Is assisted living right for your parent? Yes…or maybe No.
Yes! Today’s assisted living isn’t like the dreaded “old-folks home” of years ago.
And No! Not every assisted living is the right match for you, your mom, her needs, and situation. They all look similar. They all seem to offer the same things. But…
not every assisted living is the right match for you, your mom, her needs, and situation.
What should you really be looking for and asking?
Let’s look “under the hood” of assisted living. Let’s get clear about what assisted living is – and what it isn’t. Here are the 5 basics that professional referral agents know and that you should know too.
Social Based vs Medical Based
You’ll often hear assisted living described as the “alternative to a nursing home.” This is only somewhat true. Assisted livings are not medical facilities.
Assisted living is more like independent retirement. Both offer a “hotel-style” of living. But, assisted livings hire in-house staff to provide hands-on help with daily living.
Think of assisted livings as a bridge. They span the gap between independent living and nursing homes that provide complex medical care.
Older adults wanting to remain independent but get help when needed, choose assisted living. These residents can direct their own care, value autonomy, and like having choices.
Licensed by the State
Assisted living facilities are licensed by the State Department of Human Services. They’re inspected every two years for compliance with Rules and Regulations.
Inspection reports are public information. Every community must keep reports in a binder, on-site, and easily accessible. Don’t be shy. Ask to see it.
In between inspections, any complaints of abuse or neglect are inspected within 24 hours. You can check Complaint Records online.
Floor to Ceiling Care
Imagine a home or hotel. There is the floor and the ceiling. Some buildings have tall ceilings.
In assisted living, the State sets the minimum requirements of care. That’s the floor or foundation. But each facility sets its own ceiling of care.
State-mandated basic services include:
- 3 meals + snacks per day
- Private apartments with full ADA accessible bathrooms and basic kitchenette
- Care assistance with bathing, dressing, personal hygiene, transfers, mobility, toileting, transportation arrangements, medication management, etc.
- 24-hour awake staff
- A social and activities program that meets life engagement needs of all residents
Each facility determines how much care they’re able or willing to provide.
Community “A” will assist or guide residents with transfers from bed to walker, if no lifting is needed. Community “B” will assist with transfers when 2 caregivers are needed, lifting is required, or a mechanical device is necessary.
Community “A” will pass oral medications on a regular schedule. They’ll also provide regular diabetic glucose testing and give regular injections. But, they’ll require residents use pre-measured insulin pens. Community “B” will provide full sliding scale diabetic injection care.
Also, a community’s “ceiling” can fluctuate. Fluctuations are based on overall acuity of care at any given time.
For instance, a community typically providing sliding scale diabetic care, may, at times, decline any new diabetic applicants. The nurse or administrator may decide there’re too many current residents needing a lot of care. They want to ensure their ability to meet the needs of residents.
Please note: there are many care tasks the State does not allow in assisted living. These care tasks are usually medical in nature and require licensed nursing. Residents in assisted living must be medically stable with predictable care.
Staffing Ratios Are Not Mandated
The State sets minimum requirements for care, but it doesn’t mandate staffing ratios. Each assisted living community is expected to staff according to the total acuity of care in the building.
Caregivers in Oregon assisted livings aren’t required to be CNAs. Frontline caregivers or personal attendants are usually unlicensed but have passed criminal background checks. On-the-job training and regular monthly ongoing training is required.
It’s important to understand that your mom or dad will share 1 caregiver with 13-20 other residents. The average staff to resident ratio is 1:15 (hopefully).
Every assisted living community has its own “culture” or personality. The mix of residents, their backgrounds and interests, the current administrator, and team determine the culture. Before moving your parent to an assisted living, visit several times. Meet the staff, residents, and resident families. Attend events and social gatherings.
Assisted living services continue to evolve. Many communities strive to meet today’s consumer expectations of choice, amenities, and aesthetics. Flexible dining and expanded menus are examples. But don’t be fooled. Lovely surroundings, fancy amenities, and extra services don’t always equate to five-star care.
Work with a Local Referral Agent
Work with a local referral professional. Make sure you find the right place for your mom or dad. Senior advisors have insider knowledge of a community’s history, staff turnover, compliance, and culture. They know the inside scoop. They’ve done the research, so you can relax through the journey.