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When Choosing Assisted Living Residences, Watch for Red Flags - Richmond, VA

- Monday, April 14, 2014

Once you start looking at assisted living facilities for your loved one, be sure to choose wisely. Look around, ask good questions, and put stock in your ‘gut feelings’ as well. Observe the interaction between staff members and residents. Is it cheerful and respectful? Do staff members seem genuinely interested in the residents? If you see few residents in the common areas or participating in activities, it might signal that the facility is not full, which could bode ill for its financial stability.

Get a copy of the admissions contract and the residence rules. If you sense reluctance by administrators to part with such information at this early stage, consider it a red flag. The assisted living facility's contract outlines fees, services provided, and residents' rights, and explains who will handle medications, when reassessments of a resident's condition take place, and when a resident might be asked to leave because he or she needs more services than the facility provides.

The contract should also specify whether a resident is allowed to return to the same unit after a hospital stay. Nursing homes are required to hold a room for Medicaid patients, but many assisted-living facilities are not. Make sure that yours will.

Return unannounced several times to your top two or three choices of assisted living residences. Visit at different times of day, especially around mealtimes and the early evening to see how they are managed at busy and quiet times.

Ask to speak with the residence administrator. Even if it means coming back for another appointment, this is important. The residence administrator is the person who sets the mood and philosophy of the whole place. When you meet, ask to review the facility's licensing or certification inspection report. This should be readily available to the general public and will outline any complaints or black marks the residence has received during inspections. Ask how any problems were corrected.

Also ask about who will draw up the care plan for your relative and how much input he or she and the family will have. Find out how the facility will accommodate your relative's current and future needs. For example, someone with diet-controlled diabetes might eventually need insulin. How will the facility handle that? Find out how many employees are assigned to each resident. And look for a facility that has a licensed nurse on duty or on call at all times. Ask about the staff's training in such areas as safety, emergency care, first aid, mental health, residents' rights, and medication administration.

For more information on assisted living homes, contact Spring Arbor.

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