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How to Find an Assisted Living Facility

When you or a loved one needs assistance with activities of daily living, you may be able to find an assisted living facility in your area by knowing what to ask and where to search.

Getting old, it has been said, ain’t for sissies. As we age, we all come to a time where things just get harder to do. Maybe your older mother can’t handle the cooking or cleaning, or your father shouldn’t be raking leaves or shoveling snow anymore. Maybe you feel yourself like you could use some help with certain daily tasks in order to stay safe and healthy. For the most part you’re able to get along but wouldn’t mind some help now and then with certain chores.

That may be the time to consider moving to an assisted living facility (ALF).

What is an assisted living facility?

An assisted living facility is not the same as a nursing home or a skilled nursing facility (SNF). An assisted living facility is suited to individuals or couples who require some assistance with some of the activities of daily living, but not the kind of skilled nursing and medical care that an SNF can provide.

An assisted living facility can provide help with some daily activities, including:

  • Cleaning and other household chores
  • Laundry
  • Cooking
  • Bathing or showering
  • Medication management
  • Transportation to medical appointments or stores

These benefits are typically offered a la carte, which means the resident can pick and choose which services to access and can add or change services as their needs change. Each service comes with its own price.

How to find an assisted living facility

Each assisted living facility is different, of course, but a typical assisted living facility offers a private apartment or townhome, with shared common areas like the dining room and community room and certain amenities like a gym, pool or health spa.

Many of these communities include meal plans with up to three meals a day for those who want to cut down on cooking and dishwashing. They also typically offer 24/7/365 security and supervision. Some organize social and recreational activated for residents.

Finding the right living arrangement for you or a loved one requires some research and planning. Experts advise the following steps for choosing an assisted living facility.

  • Start sooner rather than later
    Begin the process well before you may need to make a decision, so you don’t get caught flat-footed if you suddenly must find assistance because of an unanticipated change in health.

  • Be inclusive in the decision process
    If you are the child of aging parents, make sure to learn what they want, not just what you want. You can ask questions such as:
    • What do you expect and need from assisted living?
    • What is your budget?
    • Where do you want to live?
    • What activities and amenities would you enjoy?
    • Do you have any other preferences or concerns?

  • Make a list of options
    Begin your search by making a list of the assisted living facilities in the region where you or your loved one wants to live.

You can use a number of resources to help in your search to find the best senior living communities in your area, such as:

  • Your local or state agency on aging, which may have a database of nearby assisted living facilities. You can find your nearest aging agency through the federal government’s Eldercare Locator website or by calling 800-677-1116.

  • LeadingAge, which is an association of organizations providing eldercare information. They offer an Aging Services Directory on their website that allows you to search for member facilities in your area.

  • Argentum, a trade association for senior living communities, who also has an online directory to search by ZIP code.

  • Geriatric care managers, who are trained providers of senior care who will most likely know some of the best assisted living facilities in your community.

  • An eldercare attorney who specializes in senior-related legal issues. If you already have such an attorney, pick his or her brain. 

You can also ask relatives, friends, neighbors and your loved one’s doctors for their recommendations.

What to ask when choosing an assisted living facility

When you choose a facility to visit, ask to see the facility’s license and accreditation and ask about staff turnover; a stable workforce indicates a happy place to work, which will translate to a happy place to live.

And speak to residents if you can. Ask their feelings about what they like and don’t like about the facility. They know the place best. 

Finally, trust your instinct. Does the facility “feel” right? Do you get the sense that you or your loved one would be safe, comfortable and well treated here? If not, it’s not the right place, so keep looking.

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David

About the author

David Levine is an award-winning writer and editor whose work has been featured in the New York Times, New York Daily News, Sports Illustrated, American Heritage, U.S. News & World Report and others.

David has covered health, health insurance and health policy topics – among many others – since 2017. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in English from the University of Rochester and currently lives in Albany, New York.

 

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