Assisted Living Centers: What to Look For

For some elderly family members, and assisted living center is the best option. Not only can your loved one receive immediate assistance at any time of the day or night, senior living facilities offer benefits such as activities and entertainment designed for their specific capabilities and age groups. We’ve put together a short list of things to look into before settling on a location for your elderly relative.

Training and Advancement

Find out what the training and education requirements are for various staff members. In addition to knowing when doctors and specialists are available, you should also ask about staff nurses, physical therapists, and specialist staff such as memory care and dieticians. A few key questions to ask include:

  • Are continuing education credits required? How many and how often?
  • Are medical staff required to take annual refresher courses?
  • What, if any, specialists are on staff?

Staff to Patient Ratio

It is important to know both how many doctors and nurses are on staff, and the ratio of nurses and doctors to elderly residents. There is no standard ratio, and individual states have authority to raise or lower the preferred ratio. Additionally, the ratio will differ between day, evening and overnight staffing. In general, these numbers are considered acceptable:

  • Daytime: 1:5 to 1:8
  • Evening: 1:8 to 1:15
  • Overnight: 1:10 to 1:20

The reason the ratio is higher for evening and night shifts is twofold. First, day shifts are busier, including medical visits, therapy sessions, and other specialized care which is not typically performed during the evening and night shifts. Second, the residents themselves tend to be less active at night, requiring less devoted attention during normal sleep periods.

Types of Available Programs

The number and type of activities and exercise available may be more important than you think. Research shows that physical activity is crucial to preventing muscle loss and bone decay. And if your loved one has memory care issues, games and physical activity may help them minimize memory loss over time. Even interacting with other seniors can help with everything from avoiding depression to reducing the effects of arthritis.

Special Needs and Services

Every senior has a different set of needs and requirements. For example, a resident with diabetes will require a more specialized diet, while seniors suffering from Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s will need services and attention related specifically to their conditions. Whether your loved one has dietary needs, incontinence, or memory care, it is vital to their well-being that you choose an assisted living center which is right for them in every way.

Family Notification and Communication

Unfortunately, not all senior living centers provide communication with family members as a matter of course. Look for one that will provide immediate notification of injuries, even minor ones which do not require direct medical attention. If possible set up regular communication regarding any improvements or declines in awareness, health, or mobility. You should also look for a location that will allow you to drop in unannounced from time to time, and be wary of centers which prohibit doing so.

Security and Safety

Security is a prime concern, and one that is not dictated by law in most states. Look for a location which has security staff on the premises day and night, as well as security monitoring in the form of cameras, exit door alarms, and regular bed checks where applicable. If your family member is able to move about, you should also inquire about fencing and other outside security measures.

Routine Services

Some senior centers include provisions for aging in place, and might include kitchen facilities, laundry rooms, and other utilities. You would do well to know what a prospective location has available, as well as understanding such details as dining schedules and typical menu options. Another service offered by some centers is transportation to various functions, events, and civic centers such as libraries or shows

Some seniors may require assistance with things such as bathing or dressing. Most assisted living centers include these services, but it is always a good idea to know what is available, and what is included in the cost as opposed to requiring additional fees.

If you have any questions, please ask below!