We are constantly reminded to upgrade and get the latest model with cool new features. “Newer is better,” we are told. But we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. This certainly applies to choosing an assisted living facility.
My grandfather was living in a nursing home that looked great. New flooring, nice upholstery and pretty curtains in the common areas. It had nice knickknacks and potpourri on the fireplace mantel. But he was not happy. Looking back, I don’t know if any of the residents were.
We moved him to a facility that is not as polished. The floors are reminiscent of my elementary school cafeteria. There are no knickknacks, no carpet, and no artwork. His bathroom is tiny. But he is happy.
What does this place have that the first didn’t? People.
At this facility, residents actually hang out in the common rooms. You can hear conversations and laughter up and down the hallways. Grandpa looks forward to mealtimes here so he can visit with friends.
What is different (and much better) at this facility than the first? Low staff turnover. Staff continuity makes an assisted living facility bearable. Good, competent staff with lots of experience is key. Administrative staff that changes often may indicate something is wrong as well.
When looking for a place for your parent or grandparent, be sure to visit with the facility director and nursing director in person. Talk to the staff and ask how long they’ve worked there. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be diligent. You can research important indicators, such as staffing violations and health inspections, here.
Safety is very important, but happiness is paramount to your loved one’s wellbeing so enquire about how residents spend their days. Visit facilities you are considering more than once. Drop in during mealtimes and shift changes to observe how the staff care for residents.
As my colleague Lesa Creveling recommends in the article “Don’t Be a Silo,” assemble a support team to help you make decisions and care for your aging loved one. If an assisted living facility or nursing home is necessary, make sure you or someone on your team thoroughly investigate before you select. You may even consider hiring a company that specializes in placing residents in assisted living facilities. Don’t base your decision solely on appearances. As my family learned, new carpet does not necessarily equate to quality care.