Before selecting a senior living community, it is important that you and your loved ones investigate all your options. Use the web, seek referrals from doctors, healthcare professionals, and friends and colleagues who are actively searching.
If possible, find a location that is convenient for visits. Keep in mind that regular contact with family is important to one's emotional well-being.
Make sure the home is the best possible match for your needs and that you understand exactly how the home will be paid.
Visit--and Visit Again
Listen to what others say about senior facilities. Visit several residences that are close by and feel good to you - and be sure to visit more than once. Drop by unannounced, not just on Visiting Day. You and your loved ones will spend a great deal of time in this setting, so you will want to observe the staff and facilities at different times of the day and week.
If the facility is licensed for residential care, assisted living or skilled nursing care, ask to read their latest inspection reports, including the fire marshal survey and local health department or social services agency reports.
Be Environmentally Aware
When visiting, pay attention to the details that will make a difference in care and treatment. As you would in evaluating a new home or neighborhood, use all your senses.
Are the rooms and common areas clean and in good repair? Can you detect any unpleasant odors? If you don't like the way a home looks or smells, cross it off your list. If your first impression is negative, you will never feel comfortable.
If you are satisfied with the interior spaces, continue your evaluation outside. Look for safe, attractive, and well-maintained outdoor areas.
Person to Person
Someone once said that the best part of any real estate deal is the neighbors who come with it. Do the current residents look content and engaged? Do they exhibit signs of compassionate and attentive care?
Be sure to note if residents are involved in meaningful and rewarding activities. Ask to see a schedule of activities and evaluate it honestly and critically. Does the list include items you think would be appealing?
Ask your guide how many residents are assigned to each aide or LVN. Are licensed nurses on duty around-the-clock? Take note of the interactions between caregivers and residents. Are they sensitive, thoughtful, humorous, personable?
Everyone's Favorite Time of Day
Meals are an important part of everyone's day, as a delight to the senses and an important social opportunity. Are dining areas well-designed and pleasantly lit? Are meals attractively presented? Ask to see sample menus.
Choice in our meals is one of the most commonly cited pillars of independence, and is so important to our sense of well-being. Do residents participate in planning the menu? If so, ask about a menu-planning committee, and how it works. Ask also if kosher or vegetarian food is available, and if substitutions may be requested.
The highest quality senior living communities offer a wide range of physical and rehabilitative therapies. Ask about the existence of these services and if residents are involved in their own treatment plans. Look for any special accommodations for seniors recovering from strokes or injuries.
If your physician does not make regular visits to a facility, find out how medical care is handled. If care is not provided in specialty clinics on-site, or in the event of an emergency, ask which hospital(s) residents are sent to if they become ill.
Is there a wing or on-site facility for residents with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia? Ask to tour this area and look for features of enlightened care, including special floor plans, natural lighting, and outdoor access. Note if residents have personal items in their rooms, and if restraints are being used.
A residential facility is, above all, a community of elders who deserve to be honored and respected as self-determining individuals. Does the home have resident and family councils? Is a grievance procedure available to residents? Are visiting hours flexible?
Any senior community should strive to match the goal of the Los Angeles Jewish Home, creating a safe, comfortable, and rewarding environment for residents and those who care about them.
Click to download the Jewish Home's Senior Living Community Evaluation Checklist
courtesy of the LA Jewish Home.
Molly Forrest is a 35-year veteran of senior housing and healthcare issues. She is the Chief Executive Officer-President of the Los Angeles Jewish Home, one of the foremost multi-level senior living communities in the U.S. and the largest single-source provider of senior housing in Los Angeles.