Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on changingaging.org, written from the perspective of a patient who spent over 10 years in an assisted living facility.
- Before you sign the contract, check the Exclusionary Clause. This is the “We can throw you out if” list. It can include incontinence, dementia, and dying.
- If you use a wheelchair, know that the overwhelming majority of assisted living facilities are not wheelchair accessible.
- The primary objective is to make a profit. Everything else is secondary. **I’m going to revise this one after reading a letter from my friend, Sue Anagnostou of ACHCA, who correctly pointed out that profitability is not a liability, but rather an asset. What I should have said is that the problem of profiteering becomes a problem when it’s done at the expense of personal care attendants making a living wage.
- Ask for a copy of the Activities Schedule. The greater the number of interactive activities, the better.
- As a general rule of thumb, not-for-profit and religious facilities often provide the best care. Here’s another way to think of it: the number of phone calls necessary to reach a decision-maker, is an accurate barometer of how responsive staff and administrators are likely to be.
- Find out how many employees are on the 11 pm – 7 am shift. These are the hours most falls occur.
- Does the facility have a Resident’s Council?
- Do residents have access to mental health professionals? Ambient Despair — the hopelessness many residents feel due to higher-than-normal rates of disability, depression, dementia and death — can spread like a virus in communities without mental health support.
- How much emphasis is put on physical fitness? Believe it or not, this is usually a good indicator of how much the facility is truly invested in a resident’s quality of life.
- How “self-energized” are the residents? Residents who are active and community oriented, always do better than those who stay in their rooms all day. What programs does your prospective facility has to encourage “purposeful living?”
About Martin Bayne, Guest Blogger
Martin Bayne is a journalist, Buddhist monk, MIT graduate, and well-known advocate for the aging. In the nineties, at the peak of his professional career and personal eldercare advocacy, Bayne was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. For the past ten years he has lived in an assisted living facility.