4 Criteria to Consider When Choosing an Assisted Living Community

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Choosing an assisted living community can be a difficult, overwhelming process for seniors and their families. As you and your loved one explore and evaluate options, it’s critical that you look for a place that emphasizes quality, person-centered care. The more a community focuses on your loved one’s care needs, the more likely he or she is to feel comfortable and to experience improved quality of life.

To ensure the highest quality care for your loved one, here are four factors to look for when choosing an assisted living community.

Consistent, Caring Staff

As you evaluate assisted living communities, make sure that you and your loved one choose somewhere with low staff turnover. Relationships between residents and staff members are at the core of quality care. Constant changes to a community’s staff mean your loved one has less time to build a relationship with his or her care provider. Staff members who remain at a community for longer can gain a better understanding of your loved one’s care needs and develop a stronger bond with him or her.

Fewer Trips to the Hospital

Choosing an assisted living community that prevents unnecessary hospitalization and hospital readmissions is beneficial for your loved one. Repeated hospital stays can be traumatic, disruptive experiences that negatively affect a senior’s emotional and physical well-being. Besides reducing your loved one’s risk of infections and other health complications, avoiding unnecessary hospital visits can also prevent issues that result from miscommunication about his or her care between the hospital and the assisted living community.

Assisted living communities are not required to publicly report data about hospital readmissions, but ask for as much information as you can during your tour. What resources, such as oxygen and lab tests, are available in the community to help treat different conditions? What are the community’s bed-hold policies if a resident leaves for a hospital? By asking these kinds of questions, you can assess how a community helps its residents understand the effects of hospital care and prevent unnecessary trips.

Low Use of Antipsychotics for Loved Ones with Dementia

Antipsychotics are medications used to manage conditions of psychosis, like hallucinations and delusions. They’ve also been used to modify certain behaviors of those living with dementia. However, antipsychotics are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat these behaviors. Studies show that using these medicines to treat seniors with dementia increases the risk of falls, fractures, hospitalization and other serious complications.

Although the number of assisted living communities that use antipsychotics to treat dementia is decreasing, it’s important to ask about these medications when touring a community. If your loved one has dementia, find out what strategies – besides medications – staff members use to respond to challenging behaviors. A skilled caregiver will assess whether or not your loved one’s behaviors may be related to other issues: Is he or she hungry or tired? Scared or nervous? Is the community’s lighting or noise bothersome? As you and your loved one evaluate options, ensure that a community’s staff members consider every scenario before prescribing antipsychotics to residents with dementia and take proper care to administer all medications safely.

Satisfaction of Residents and Their Family Members

When choosing an assisted living community, look at the satisfaction of current and past residents and their family members. If satisfaction is high, it indicates that the community is probably a respectful, supportive environment where residents feel valued and properly cared for.

When you tour a community, ask residents directly about whether they are satisfied with their care. You can also look for signs. Do residents and staff appear to have warm, trustworthy relationships? How quickly do staff members respond to residents’ care needs? Are concerns of residents and their families addressed in a timely, respectful manner? Choosing a place where residents are happy with their care can help ease some of your loved one’s anxieties about making the transition to a community and ensure that he or she has the best possible quality of life.