It’s as important to understand what services are not offered at an assisted living facility, as it is to know what services are available. Residents with medical issues may not be suited for this lifestyle setting.
For seniors who no longer wish to live on their own, assisted living facilities seem like a great idea. However, for those with complex or chronic medical issues, assisted living facilities may not be a good fit. These residential facilities are not required to have nurses or medical personal present. The only medical solution is an emergency ambulance ride to the local hospital.
As The San Diego Union-Tribune reports in its recent article, “The key thing to know about assisted living,” there are about 7,500 assisted living (AL) facilities in California. They range from small, six-bed residential homes to larger facilities with 100-plus beds. The larger facilities typically have the decor and ambience of an upscale hotel, rather than an institutional medical facility. Regardless of size, they all have a few things in common:
- They’re less expensive than skilled nursing facilities;
- They’re predominantly private pay;
- They’re regulated by the Dept. of Social Services and Community Care Licensing Division;
- There’s no current rating system to help consumers make informed decisions, when selecting an assisted living facility for their loved one; and
- They don’t have the strict regulation and record keeping that the Departments of Public Health and Health Care Services require of skilled nursing facilities.
According to the National Institutes of Health, assisted living facilities provide care to a large number of older adults, including many with complex health problems. The most common reasons for entering AL are dementia and functional impairment, but most residents (94%) have at least one chronic medical condition, with 76% having two or more chronic conditions.
Families often don't have realistic expectations. The marketing person makes promises about what's available. However, families don't know to ask questions about the staffing levels, the supervision, and how medications are administered. Loved ones don't realize it’s not a nursing home, and that it doesn’t have skilled nursing care.
The reality of this lower level of care may result in loved ones receiving a midnight call that Mom got confused, wandered away from the facility and is now lost. Or that Mom’s fallen and broken a hip.
Seniors and family caregivers who live in San Diego have access to a county funded program, Choose Well. It is a rating system for assisted living and board-and-care facilities. It is said to be the first rating system for these kinds of facilities in California and is a starting point for getting information.
If the facility is licensed by the state, visit the state’s website to learn about citations, violations complaints and any other information about the facility. Do your homework, so that your loved one is in a suitable and safe living environment.
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