Choosing an Assisted Living/Residential Care Facility
When older persons can no longer live independently, and do not require 24-hour-a-day skilled health care, but need regular assistance with basic aspects of daily life (bathing, dressing, eating, housekeeping, and transportation), the answer is often assisted living/residential care. The services, plus the security of living with others in a supervised setting, offer a viable alternative to in-home care for thousands of older Americans.
An assisted living residence is designed to meet personal service needs, housing needs and, often, health care needs. Housing situations vary from single and double rooms to kitchen-equipped apartments. The residence may be part of a retirement community, nursing home, or elderly housing facility, or it may be an independent building on its own campus.
Types of Services
Assisted living/residential care services typically include:
- Assistance with daily living activities—bathing, dressing, eating, toileting
- Help with medications
Choosing a Residence
Each assisted living facility/residential care facility offers its own menu of services and fees, as well as its own unique atmosphere. If many residences exist in your area, choosing the most appropriate one will require some investigating. Visit several before making a choice and ask these questions:
- What types of services are available?
- Are services provided by employees or contractors?
- How much input do residents have in their daily schedules and care?
- What range of accommodations are offered?
- What's included in the rate?
- What extra services can be added?
- Can residents bring furniture or other personal items from home?
- What kinds of social and recreational activities exist?
- Does the facility provide other levels of care? Or might a move to another facility be necessary later on?
In addition, you'll want to learn more about the facility's licensing status, safety, and environment. Consider taking the following steps:
- Ask to see the most recent licensing inspection report from the state.
- Examine the physical aspects of the facility: cleanliness; lighting; adequate handrails, especially in bathrooms; and ways patients can get help in an emergency.
- Observe the staff. Make sure the personnel are respectful and friendly.
- Talk with the residents about life at the facility.
According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP, 2001), the yearly costs of assisted living/residential care facilities may range, on average, from $2,000 to $2,500. Cost variations are generally based on region, accommodations and selected services. The vast majority of residents self-pay, using personal savings to fund their stays. Those who qualify for Medicaid may be eligible for financial assistance if the state has applied for, and been approved under, a home and community-based waiver.
With limited public assistance available, long-term care insurance has become a popular funding option. Most policies cover assisted living/residential care facilities, but it is important to review your policy to determine if yours does.