DIMENSIONS Spring 2001
CHOOSING AN ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY
by Julie Cleveland
One of the most difficult challenges for families of individuals with dementia
is to provide a safe, secure, and pleasant living environment. When the person
with dementia is no longer able to live at home, an assisted living facility
may be a good alternative. Assisted living (AL) facilities are designed to
provide housing, meals, and care for individuals who need supervision and help
with daily activities, but do not need the skilled nursing care provided in
nursing homes. Some AL facilities specialize in dementia care, others provide
more general care. Choosing the best one for your family member is a matter of
finding the best fit between your family member's needs and the resources of
There are many issues to consider when selecting an assisted living facility.
Consult a variety of sources to gather information on facilities. Take the time
to visit each of the facilities you are considering before you choose one. Be
sure to honestly discuss problems such as agitation, wandering, or incontinence,
so you and the staff can make an informed decision about whether the facility
can meet your family member's needs. Here are some more ideas about selecting
an AL facility:
Assessment and Care Plan
- Is there a written plan for the resident's care?
- What is the procedure for assessing the resident's needs, and how often are
these needs reassessed?
Services and Health Care
- What kinds of services are offered: dressing, bathing, etc.? Are they
available 24 hours a day? Is there an additional cost for these services?
- If more extensive services are needed, are there other levels of care
available on site? Some places have "independent living," "assisted living,"
and "skilled nursing care." Residents may move out of one area into another as
the need develops.
- What is the facility's policy for storing and administering medications?
- Does a nurse or physician visit the facility regularly to provide check-ups
People & Physical Environment
- Tour the facility. Are both private and common areas pleasant, safe and
- Meet the staff. Do they seem friendly, kind and compassionate?
- Meet other residents. Are they comfortable, clean and appropriately
groomed? Talk with residents and find out how they like the facility.
- Is the facility safe and secure? For example, are the aisles wide enough
for wheelchair users? Are there secure areas indoors and outdoors for people
- Ask to see the facility's plan for fires or natural disasters. Can they
provide the kind of assistance your relative needs in case of emergency?
- Do they have daily organized activities at the facility?
- Are there activities available outside of the facility (like the mall,
theatre events, etc.)? Is transportation provided?
- Are residents allowed to have pets? Does the facility have its own pets?
Costs and Contracts
- What is included in the monthly rate? What is extra?
- What sources of funding do they accept or not accept? Do they accept
- Are rates fixed? If not, how are rates raised? What kind of notice do you
- Ask to see the facility's license and their most recent inspection report.
Assisted-living facilities vary widely in the services they provide, what type
of individuals they accept, and how much they cost. By asking the right
questions, caregivers can choose the AL facility that will best fit their needs
and those of the person with dementia.
For information about facilities in Washington State call the Washington State
Department of Social and Health Services -Aging and Adult Services
Administration at (800) 422-3263.