The Best Assisted Living Facility For You

Assisted living facilities offer a unique mix of companionship, independence, privacy, care and security. But how do you find the right fit for you?
A nurse visits with the smiling senior residents of an assisted living facility

Selecting the best assisted living facility is a top priority for older Americans and their families. As people age, many require some help for managing daily activities. These facilities usually serve individuals who need some help with daily functioning, but not 24-hour nursing services.

Over 50% of people in assisted facilities are 85 years and older. According to National Center for Assisted Living, NCAL, there are approximately 811,500 residents nationwide in 28,900 assisted living facilities.

While the need is great, emotions may also run high. That’s why it helps to have a logical and rational criteria to evaluate options and choose the best facility for yourself or your loved ones.

Factor 1: Location

Often, the most important factor is staying close to home. Being close to a long time home often means access to immediate family, friends and familiar surroundings. Having close companions in the vicinity can ease transitioning to an assisted living facility.

However, there may be other considerations such as how much medical assistance is needed and offered. Assistance varies across the United States, so it helps to evaluate options state by state. Specific state data is available on NCAL’s website and may help you make the best choice.

Factor 2: Care Needed

Start with a close look at the daily activities you or your loved ones need help with.

This may include help with bathing, walking, or taking medications. It can include help with dressing, help with toileting, help with bed transfer and/or help with cooking/eating.

For some individuals, help may also include specific aid for medical conditions such as coronary care, diabetes care or memory care. By understanding your needs, you’ll be in a better position to find the facility which is the best match.

Factor 3: Levels of Care

Also, although no one likes to think about this, consider the future. You or your loved one may have specific care needs now… and may require more care in the coming months or years. Is this available at the facility you’re considering?

By selecting a facility with levels of care, you can avoid having to go through the evaluation process further down the road—if the need for advanced care arises.

With this in mind, it is easier to evaluate each facility.

Factor 4: Services Offered

Nurse delivers food to injured senior in assisted living group room

Typical services that are offered at assisted living include:

  • 24-supervision and assistance
  • Health and wellness programs
  • Housekeeping and maintenance
  • Meals and dining services
  • Personal care
  • Transportation

Some facilities also have specialized services such as dementia care services. Others have specific medical services such as diabetes, heart, and mental health programs.

Most living facilities make it easy for residents to get the care they may not offer in-house. They coordinate services with other providers for health care services: such as dental, mental health counseling, pharmacy and skilled nursing.

Additionally, many facilities feature programs to enhance quality of health. This may include art programs, pet therapy, yoga and Tai Chi. It can include wellness talks, educational lectures, concerts, classes and community outings.

Check out each facility to determine how it supports health and well-being for the residents.

Factor 5: Size

The size ranges from only 4 beds to 500. This impacts the staff-to-resident ratio as well as the general attitude of the staff. Size can also relate to the types of services offered. For example, larger facilities may have a pool, theatre or specialized programs and care.

Factor 6: Cost

Many residents pay through personal finances. This may be from a combination of resources such as savings, long-term care insurance and home equity life insurance. Medicare does not cover the costs of assisted living facilities.

The Veterans Administration may cover some costs for veterans. Medicaid may cover costs for some facilities; and some focus on Medicaid residents.

Additionally, fee structures vary. Check out the details of upfront cost, monthly payments, and a la carte services. Alternatively, many facilities offer tiered plans with prices depending on the level of care required.

Once you determine what is affordable for you, be sure to look for the features that matter most to you.

Factor 7: Culture

Cheerful seniors exercising with their arms raised

Check out the culture in person as well as online. Experts recommend taking your time to feel it out for yourself. Do things such as: Visit the facility. Have a walk around the grounds and surrounding environment. Have a meal and talk to people.

Finding the culture that fits for you or your loved one is a critical factor. Many experts advise to do your research, take your time and be sure to listen to your intuition.

Locating an Assisted Living Facility

When it comes to choosing an assisted living facility, you may want to evaluate assisted living facilities in your area. U.S. News offers a tool to find facilities and evaluate services, locations and more. The locator can be useful for prioritizing options and identifying the best choice for your location, needs and finances.

Assistance Club Summary

What’s the #1 big take away?

Familiarity provides peace of mind.

Familiarizing yourself with the 7 factors for choosing an assisted living facilities helps you plan for the future.

By familiarizing yourself with the options, you’ll be better prepared for making wise decisions for yourself and your family.