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Considering assisted living

October 04, 2002|by LYNN F. LITTLE

Most people want to live in familiar surroundings all their life. Home is where the heart is, after all. It's where memories have been made and we feel comfortable. We know what to expect there.

For many older adults, however, there comes a time when it's just too difficult to keep up the house and yard, take care of their own health and nutrition needs, or get out for socialization.

Family members start to worry about mom or dad's ability to stay at home and be safe.

If it's not possible or acceptable to have help come in to clean, prepare meals or help with physical needs, families may consider assisted living options.

Assisted living housing provides services such as meals, health monitoring and help with daily activities, provided in a residential facility.

Assisted living residences vary from one room to a full apartment and can be found in all types of buildings. They may be called board and care, sheltered housing or residential care.

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What they have in common is that they are for people who, by choice or necessity, need help with some activities but who do not require extensive care. Residents get help with daily living activities such as bathing, eating, dressing and housekeeping.

These facilities do not provide in-depth medical or nursing care, although there is usually some assistance with medications.

Choosing an assisted living residence requires evaluating a person's needs and desires. If possible, look for a facility where friends and family can visit easily and comfortably. Maintaining social contacts and friendships built over a lifetime is important for mental health.

Evaluate the facility carefully. Ask these questions:

  • Is it in good repair?

  • What level of privacy exists?

  • What services are provided in addition to room, meals and laundry?

  • Are there additional charges for any services?

  • How often is housekeeping and laundry done?

  • Can personal furnishings be used?

  • Is there a room for social activities?

  • Are bathroom facilities private or are they shared?

  • What storage space exists?

  • Is the home in compliance with state and local standards for fire safety and health?

  • Are the quality and quantity of the meals adequate, reflecting preferred tastes, nutritional and cultural requirements of the residents?



Consider the facility's staff. Do they treat each other and the residents with dignity and respect? Do they take time to listen and respond to residents' needs? What is the staff-to-resident ratio? What training do they receive? What do current residents and their relatives say about their care?

Look at the activities offered in the facility. What opportunities are there for outings, working on hobbies, connecting to the Internet, in-house religious services, and exercise? Can residents garden or keep a pet? Is transportation available to go to the doctor, pharmacy, store, church or elsewhere?

Look at the safety considerations. What are the sanitary conditions? Are there obvious hazards? How are medications and medical care handled? Do fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and sprinkler systems exist and work? Is there an emergency call system?

Review the facility's policies and business practices.

Are there restrictions on behavior such as smoking or drinking alcohol?

Are guests welcome? How are rate increases handled? What are the facility's discharge policies? Is the facility currently licensed and operating legally? Are recent inspection reports or financial records available? Is it possible to get references in order to talk with other residents and their family members?

Considering these factors will help locate assisted living housing that meets an individual's needs. The goal of assisted living is to help someone remain as independent as possible for as long as possible.

For additional information, visit the following internet web sites:






Lynn F. Little is the family and consumer sciences educator with the Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

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