When Is It Time To Consider Assisted Living?

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Featured Speaker:
Sherry Meyer

Sherry Meyer
Sherry Meyer is a certified social worker. She has been with Aspirus 17 years. She started in 1999 at Memorial Nursing & Rehab Center (a skilled nursing facility), then worked in Utilization Review and Case Management on the Med Surg/Swing Bed floor of the hospital, and then returned to Senior Care Services in 2008.

About This Podcast

If you have concerns about the ability of an aging parent or relative to live independently, you may want to investigate assisted living—and sooner rather than later.

When that time has come to consider moving into an assisted living facility, how do you choose an assisted living that is right for you or your loved one?

Some important questions to consider are: What types of services are offered, and how much does it cost?

Sherry Meyer, coordinator of Admissions and Marketing for Senior Care Services, is here to answer these and other great questions about assisted living facilities.


Melanie Cole (Host): If you have concerns about the ability of an aging parent or relative to live independently, you may want to investigate assisted living. My guest today is Sherry Meyer. She's a certified social worker in admissions and marketing for senior care services at Aspirus. Welcome to the show, Sherry. So, let's just start with that discussion. How do you decide that an aging relative or parent needs a little more help than what they've been getting?

Sherry Meyer (Guest): Well, Melanie, I think families need to start looking at the many different types of folks that can consider assisted living. Sometimes they might be living at home and they start having mobility issues; maybe they're starting to see, the family is starting to see, an increase in them falling, or other safety issues; or other healthcare concerns. Their health may be deteriorating. I think it's a good time to start talking about assisted living sooner than later and what I mean by that is oftentimes, families wait to have those conversations until an emergency room visit happens or a fall happens and there's an injury and then everything is kind of "on the wire". So, it's nice to start talking about those issues. Things that might be occurring, little things at that time, to start having the conversation early about assisted living.

Melanie: So, having that conversation, sometimes it can put your older relatives on the defensive and they want to stay independent. So, what do you say to them to begin that conversation?

Sherry: I think to start the conversation about assisted living is to talk about it. Assisted living is just that. It's for folks that maybe just need a little bit of assistance with daily cares. Maybe they're just lonely at home, too, and they're experiencing some social isolation and they want to be more in a setting where they can have activities taking place. I think it's nice to approach it in a positive way. Again, focusing on the positives of assisted living.

Melanie: So, then let's make a checklist for people. When they do have that conversation and it's time to start looking, what should they be looking for as they start touring assisted living facilities?

Sherry: We recommend making several visits and researching what's available in the community. Again, with starting early on that, it's important, because you can also take tours of not only the family, but the loved one that they're considering assisted living for can also take a tour of a facility. So, looking at that early gives the opportunity to make several visits. Various times are good, sometimes, to just pop in maybe for a visit just to see how things are going versus a scheduled visit where you can pop in and maybe just see how folks are being taken care of or what activities might be taking place. We suggest looking at making a checklist starting with atmosphere. When you walk in, how is the outward appearance, not only inward, but the outward appearance of the assisted living? How are you greeted when you arrive? Again, physical features, too. Is it an easy floorplan? Are things laid out nicely where your loved one can get around and feel comfortable? Well-lit areas? And then, too, also to look at cost and finances and what kind of medication and healthcare do they provide, too? Do they have a nurse on staff? You know, are there certified nursing assistants? Are they trained professional staff? And what services do they provide? What do they exactly help with? Are they going to meet your loved one's needs with what features they have?

Melanie: Do you think it's acceptable to ask for feedback from residents and their families?

Sherry: I think that's very appropriate. I know that I've given references out here, too, and, again, we're in a smaller, rural community, too, where folks can often reach out. They know other people that may have utilized assisted living services on our campus, and we really strongly recommend that they would also talk with our current tenants and their families.

Melanie: So, what are some red flags, Sherry, that people, as they're touring these, and you said, you know, check out the staff, maybe make some unscheduled visits--what are some red flags that you should look for that would tell you maybe this won't be the right place for your loved one?

Sherry: I think one of the biggest components that I like to talk with some of our families that are touring, especially if there's a component of dementia, and we're starting to see, of course, a lot more of our tenants and residents that have a dementia, or a diagnosis of a type of dementia, whether it be Alzheimer's or another type, is looking at what the facility may offer for wandering. I know that it's very important to have a system on the doors and if there's an elevator in the assisted living facility, as well. I do know that that's an important component and I do know that's one thing we offer on our campus here at Aspirus, is the Wander Guard system, which is very important. I think that's something to look for. So, I think your red flag would be if your loved one has a dementia and maybe is has a wandering, or maybe would be likely to exit out a door, that you would certainly look for that system in that assisted living facility.

Melanie: And, what about cleanliness? What kinds of things should you look for in a facility that would indicate to you that they keep a nice, clean facility?

Sherry: I think, again, when you first walk into a facility, noticing maybe, you know, the smell of the facility. Does it smell like it's clean and fresh? Is the lobby friendly? The decor, is it home-like? Does it give you that warm feeling when you enter that facility? And, are the staff, you know, do they greet you? Once again, are they in a professional manner? Are they friendly? Do they make you feel comfortable?

Melanie: And, what about some of the financial concerns people have with assisted living? What do you tell people all the time, Sherry, about figuring out the cost of assisted living versus maybe having in-home care?

Sherry: Well, actually, the cost of assisted living when we start talking about different options and assisted living options, the costs of that are usually very reasonable compared to that of like a skilled nursing facility or sometime even home services. So, sometimes the cost can be, you know, very financially feasible to our tenants and to their families. I think one of the things to look for is how, not only what about the cost, or how much the costs are, but how the rates and the per diem or daily rates or monthly rates are adjusted or how the billing occurs. I know on our campus here, we have an all-inclusive rate at our assisted living which means it's very nice because when we give our tenants and their families a base rate, that's what they're charged. There are no add-on fees if they need extra assistance with medications or other daily activities. So, it's just a lump, monthly sum, which is nice because then there's no hidden fees that they have to worry about. Again, that's something families need to look for, too, when they're touring, is are there add-on charges or is there a point system? So, some facilities have what's called a point system where they will add on charges for different points that occur throughout the month. And I think that's another thing to look for, because sometimes there are hidden fees that, you know, families and tenants might not be expecting.

Melanie: Now, that's a great point, especially, as you say, if they need additional help with their medications and such like that. So, wrap it up for us about looking for assisting living and helping your loved ones find a place that they're comfortable in and yet they can still feel like they're living somewhat independently but that there are still activities and people around and things for them to do.

Sherry: Well, in wrapping it up, again, I think it's very important to take that step in talking about assisted living early. Again, I know I've done a radio interview about advanced care planning and a power of attorney for health care, and sometimes completing a will or power of attorney or talking about those types of things also opens up the opportunity to start talking about things that might be happening at home and assisted living or skilled nursing care, if that might be needed. And then, as the conversation starts to open up, start taking a tour of some of the facilities in your local communities. Again, make a call, maybe get in touch with the administrator or executive director at the facility at first to maybe get some information, and then after that point, again, pop in or schedule a tour to meet and to take a tour of the facility for the assisted living so you know exactly what you may be expecting in the future, talking about cost, and not only that, but the physical features, the recreational and social activities it might offer, a food service, or other services that your loved one might be needing. Again, and how are they going to involve the family? So, if you're helping your loved one with an assisted living, how do they involve their family and their friends in their care and in their daily lives?

Melanie: Thank you so much for being with us, Sherry. It's such great information and so important for people to hear. You're listening to Aspirus Health Talk, and for more information, you can go www.aspirus.org. That's www.aspirus.org. This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening.

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