The Best Assisted Living Facilities: How to Make the Right Choice
Choosing the right Assisted Living Facility isn’t like choosing a restaurant or hotel. It’s a more serious decision with lasting impact. Googling or checking out review sites for the best assisted living facilities isn’t sufficient. And, that’s if you could even find a lot of solid information online. Many families try asking friends or their doctor for ideas, but since their experiences are limited this doesn’t yield the best results either.
So, how can you confidently choose the right ALF?
First, you have to know what your parent needs.
This may seem obvious, but it’s where most decisions go wrong. Do you really know in-depth what your parent needs on a day-to-day basis? And, do you have an idea where they’re beginning to falter and may soon have trouble? Starting with this foundation is essential to picking the right ALF. Different facilities provide different levels of care (and at different price points, in different areas, etc.). The best assisted living facilities in general may not be the best for a specific diagnosis or even your loved one’s personality. Your friend’s beloved ALF that took such good care of her Mom may be all wrong for your Dad.
This is also not about what you want or even perhaps think your parent needs. For example, we’ve sometimes found that adult children feel Mom needs a big apartment. They’re shocked by the thought of downsizing from their family home to a one-room apartment in an ALF. If they can’t imagine it for themselves or Mom, they might focus more on space than other (more important) elements. This is also true for the overall looks of a place, activities, and more. None of this is to say these things aren’t important. But, it all goes back to what best fits your parent’s needs. That is the foundation and priority.
What’s the best way to really know what your parent needs?
The best starting point is an independent assessment by a care manager. This is your aging expert, who understands care needs and also the ins and outs of local facilities. With an assessment, you get an unbiased view of the full picture.
Additionally, you get forethought on prognosis and anticipating future concerns. For example, you visit one of the best assisted living facilities in town. They say they can meet Mom and Dad’s needs and that they’d be able to stay there as their needs progress. You think it’s a perfect solution for Mom and Dad to stay together. A care manager might point out some of the potential pitfalls. Such as if Dad starts to wander or have other dementia-related behaviors, he’d have to move to their dementia unit. Or, Mom may continue to provide a lot of the care for Dad even though help is available. Neither of these issues necessarily make it the wrong choice. But, they sometimes come as a surprise to families. And, they may affect plans made based on certain budgets and expectations.
Visit the best assisted living facilities based on your parent’s needs, budget, and other factors.
Starting with the assessment, you can narrow down the list of potential facilities. Your care manager will offer custom recommendations…a bit like a matching process. It’s not just about care needs, but also factors like location, activities, services and much more. Choosing a home is different than choosing a hospital or surgeon. Yes, you want high quality. But, you also want to feel comfortable. It’s important Mom or Dad be well taken care of and staff be responsible and responsive. But, health depends on happiness too. The available amenities or activities…or the food…can make a big difference.
This is also why the visits are so important. You need to know what to observe and what to ask. You’re making a complex decision. And, your parent is making a serious transition. You don’t want them to have to make another one again soon, if at all possible.
The choice is only part one.
Even the best assisted living facilities won’t always run smoothly. Make sure to plan the transition well and help your parent adjust. A care manager can be a great help in this. We’ve assisted with thousands of moves so we know what works.
Every assisted living resident needs an active advocate. It helps even the best assisted living facilities do their job better. Good communication goes both ways. ALFs try to provide the most efficient care for a group of elders. But your focus is your parent. Attending care plan meetings, visiting regularly and talking with staff will help ensure your parent gets the best care. You may spot little issues before they become big problems or just be there to ask for what Mom needs. If you don’t live nearby, make sure your parent has a local advocate.