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Making the Best Choice in Assisted Living

A report from the consumer Federation of America showed that complaints about assisted living facilities landed in the ranking of 9 of the top 10 consumer complaints in 2011. As operators of an assisted living facility in Redding for the past 7 years, we’d like to offer some tips to manage complaints, as well as to avoid unpleasant situations in the first place.

It is critical to assess the individual’s assisted living needs and their preferences prior to selecting a facility.  Some assisted living facilities give the individual a lot of freedom and choice. Others are more restricted. The amount and types of restrictions are usually based on the degree of care the individual requires. Someone who remains mentally alert and physically able to drive should be able to keep their vehicle and have the freedom to come and go according to their desires. On the other hand, someone suffering from dementia will be a danger to others (and themselves) if they are permitted to operate a vehicle or leave the premises unattended.

There are a wide variety of assisted living facilities in Shasta County, which puts the consumer in a good position to be choosy. An extroverted person is likely to prefer a large facility with a packed activity calendar full of options to socialize. There are small, quiet facilities which are better suited to those who like to keep a simple routine and may not enjoy being around lots of people. In most cases the “birds of a feather” adage applies. People generally like to be around those who share the same interests and abilities.

Once the personality of the facility is matched with the person, dig deeper to verify what you see on your visit is what can be expected every day. Then check their  records. All assisted living facilities are licensed by the State of California. The closest office is in Chico. You can call Community Care Licensing at 530.895.5033 to see if there are any complaints and to see reports of audits. Ask current residents how they feel about living there. Seek feedback from their family members, friends and others on site. Pop in unannounced at  different times of the day to make sure the facility is as good as when you were given a tour when everything was planned to be perfect.

Check out the food and the menu. Complaints about food seem to be the most common. While it’s true that you can’t please everybody all the time, good facilities spend a lot of energy and resources on the food to try to appeal to the most people.

Ask to see all of the paperwork and obtain a full disclosure on the pricing policy. If you thought the paperwork involved in buying a house is complicated, just try to move into an assisted living facility! California state licensing requires an incredible amount of documents to be signed. This may be a hassle, but it actually protects you from misunderstandings and problems down the line. If you don’t get a chance to review the paperwork in advance, it’s easy to overlook the fine print.

The price quoted on your first inquiry may not be the same price upon move in. That is because many facilities charge a “level of care” fee. They will quote the basic rate at first, then determine the cost of additional services required by the individual. In most circumstances, this is a good thing because you are paying only for the services delivered.  A flat rate means you may be overpaying if only minor additional care is needed. In other cases, assessment of the level of care may be arbitrary. Find out if a point system is used and examine the assessment for accuracy. Avoid disclosing how much you can afford. Unscrupulous places will find a way to charge up to your maximum budget. Investigate how often the price may be increased over a given amount of time.

Ask about additional charges. Will you get an itemized bill showing charges for toothpaste and body wash?

You may find the need to make a complaint even after you have done your due diligence. Complain to facility management first. If the issue is not resolved, call Community Care Licensing and the Ombudsman’s Office 530.223.6191. You can be sure both agencies will promptly investigate your complaint and follow up with you.

There are many factors in determining which assisted living facility is a fit. We welcome your questions and are available for free consultations. Please contact us at A Brand New Day  530.223.1538 or info@abrandnewday-redding.com

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Help Yourself and Those Whom You Love by Creating a Paper Trail

This appeared over a year ago in our Senior Living Column in the Redding California Record Searchlight, yet we continue to receive requests for copies. It is a helpful reminder that we should take some time to prepare in case of an accident, emergency or illness.

If something should happen to you, would your loved ones know what to do? We are writing about this topic from the standpoint of handling your personal affairs, rather than the complexities of emotions and grieving. We also assume that you have an estate plan or will and have authorized a health care and financial power of attorney.

We often tell ourselves that someday we will get our affairs in order. But we procrastinate. When is someday? It needs to be yesterday in order for you to be prepared. Life’s emergencies just happen, and require planning to manage them. Planning requires organization, and for most of us, this is difficult to do. Don’t let this daunting task overwhelm you or put your loved ones in the difficult position of having to sort through a confusing maze. There are plenty of rainy days in a year as well as days that are too hot to spend much time outside. Use one of these days to get organized. If you spend some time organizing your important papers, you will save yourself and your loved ones a lot of trouble.

It is best to store your important papers in a safety deposit box at your bank. Then, purchase a fireproof, locked portable storage box. Make a copy of each document and store the copies, along with an extra safety deposit box key in your portable storage box. The box should be just large enough to hold your documents so that you won’t have trouble dashing out of the house with it in case of a fire, flood, earthquake or other catastrophe.

Here is a basic list of copied documents you should keep in the storage box:

  • Passport
  • Social Security card
  • Driver’s License
  • Health insurance card
  • Insurance policies
  • Your will or estate plan
  • All powers of attorney and health care proxies
  • Any certificates of investments (stock, precious metals, etc.)
  • Car titles
  • Certificates of birth, death, marriage, divorce
  • Custody documents
  • Military service documents

That doesn’t seem too difficult, does it? Now here comes the hard part — you should make a list of your assets and debts, as well as contact information of your health care providers, banker, accountant, lawyer, financial adviser, insurance agent and any professional whom you rely for care of yourself and your assets. Listing assets may be as simple as a copy of your bank, investment and retirement account statements. Note the contact person’s name and phone number if not already printed on the statement. Make a list of your credit card accounts, auto and mortgage loans. Include account numbers, due dates and lenders’ names and contact information. Write down the location of your original documents.

Next, grab your camera and take a picture (or video) of the contents of your house and garage. Video recording is preferable because you can narrate details such as when the items were purchased and the cost, details of family heirlooms and any special meaning, etc. Make two copies of the pictures and/or digital files and place a copy in your safety deposit box and the other in your locked storage box.

Include receipts for major purchases, such as a car, boat, guns, jewelry, furniture, electronics, etc.

Finally, make a list of your username and passwords to keep in the box. Store it in a very safe place and tell its location to only those who you trust to handle your affairs. Put the key in a secure place and keep a copy of the key in your safety deposit box.

Those whom you have designated to handle your financial affairs in the event of a sudden illness or death will be able to do so effectively because they will have all the information they need. You will have the ability to deal with a lost or stolen purse/wallet since you will have a copy of your driver’s license and a list of all your credit cards with the contact information to quickly notify the issuers. Your record (photographs, video files, receipts) of assets will be essential in expediting an insurance claim in the event of damage or theft.

Do yourself a favor, and follow these simple steps. You will help yourself and those who you love weather a crisis.

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