Red Flags to Watch For When Choosing an Assisted Living Facility

There are warning signs that shouldn’t be ignored when choosing an assisted living facility for your aging family members.

The move to an elder care home can be difficult for both the senior and their family members. Everyone wants to choose the ideal assisted living facility: a place where their loved ones will be given quality care, where their needs will be met, a place that one can truly call home at a price that they can afford. It can take a lot of time and effort to make calls, do site visits and consult with professionals in order to arrive at a decision you are comfortable with, but often, people fail to catch red flags that can alert them to potentially dangerous conditions.

These are some of the warning signs that you should watch for that might indicate that a facility is not the right one for your loved one.

They have a bad reputation.

One of the first things you should ask when choosing an assisted living facility is, “How reliable and trustworthy is this establishment?” Elder care facilities are all subject to regulations at the state level so you should be able to determine their reputation with ease. The Assisted Living Federation of America is a trade association of senior living providers managing assisted living communities in the United States. The ALFA website includes a state-by-state link to existing state laws and regulations, as well as other state-specific resources such as state licensing agencies. If you are looking for an assisted living facility for your loved one, one of the first things you should do is to contact the appropriate agency in your state and do a background check on the facility. Does it have a history of violations? What kinds of complaints were lodged against it? How were they resolved?

Another resource is ProPublica, an independent news operation that provides a search engine which allows users to view and compare elder care facilities in a state based on the deficiencies cited by regulators and the penalties imposed in the last three years. You can also use the site to search over 60,000 nursing home inspection reports to look for trends or patterns.

Red Flags to Watch For When Choosing an Assisted Living Facility

The staff members are unfriendly, overworked, absent or uninformed.

The general atmosphere and feel of the facility can reveal many things about the level of care they provide. Were you able to find the staff easily? Do they look happy to be there, or do they look tired and overworked? Were you greeted by staff? Do they seem warm and friendly, or detached? When you ask a question, are they able to answer you satisfactorily? If not, do they direct you to someone who can? Basic questions, such as meal times and laundry schedules, should be general information for any staff member.
How do staff members treat the current residents? Do they call them by name? Do they seem to respond promptly to the residents’ needs? Does the respect go both ways?
Find out about key staff members and how long they’ve been working there. You might want to think carefully about placing your loved one there if there seems to be a high rate for turnover, as it reflects poorly on the management. It’s also a good idea to visit the facility more than once, preferably at different times. Is the management present and really involved at the facility? If so, the facility is likely to deliver higher quality of care.

The place is dirty and noisy, and the residents look disheveled.

A suitable assisted living facility should be uncluttered, clean and calm. There should be no dirty dishes lying around or unwashed linens, and the trash bins shouldn’t be overflowing. There should be no bad odor permeating throughout the entire facility. All these are indicators of serious issues in the facility. The residents should be dressed neatly and appropriately for the weather. On the other hand, don’t be turned off by minor issues, such as dated décor and furnishings. It might just mean that they focus more on caring for their residents than making the facility look pretty.

The facility doesn’t allow unscheduled visits.

If the facility doesn’t allow or encourage unscheduled visits, it should raise a red flag. It might indicate that they are trying to hide something, or that they need to prepare the facility and its residents to make it look ‘perfect’ for when you visit. While it should go without saying that you shouldn’t visit at 12 midnight when most residents are sleeping, you should be able to visit and spend time with your loved ones whenever you want.

The facility offers little to no activities for and interaction between the seniors and the staff.

Find out what kinds of activities are available for the residents to engage in. They should have a calendar with scheduled activities to keep the seniors busy and/or entertained, such as making arts and crafts, playing games, exercising or gardening. Inquire if they organize trips for the residents, or if they have any kind of cultural or creative events that meet the interests of their residents. A senior care facility in which residents are left with no other choice for entertainment other than the television while the staff basically ignores them is not a place you want your elderly loved one to live.

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