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Senior Assisted Living Blog

Assisted Living or Nursing Home? – Richmond, VA

- Friday, February 20, 2015

An older family member is having problems remembering to pay bills, take medication or perform daily physical tasks. Maybe you have decided you no longer want to live alone, or don't have the energy any more to maintain your home.

You've decided that a retirement community or assisted living facility is the solution but there are several in your area. How do you know which one is best for you or your family member?

Assisted living is a special combination of housing and personalized supportive services, designed to respond to an individual's needs that combines care with dignity in a residential, home-like setting. Specific services will depend on a facility's staff and environment, but can range from simple help with daily activities to many types of medical care. It can even include short term recovery or respite stays.

The first step in choosing a facility is to think about your vision of your current home. You want to find something that seems like home, that you would feel most comfortable in.

Get answers to frequently asked questions about who lives in assisted living, how facilities are regulated, cost and who pays the cost. Also make a list of important services and amenities such as atmosphere, physical features, needs assessments, contracts, costs, finances, health care, services, individual unit features, activities and food services.

One major consideration is whether or not a person can "age in place" and remain in an assisted living facility. Assisted living facilities are operated differently than nursing homes.

"If you go to a nursing home, you can pretty much see the same basic level of services at any other nursing home. Assisted living, on the other hand, is different. Everything is governed by a resident agreement."

As an example, every nursing home has medication administration, while an assisted living facility only provides the service to residents who cannot administer medication themselves — and only if the facility has the proper nursing staff. "

If you feel you may have more medical needs in the future, check to see if a facility can provide it in the initial resident agreement or modify the agreement to provide additional services. Some assisted living facilities are affiliated with another where a person can be moved for skilled care.

Another consideration when looking for an assisted living facility is location. Consider whether family members will be able to visit easily. People who are very social and want to continue participating in community activities might want to select a facility that is close by or offers access to transportation services.

It is often important that a person still have access to the community and that the facility provides opportunities for that, whether it's outings, opportunities for shopping or field trips or things like that. Things that each individual values in life or their preferences when they are living independently in the community don't change when you move into an assisted living facility.

Once you have decided the type of assisted living environment you want and types of services you need, the next step is to find out what potential facilities are available.

The final step in the selection process is one the experts say is the most important. Visit the facility to get a feel for living conditions, operations and staff interaction.

Some of the things to do during a visit include looking at the apartments and common areas, observing staff and resident interaction and talking with staff and residents about what goes on at the facility. Visit several times.

If you can, visit at meal times. Ask residents what they like and don't like. See how staff and residents are interacting and if there are planned activities for the day. Each facility is very different because of the kinds of care and the amount of care, so you have to be a smart shopper and see that you're getting what you need.

For more information on assisted living, contact Spring Arbor.

Lancaster Eagle Gazette