If your parent is ready to move into an assisted living facility, you may already be looking at possible locations that are close to your home in Washington State. While being near at hand is a convenient choice for visiting and socializing, make sure you investigate each community thoroughly before making your choice. We have compiled the ultimate list of tips, tricks, and questions to ask during your tour to make this transition easier for you and your loved one.
What to Do Before Your Assisted Living Interview
Determine Level(s) of Care
Once you’ve made an appointment with an assisted living community, determine the level(s) of care your loved one may need. While they may be independent and active now, you should determine what both current and future needs are/may be, so you can ask the appropriate questions. Determining proper levels of care will help in planning future financial decisions as they arise.
Understanding all aspects of a potential assisted living community are important for both you and your loved one, and preparing questions for the staff ahead of time will make the process more comfortable in making a decision.
Here are the top questions to ask:
Assisted Living Questions Pertaining to Residential Life:
- My loved one has a pet, is there a pet policy?
- Are the apartments furnished or unfurnished?
- What is the visitation policy?
- Where is Wifi accessible? Or, are there resident-use computers provided?
- What activities occur on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis?
- What meals are provided to residents? Can meals be delivered directly to their apartment if needed?
- Who will be the main team members taking care of my loved one?
Assisted Living Questions Pertaining to Safety:
- Where is the latest inspection report from the state regulatory agency?
- What is the plan for weather emergencies and similar safety threats?
- How often do you perform safety drills?
- What steps are taken to ensure my parent will be evacuated during a fire if she is unable to leave the building on her own?
- What safety services and features are available at each level of care?
- If a safety, quality-of-care or maintenance issue is reported, how long does it take for the problem to be addressed?
- Has your living community won any safety awards?
- Are there smoke detectors and sprinklers in every area of the living community?
- Have all staff members been properly vetted? Can I trust the staff?
- Is there a security plan if my parent becomes disoriented and wanders?
Assisted Living Questions Pertaining to Staffing:
- What’s the patient/staff ratio, and how is it distributed?
- Do you do background checks on employees?
- What level of education is required of staff?
- What training is required?
- Are there specialists on-site?
Assisted Living Questions Pertaining to Cost:
- How is the base rate set?
- What is included in the base rate?
- Can I pay for additional services?
- Is there a security deposit or entrance fee?
- Are there any pet fees?
- What financial assistance do you take?
- What other levels of care are offered and how much do they cost?
What to Look for During Your Assisted Living Community Tour
In addition to your questions, while on your tour, it is important to be present and to make observations. The best way to get a feel for the community is to simply observe the ongoings while you are there.
Here are some things to pay attention to:
- Observe/talk to some residents
See how happy and content they are, and pay attention to their grooming and overall appearance.
- Look for cleanliness
Check the baseboards and corners and follow your nose. Make sure the common areas are clean and comfortable and odors aren't masked by heavy scents and sanitizers.
- Eat a meal
Join the residents in the common dining room (if able) and ask for a copy of the menu. Make sure there's a variety of daily choices, ensure that the food is well prepared, and watch to see if the residents enjoy their meals and the companionship of others.
- Tour an apartment
Make sure the living quarters are comfortable and easy to maneuver, with privacy yet accessibility to staff
- Watch the staff
Employees at an assisted living community are vital to the happiness of the residents. Note whether they treat the seniors with respect, take the time to listen, and interact naturally rather than with a forced demeanor.
Does the community staff seem to truly have a relationship with each resident?
- Sit in on an activity (if able)
Whether it's a senior movement class, craft session, or group game, you should sit in on an activity and see how much the residents interact and enjoy their time.
- Examine the records
Look for the health department inspection and ask how many accidents or emergencies have occurred in the past year.
An additional, important observation to make while touring the community is their actions to keep residents and staff safe while dealing with COVID-19. Be sure to ask if they have a plan in place that effectively follows governmental guidelines, and how are they keeping residents engaged while maintaining social distancing.
An example of a comprehensive plan that the community should have in place could look like as follows, from right here at Daystar:
- Following Guidelines
DSHS, CMS, and governmental recommendations are being adhered to.
- Resident Safety
Visiting amongst residents is done in small, socially distant groups, with face masks. Dinners and coffee services are delivered to each accommodation every day to eliminate large gathers in the dining areas.
- Visitor Safety
Family visits are scheduled in designated areas by appointment, and areas are sanitized before/after each visit.
- Staying Engaged
Group events inside the community buildings have been put on hold, but residents are still encouraged to remain active by getting outdoors for small group events, games, etc.
What to Think About After Your Assisted Living Tour
When you return from your tour, set aside a time within the next couple of days to have a regroup with your loved one to compare notes, thoughts, and feelings. Gather the notes you may have taken, and consider things like:
Answers to Your Questions
Review the answers the staff gave in response to your questions. See if you and your loved one are on the same page as to how their answers made you feel, and go from there. Compare notes and opinions, and be sure to actively listen to all points your loved one is making.
Thoughts on the Tour
Did you notice specific things that impressed you? Did your loved one notice any things that concerned them? Be sure to ask them what they liked and disliked about the community you toured, and take into consideration the observations you may have made during your tour as specifically as possible.
Discuss the Cost
Before deciding on a place for your loved one to live, you must consider what they can afford. Have a discussion about the cost of living in the community you toured, and decide how long your senior could afford to live there.
After you figure the base cost and any additional services and expenses you will have to pay for, you can calculate the total cost of care in each assisted living center. This figure will allow you to determine what you can afford. Once you have these eight questions answered, you can begin to narrow down your options.
Deciding on an Assisted Living Community In Washington
After you have discussed your tour experience with your loved one, you may have already come to a decision, or you may not have.
At the end of the day, trust your instincts. If a community looked, smelled, and sounded great but you have a nagging feeling there's something off, you're probably right. You don't have to remove it from your list immediately, but mark it as requiring a more in-depth look at a later date. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t give up until both you and your loved one feel as though you are making the right choice!