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We've been working on
this site for over 9 years now, at the time of this writing. We've
written articles, researched facilities, and we have fielded numerous
questions about anything and everything having to do with assisted
living. In all of this time, one thing has become abundantly clear
about the assisted living industry - it can be very confusing,
and often times creates more questions than it provides answers
Why is this?
We have to remind ourselves
first of the nature of assisted living - it isn't like purchasing
a TV or booking tickets for a trip. Finding the right assisted
living facility for yourself or especially for a loved one
can be one of the most important decisions of your life. There
are so many choices out there, and unfortunately - there are some
bad choices. This is due to this being an industry that is perhaps
not as regulated or monitored as it should be in some places -
or even over-regulated in others.
Placing mom or dad in
a facility has to be the right choice the first time. Most facilities
require that a long-term lease, contract or agreement be signed
- contracts that can themselves be very tedious and confusing.
If you move a parent into a facility, it is not an easy task to
move them out into another facility if the first one doesn't work
out well. Many seniors are very immobile or disabled, and many
siblings that are caring for them might not live in the same area
as mom or dad - so this decision is one that you need to hit out
of the park on the first swing. The end result is simply having
mom or dad be happy, healthy and safe.
But it's not so
Speaking of regulation
- the assisted living industry has laws that vary widely from
state to state - adding to the confusion. In some states, like
Michigan, assisted living facilities aren't even recognized officially
under that name - instead, they are called "adult foster
care" homes. Many of these homes market themselves as assisted
living facilities, since that is what most people know them by
- but they are not licensed as such. State laws vary widely on
who can be licensed for assisted living, and what credentials
or background the facility owners and operators must have to operate
a facility. In some states, a "facility" may simply
be a residential home that has been converted into an assisted
living "facility" - and may only be able to care for
a few residents - and offer minimal services. If you are a son
or daughter living in Arizona, for example, and you are looking
for a facility in Florida, you'll need to be aware that there
can be a completely different set of standards that facilities
may operate under between the states.
Note: Some lobbying groups
have pushed for federal oversight of assisted living - which has
it's fair share of proponents and opponents.
Who is an expert?
We really don't know of
many people who are really truly experts in the assisted living
industry. There are many who claim to be experts, but really,
do most of them have a degree or the experience to back it up
- we've found most often that the answer is no. There are a great
many people who are very knowledgeable about a piece of assisted
living, but very rarely the whole puzzle.
We have found that in
many cases, people who have worked in an assisted living facility
for many years leave to author books, blog, or offer assisted
living placement services - often times nurses or administrators
looking for career changes. Of course, these people will have
a valuable and unique view on the intricate daily workings of
an assisted living facility - however, will they be able to answer
questions about your Medicare policy or long term care insurance?
Can the Internet
If you are like most people,
the first stop you'll make when trying to find answers is the
internet. Type "Assisted Living' into a search and the results
alone are enough to confuse anyone. Many of the top results are
assisted living sites, but really - do they offer answers? Often
times not. Many of the top rated sites are simply referral sites
that attempt to collect your information to resell to facilities
or other interested parties. Of course, some referral sites do
this in an ethical way, making sure you are aware that your information
will be passed on. Others do not operate this way, and can create
a lot of trouble for your inbox and voicemail. We typed in "Assisted
Living" today, and the first result was a referral site.
The Assisted Living Federation of America, a very reputable source
for information on assisted living was down towards the bottom.
Working from the internet will take a lot of patience, a lot of
reading (privacy policies) and a lot of information and fact checking.
Can I just ask
the facility for answers and help?
Asking a facility questions
about care, insurance or any other question relevant to assisted
living can be helpful to an extent - but you have to keep in mind
that most facilities are biased - in that they have a commercial
and monetary interest in speaking with you. Many times, they will
tell you what you want to hear if they think it might result in
filing a vacant room at their facility.
It takes an enormous amount
of time to really get to the truth of assisted living and all
of the different facets, laws, standards and variables that are
involved. We've been researching and writing about assisted living
for years, and we are still far from knowing everything about
it! Most sons, daughters or caregivers also don't have the time
necessary to do all of the footwork and research needed to make
the right decision for their loved one. Mistakes can be made,
money wasted and harm can even come to the loved one you are trying
to help if the wrong choice is made. We'd like to help you in
your journey to making informed decisions with the following suggestions:
If you are looking for answers from a person or company, especially
an online source, try to find out if they are for-profit or non-profit.
If they have a commercial interest, then what they tell you will
most certainly be biased.
and cities have a Department of Aging, or a Department of Health
and Human Services Department. Usually, they have a website that
lists facilities, and if they have had any problems with health
or safety. Many of them have people working for them that can
help direct you or to answer questions.
have an Assisted Living Association - or something similar. These
are usually good websites to check out for state-specific questions
and answers related to assisted living. For example, the California
Assisted Living Association website clearly states their mission,
goals and services and information about any events, workshop,
conferences or trade shows - all great opportunities to learn
more about assisted living in California. See if your state has
a reputable association too!
Living Federation of America is a good national site that's been
around for a while. You can find out exactly what assisted living
is by definition, and can search for facilities nationwide. In
addition you can find out what the State
Regulations For Assisted Living are for each state on ALFA's
site, including Licensing.
some great tips on the National
Institutes of Health website about assisted living, choosing
a facility, financial issues (including paying for long-term care)
and even a glossary for long term care.
visit a website, and it asks for your e-mail address, or any other
they have one (they should). This will tell you how they will
use your information and if they resell or distribute it to third
try to get a second, third and fourth opinion if you can!
are thinking about opening your own assisted living facility and
don't know where to start, or have questions - make sure to read
our "How To Open An Assisted Living Facility"
article. The numerous comments are also insightful and helpful.
If you have gone through
the process of finding an assisted living facility for yourself,
a friend, or a loved one, we would love to hear about your experience
- and please us know where you found reputable help and answers
by commenting below!