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Important questions to ask when considering assisted living

Quality of care, professionalism, services and amenities are apart of the decision-making process.


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Many of us face life’s hard reality of finding a comfortable, safe and trustworthy senior living community for our aging parents or loved ones. It’s never an easy task and one that raises a lot of questions, demands straight-forward answers, and will obviously take time, attention and a great deal of care. There are several things to take into consideration, including the level of care, professionalism of a staff, quality of services and amenities, safety and security and the overall cost.

One of the major decisions that has to be made involves whether your parent or loved one is able to live happily in an independent living community (IL), or, will require the care and attention of an assisted living community (AL). In some instances, a senior living community provides a continuum of care, so a person can move into the IL portion of the community, and then easily transition into the AL community, if and when the additional care is needed.

Assisted Living provides residents with as much independence as they want, with the knowledge that personal care and support is readily available. It is often viewed as the “best of both worlds” in senior living. However, every assisted living community is different, and it’s important for a person to understand the subtle – and not so subtle – differences that exist from one community to the next.

Of utmost importance is the level of nursing care. Almost every AL community states they have nurses on staff, but the staffing levels vary greatly from one community to the next. For example, not everyone will have a professional nurse or nurses on-site (opposed to simply being on-call) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This lack of availability could lead to serious consequences (such as late night emergencies that require medical attention, failure to recognize adverse reactions to medications, the improper administering of medicines and more).

Some of the key questions to ask a senior living community regarding their on-site staff include:

  • How many licensed nurses do you have on staff, and when are they here?
  • Who will administer medications to my parent/loved one?
  • Who will provide hands-on care to my parent/loved one?

In addition to having a professional nursing staff on-site, there are many other things to consider when researching an AL community. For example, AL communities should provide a life enrichment program (including daily activities), healthy menu options, laundry and housekeeping services, transportation, concierge services and even extra-amenities (such as a beauty salon, physical and occupational therapy, pharmacy services and a pool). An AL community shouldn’t fall short on the things that will make your parent or loved one safe and comfortable, as well as content and cared for.

Some of the “lifestyle” questions to might ask an AL community include:

  • How many meals do you serve a day, and may we review your menu and sample a meal?
  • Does your menu selection accommodate special diets and provide dietetic support?
  • What kinds of activities do you plan for residents, and how frequently do they occur?
  • What are some of your extra-amenities and services?
  • Is social and spiritual support offered?

Finding the best Assisted Living community for a parent or loved one is a large undertaking.  As long as you and your family take the time to do the necessary research and ask the right questions -- and support your loved one in the decision making process --  you can feel comfortable in the choice you make, together. 

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Sandy Christensen

Sandy Christensen is the vice president of operations at Balfour Senior Living

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