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Making the Best Choice in Assisted Living

on August 15, 2012

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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