How to Find Out What Assisted Living Offers

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When choosing whether assisted living is the way to go for your long-term care situation, there are many considerations. You might need help to guide you through all that comes with assisted living: the services, options, costs, and more. But first, it helps to know exactly what assisted living is, so read on.

All assisted-living facilities, however defined, offer three main components:

  • Shelter: Residents are given a place to live, usually a private unit or apartment.

  • Meals: Food is provided, although not necessarily three meals a day.

  • Staff: The facility staff provide the assistance that comes with the name. In addition to managers and activity directors, most facilities have aides or attendants to help with bathing, dressing, getting around with a cane or walker, and other daily tasks.

When it comes to services provided by staff, you may hear the term ADLs frequently. It stands for activities of daily living, which are the actions people take for granted until they can't do them by themselves anymore — dressing, bathing, going to the bathroom, and feeding themselves.

ADLs have a companion term — IADLs, or instrumental activities of daily living — that includes tasks like making phone calls, managing money, managing medications, shopping, and cooking. People in assisted living, may also need help with these responsibilities.

Assisted-living facilities may be located in cities and look like ordinary apartment buildings. Some are in suburban locations with lots of open space. There are fewer assisted-living sites in rural areas.

Some assisted-living facilities are luxurious and provide a wide range of services and amenities. At the other end of the spectrum, some facilities have small staffs and offer limited assistance.

When you are considering an assisted-living facility, be sure to ask about staffing (how many, training, special skills, and background checks). If the management seems evasive, probe further. The response will give you an idea of whether this is a place you want to consider further or avoid.

Assisted-living facilities may be large or small. About a third of all facilities are considered large (26 or more beds), but they have more than 80 percent of all assisted-living residents. About 82 percent of all facilities are run by for-profit organizations, some of which are national or regional chains. The rest are run by charitable or religious organizations or by state, city, or local governments.

In general, larger facilities have more staff and can offer more activities. This benefit may be offset by frequent staff changes and a more impersonal management style. Your preferences about small-group living versus a large residence should be part of your decision.

If you or your parent have always lived in a private house with few close neighbors, it may be difficult to adjust to large-group living, even if you have your own apartment. Or a new environment may be just what you are looking for.

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