help you by checking for legal documentation and reputation of the residence. She or he can make sure of whether there have been any lawsuits filed against the facility for sanitation, safety, or abuse violations. Your elder law attorney will also be able to review any legal documents and fee structures before you sign on the dotted line.

Be Careful About Examining Costs Carefully

While there are many wonderful assisted living facilities, there are some inferior ones as well. You need to check that you or your beloved relative will be in good hands and that the assisted living facility will do its job to protect and provide physical and emotional nourishment. Think about the specific needs that must be met, such as getting to and from medical appointments, getting haircuts, getting to religious services, having visitors. If this assisted living facility is to be the new resident for yourself or someone you love, make sure it feels like home.

Posted in: Elder Law