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Mistakes to Avoid When Looking for Assisted Living Communities

Articles January 7th, 2015
When I first sit down with a family and begin speaking to them about senior housing and care options, we discuss what type of setting is going to be the most appropriate; this includes: Retirement Communities, Assisted Living, Assisted Living with Memory Careand Adult Family HomesThen, we discuss what defines each setting and the differences between them.

The likelihood that the family has never been to one of these senior living options is high. But why would they visit of their own accord? Unless another family member has gone through this journey before, it’s unusual to find oneself in a senior housing community. So, this prompts the first two questions:
  • What does an Assisted Living have to offer?
  • How much care can they provide?
These are excellent questions, but to answer those, you need to know what Assisted Living Communities are.

What Are Assisted Living Communities?

In a very broad sense, Assisted Living communities are regulated by the Washington State government; DSHS to be exact. This is a good thing. State staffers are continually pushing to keep our residents safe and well. There is a huge book of rules to follow and, in fact, assisted living is the third most regulated industry in the state (behind the airline industry and nuclear power). Every community has a “Disclosure of Services” that indicates just what Assisted Living services they can provide… but more on that later.

Are All Assisted Living Communities Different?

Another great question and YES they are. Each community determines just how much care they will provide, there is not a standard platform to compare each community to another. The DSHS defines Assisted Living as:

An assisted living facility means any home or other institution, however named, which is advertised, announced, or maintained for the express or implied purpose of providing housing, basic services, and assuming general responsibility for the safety and well-being of the residents, and may also provide domiciliary care.”

In other words, they can offer help with dressing, bathing, using the bathroom, eating, walking, grooming and medication management.

Don’t Be Fooled By Assisted Living Marketers!

There are 111 Assisted Livings in King County that have a license for at least 30 residents (150+ total; regardless of size). Many of these have a marketing, sales or community relations person whose job is to “sell” the services and amenities of the community. Keep in mind that their job is to tell you all of the wonderful things about their property; most will also tell you that “you can live here until you die” and that they offer “the highest care possible.”
In fact, they will often promise that “the only way you will leave here is if you need 24/7 Skilled Nursing Care (or if you pass away)“. This is inaccurate and terribly misleading.
There are many scenarios when the Assisted Living is no longer the right fit, but another Assisted Living or Adult family Home is perfectly suitable. This is often the case surrounding elders with dementia, those that need transfer assistance, suffer problems with incontinence, Diabetes, or need behavioral management.

How Much Does Assisted Living Cost?

Be aware that pricing in each community may vary across the board. I recently toured three communities with a family; we wanted a one bedroom and while the care was moderate, the medication management was slightly complex. The pricing ranged from $3900 to $4950 to $6200.That is a pretty big range for the same circumstance.  It is important to understand the differences; not just in a setting but in quality, pricing, and longevity.

Getting Full Disclosure

One method of differentiating between multiple communities is by getting the full Disclosure of Services. This way, you can compare and contrast the limitations of services and care plans. Or, better yet, you can get an experienced pro and elder care expert (like myself) to help guide you through the process and navigate the waters. You will be glad you did.
When Opportunity Knocks, Answer: Senior Living Expectations
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