What to consider when choosing an assisted living facility


America is a graying nation. Each day, 10,000 Americans turn 65, and as people continue to live longer lives, it’s predicted that by 2050 89 million Americans will be senior citizens.

That trend has more people considering assisted living as an option for their later years. The sheer number and variety of assisted living facilities, however, can make the selection process daunting, particularly for older individuals or couples faced with leaving their longtime home for unfamiliar surroundings.

What factors should people consider when selecting an assisted living facility? Dave Stieglitz of Oasis Senior Advisors in Jacksonville suggested that those involved in selecting a facility for themselves or loved ones keep the following mind:

Health needs: Does the person or couple have special medical, physical or cognitive health concerns? “Assisted living in Florida operates under three different licensing levels,” Stieglitz explained. “Matching current or future needs to the correct licensing level should be a top priority.”

Security: If there are cognitive issues, can the prospective resident function with assistance in a fairly open environment, or would they require a more secure facility to prevent wandering? Some assisted living facilities, for example, specialize in caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

Culture: In what type of environment does the person thrive? Would he or she enjoy an active, social environment with a variety of activities from which to choose? Or would a more subdued environment be preferable?

Independence level: Is the person capable of getting around on his or her own initiative, or is prompting required? “Medium-sized communities can be much more personalized, with ‘eyes’ on their residents,” Stieglitz noted.

Financial issues: Prospective assisted living residents should weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a buy-in community versus a rental community. It also helps to be aware of the various forms of funding available for senior residential care. For example, is the person or a spouse a U.S. veteran? If so, he or she may be eligible for VA benefits to help with the cost of assisted living. Another financial point to consider: Is there room in the budget for additional care charges if the person’s health declines? “If funds and resources are limited,” Stieglitz said, “it’s important to understand how Medicaid works and to know which assisted living communities accept Medicaid.”

Research with caution: While the Internet is a helpful and convenient resource, Stieglitz said, many sites can capture your data, resulting in an overwhelming flood of marketing calls from facilities that don’t suit the potential resident’s needs.

“Assisted living communities are as different as the colors of the rainbow in terms of services, size, price culture and environment,” said Stieglitz, a certified senior advisor. “A free, local placement service professional can help people identify their needs up front, then accompany them on tours of those communities that most closely match their requirements. It can be the ‘easy button’ in this very critical and complex process.”