Just making the decision to consider assisted living as an option for a parent is challenge enough. If you’ve started your research, you’ve probably noticed that most assisted living communities provide some sort of housing, meal service, personal care and support, social activities, 24-hour supervision and health-related services, but all in slightly different ways.
There is no standard for assisted living communities, and they’re not regulated by the federal government, which can make comparing one community to another difficult. Here are three simple steps that will help you compare assisted living communities.
Step 1: Research
Start by making a list of communities that interest you. Because all assisted living communities vary in size, appearance, cost and services offered, prioritize what is most important in the community you see your parent calling home.
Every parent is different. In some cases, you will want to involve your parent in deciding which communities “make the list”. In other cases, it might be easier to narrow down the options to one or two before introducing them to your parent.
Review the community’s website. Also, take a look for online reviews. And see if the community has a presence on social media (like Facebook).
Step 2: Call
Now that you’ve narrowed down your list of assisted living communities, it’s time to call each one. When you call, ask for a general overview of their features, amenities and services.
Communities that understand the importance of uncovering what is most important to you will likely have several questions that allow them to determine what information might be most helpful to share over the phone.
Compare the level of customer service you receive from each community when calling. Was the receptionist attentive? Did you receive assistance the first time you called, or were you asked to leave a message, and someone would get back to you? Did the person you spoke with give you their full, undivided attention? Take notes on each call and compare them after sorting through your list.
Step 3: Visit
Don’t expect to dive too deeply into pricing information over the phone. Each community structures pricing slightly different and seeing the community to better understand pricing is best way to go. Since pricing can also rely heavily on the size and location of the apartment that might be most appealing to your family, seeing the community will also give you a better idea of what pricing might be like.
Identify what services, features, and amenities are included in the pricing structure, and then take note of things that might be an additional expense.
Plan on visiting your top picks at least twice. The first time, ask if you can schedule a tour during an activity or during a meal time. If you hadn’t previously involved your loved one, the second visit is a great time to bring them along. Avoid selecting a community without having your loved one involved.
When you go in for your tour, pay close attention to how you feel and what is going on around you. Is the community clean? Are the stairs and hallways well-lit? Are there enough common areas, such as dens and living rooms? Are the residents groomed and dressed appropriately? Spend time with the staff and residents. Ask them what they like and dislike about the place.
How is the care? Is the staff attentive without being intrusive? Are the doctors and nurses helpful and accommodating? Is there anything missing?
After the tour, make sure to address the questions that arose while reviewing the marketing materials. This is also a good time to make sure you understand the monthly rate for housing and care and what services that rate includes. Some assisted living communities offer all-inclusive pricing, which includes a private residence, three meals per day plus assistance with dressing, grooming, bathing, and medication management and administration if needed. But many communities offer tiered pricing or a levels of care agreement. It’s important to get a clear description of what is and is not included in an all-inclusive agreement, the tier structure and frequency and process for re-evaluation of a resident’s care requirements in the levels of care agreement, and a cost breakdown for fees for each service in a fee-for-service agreement for each assisted living community you’re looking at.
Comparing assisted living communities is time-consuming but knowing as much as possible before an emergency arises is best. In some cases, you might come across a community that has a waiting list, so being prepared allows you time to wait for the right place.