There was a very compelling documentary on PBS this week entitled, Life and Death in Assisted Living.   It highlighted the opportunity for corporate greed in this industry that has very little oversight from the federal governments and the variation in oversight from state to state.   There certainly are wonderful facilities out there with outstanding caregivers.  But if we are going to make the decision that a loved one may need to move into an assisted living facility, it is imperative that we do our homework.   Here are a few things to think about:

First, we need to understand the services that an assisted living facility can provide.  In general, the activities and services provided or arranged for in assisted living residences promote the resident’s quality of life and independence.   These services include help with daily living activities such as bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, and transferring, help with medication management, laundry and linen service, light housekeeping, etc.  If your loved one is in need of constant medical attention, a skilled nursing facility may be more appropriate for him or her.  If you are unsure, consult with your loved one’s physician before making the decision.

ALFNext, it’s important to visit prospective facilities multiple times. Experts recommend visiting at different times of the day — meal times are a good place to start.  Take the time to talk to residents and staff for a sense of the facility’s culture and environment.  Ask about available services and about what staffing is like throughout the day and at night.

Be sure to review the Admissions Agreement very closely.  There are liability waiver clauses and negotiated risk clauses that, while offered as a way for residents to make preferred choices about their care, even if they present some risks, often take away your right to sue if something goes wrong.  If anything in the Agreement is unclear, consult with an elder law attorney.

Finally, check with your local long-term care ombudsman to see if they can provide any additional information about the facility or facilities that you are interested in.  They may be able to provide you with information about any citations issued against that facility or answer any questions you may have.  To locate your local long-term care ombudsman call the Agency on Aging’s Elder Care Locator at 1-800-677-1116.

Following are some resources to help you in your search for a facility:

State-by-State Licensing and Regulations

Accreditation/Administrator Certification  Information

Clinical Practice Guidelines

Consumer Resources

Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program Fact Sheet