Elder Law and You: Choosing Assisted Living Facilities
Demographically, we are getting older, much older. Due to advances in medical science we all are living longer but not necessarily better lives. Inevitably, we all encounter aging relatives or a close friend, who, in the September of their years, may need assisted living, skilled or some other form of long term care. Hopefully, you have looked into and obtained long term care insurance at an earlier age so that your premiums are lower. When in need of long term care, here are some tips you can use to assist a family member or friend:
- Power of Attorney. Make sure the care seeker has a Durable Power of Attorney designating someone to act on their behalf (preferably someone who is younger).
- Current and Future Needs. Determine what you are looking for presently and what you may need in the future.
- Social and Recreational Activities. Ask potential long term care facilities whether they have a schedule of activities? Are they voluntary or mandatory? What other options are there in the neighborhood for such activities: If you are a pet lover, make sure you ask whether they are permitted.
- Food. Not only is food important for nutrition, it serves a vital social function as well. You should observe the dining room and the types and varieties of food being offered. Are there any rules, such as must you eat with a group? May you eat in your room? Can you have snacks? If so, who provides them? What are they? Is there a special dietary menu available? What times are the meals? Can they be modified if needed? How many meals are provided each month pursuant to your plan?
- Health Care. This is vitally important and may change as one gets older and when emergencies occur. Ask how emergencies are handled. Are nurses and doctors available 24 hours a day or weekly? Does the medical staff assist when a resident becomes confused or disoriented? Who coordinates home health care visits from outside health care providers? How do they administer medication?
- Daily Living Assistance. Does the facility provide assistance in: Eating? Dressing? Mobility? Bathing? Toileting? Grooming? Shopping? Laundry? Transportation?
- Financial. What will all of your care cost? Ask them to provide you with the base rate and what is included in that rate. What additional services are offered? What is the itemized cost for each? Who determines if and when additional services are needed? Are a resident’s needs assessed and if so, by whom and how often? Can a resident be discharged for refusing additional services suggested by the evaluator? How much input or participation does the resident have in assessing their basic needs?
- Touring the Facility. At your inspections, be cynical. Is it located close to places of activities, such as shopping, transportation line and the like? Is its outward appearance pleasant? When you enter, does it seem homelike and comfortable? Is it well maintained? Does the staff seem caring and welcoming? How do the residents and staff interact? Do you fit in with the other residents? Is the floor plan easy to follow? Are the hallways wide enough? Is the facility clean? Properly lighted and a comfortable temperature? Is the facility licensed? If the facility smells or reeks of urine or other bad odors, it is not worth your consideration.
- Unit Selection. Find out what size and types of units are available. Are bathrooms private or shared? What assisted devices are provided such as grab bars, roll in showers, etc.? What communication devices are provided? Intercoms, telephones, computer connections, cable television and what are their costs? Is there an individual kitchen and how is it equipped? May you have food in your unit? Is smoking allowed in the building or individual units? Is there a policy regarding alcohol?
- The Contract. If you are required to sign a contract, do not do so immediately or on the spot. Pressure tactics to sign are a bad indicator for the facility. Take a copy of the contract with you and review it thoroughly making no assumptions regarding its content. When in doubt, provide it to us for a comprehensive review. Some critical elements to consider are: When and how a contract might be terminated. If the contract is terminated, what is the refund policy? What programs or assistance are available to help you with payment if you run low on funds? Does the contract include things such as personal services, health care and supportive services? If it does, are they included in the base rate? If not in the base rate, does it list how the cost is determined? Are additional services paid for directly to the facility or to the providers of the service? What is the credit policy? What is the policy regarding personal property? Should you have insurance? Does it require a personal guarantee?
It is important that you look carefully and closely to observe the activities in the facility. Do not hesitate to ask questions to determine if it would be a good home for you before you make a commitment. A thoughtful, studied selection will most assuredly result in a happy home for you or your loved one.