MAKE SURE YOUR ALF STANDARDS ARE MET

BY NANCY KRISEMAN
SPECIAL FOR THE AJT

Assisted living facilities, sometimes called ALF’s, provide housing for those with chronic illnesses, most often elders. It is important to note that there is not a standard definition of what constitutes assisted living care. Assisted living environments are generally less institutional and have more of a home-like atmosphere. The facility is handicap accessible and has structural features that make it easy for an elder to live. In addition, they usually provide some level of nursing care, as well as housekeeping, meals, transportation, and other features.

What can be licensed as “assisted living” varies from state to state, as do the minimum required services. For example, some states require minimal coverage by nurses and others do not. Another example is that one state might allow wheelchairs, but only if the person can propel the wheelchair by his own power (this is important if there was a fire or other emergency) It is critical that you find out what the state allows and that you carefully read the contract from the assisted living facility.

The “assisted” in assisted living means that an individual can receive activities of daily living care, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, meal preparation, and even help with eating. Most assisted living communities have a base price for the apartment and then have additional charges for different levels of care. Level of care refers to the frequency and kind of assistance your loved one needs. The level of care is often determined by an initial assessment conducted by the facility.

Keep in mind your loved ones level of care can change over time, as I have seen time and time again. For instance, if your elderly loved one is admitted with no level of care, you will most likely be charged the base price. If your loved one requires assistance with bathing and dressing a year later, you will be charged the base monthly fee, plus the level of care fee. This fee can range from $200.00 to $1,000.00 per month, depending upon the facility and the services provided. It’s important to ask what fees are charged for what care. Some examples include incontinence care or medication management. In addition, many assisted living communities offer memory or dementia care. There is usually a separate price for memory care and some may have additional fees if they provide levels of care in their memory care communities.

Generally speaking, more handson- care time translates into an increased cost per month.

Over the years, assisted living communities have proliferated and are beginning to saturate the elder care marketplace. They want and need your business. Be mindful that some of these communities may overpromise what they can realistically provide to your loved one. It’s vital that you ask questions. For a comprehensive list of questions, please visit my website.

Last but not least, it’s also imperative that you spend some time in the community. Ask to have a meal there, attend an activity or two. Also visit at different times, such as in the morning, evening and on the weekend. Observe the interaction between the residents and between the residents and the staff. Do they seem happy, engaged with one another, and is there a warm, caring feel to the environment?

Assisted living can be a wonderful place for your loved one. It can offer a support system, while still allowing your loved one to retain some independence and to have the socialization that is so necessary for the quality of life. Socialization is a critical factor for preventing depression and cognitive decline. And, assisted living can provide you with some peace of mind. You’ll know that your loved one is in a safe environment where his or her care needs can be met and there are opportunities for meaningful engagement and new relationships.

Nancy Kriseman is an author and licensed clinical social worker who specializes in working with older people and their families. This column is about helping families make the best decisions possible and be proactive when supporting and caring for elder family members. To contact Nancy, you can visit her website at www.nancykriseman. com, or her Facebook page, or twitter feed @GeriatricMSW.