How to choose the right assisted living facility for your parent


Helping a parent make the decision to move into an assisted living facility can be difficult. Knowing the questions to ask and what to look for can make the process easier.

Assisted living facilities vary greatly. Some are made up of actual apartments with small kitchens while others are private single rooms with a common dining area. There are also various levels of care offered. Seniors who can cook and clean for themselves need a much lower level of care than those who have mobility issues and/or memory impairment.

There are many benefits for senior citizens in an assistance living facility. Depending on the type of place chosen, most offer three healthy meals per day so you know your loved one is getting the proper nutrition they need. Laundry and cleaning services are available to ensure that the senior is living in a hygienic environment and has access to clean clothing. Help with prescriptions, such as reminders to take medications at the right time and at the correct dosage, can keep conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure under control. Activities such as crafts, games and dancing, and outings to museums and plays are also planned to avoid boredom and keep seniors’ minds and bodies actively engaged. Social interaction is greatly encouraged to ward off loneliness and deter isolation. For those with more limiting health issues such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, assisted living communities can offer a high level of care in order to keep your loved one safe and comfortable.

Before getting started, help your mother or father set a budget. Make a list of priorities from necessary to desirable and try to find a place that fits their needs and wants. The facility you and your parent choose will be determined by many variables, including location and cost. Seniors should be involved, if possible, in the entire decision-making process.

Once you know the financial situation, the next step is to find some facilities to visit. You can look online, speak with family and friends who have experience with those nearby, and check with your state or area agency on aging. In Fairfax County, Virginia, you can use the following link for information on senior living facilities in the area: After you locate a few possible choices, you can then call and find out information about what they offer and price ranges, and to request brochures.

Once you have this information, decide which ones you would like to visit and make appointments to see them. Before you go, put together a list of questions that you and your parent would like answered. For example, can residents have a pet, bring their own furniture, and can they come and go as they please?

For the tour, bring your parent with you if at all possible, since it is a priority for your mother or father to feel comfortable with the facility and also give him or her a sense of control. Besides meeting with the sales person, also meet with staff and residents. Ask the residents what they like and don’t like about the center, and get their personal feelings about the place.

As recommended in the article, “Choosing the Right Assisted Living Facility,” on, “After a successful tour, drop by the facility at least once during the day and once at night. During the day, observe the social atmosphere, including activities and meals. A night visit gives you a feel for the atmosphere during quiet hours, and it allows you to evaluate the night staff.”

When you find a facility you both like, be sure to review the material received and have all the answers to your questions. Before signing a contract, take it home and look it over carefully. If there is anything you don’t understand, ask for clarification. If you’re still not sure, you can have a lawyer review it. The contract should specify all fees, services, level of care, discharge policies, and anything else you may have requested.

With the right information, you can be secure in the fact that you’re making the right decision. And your parent can be happy and well cared for in their new home.

Written for Viva Tysons magazine in Tysons, VA

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