WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN SELECTING AN ASSISTED LIVING SERVICES FOR YOUR LOVED ONE.
There are thousands of beds available offering some kind of daily assistance with ‘activities of daily living’ for vulnerable adults in Maricopa county. These services are generically known as ‘assisted living’ services. Adult day care also helps when a family is at the end of their rope in trying to manage very weighty and health care related issues with aging family members or loved ones. What makes one better than the other? It’s not as if you’re searching for the best pizza. After all this is an important issue as America’s baby boomers begin to ‘age in place’.
As an assisted living manager for the state of Arizona for over 13 years, I’ve seen the highs and the lows, the good and bad of what is offered in assisted living centers (over 10 beds), offering a much more independent living environment; ‘adult care homes’, offering more hands on care & monitoring, (10 beds and under).
The range of options based on the need of the resident and the social-economic drivers are huge! On one end of the spectrum we have a North Scottsdale private pay center that includes an ala ca-rte menu with choices you’re likely to see in an upscale bistro and a health and fitness center. On the other end an ALTCS via AHCCCS, reimbursed assisted living facility in South Phoenix. In the middle of the road a smaller center with a fixed menu and a TV on the wall which is called an ‘activity’. All things being equal; since all assisted living facilities are licensed and monitored by AZ Dept. of Health Services, the basic services remain unchanged. Of course the differences are the amenities that are offered and the physical plant curb appeal.
‘Hybrid’ assisted living facilities focus on the staff, as it should be. You can have an average physical plant layout, but services are above-par. I was fortunate enough to inherit this type facility. As an executive director for a 25 year old physical plant in NE Phoenix I can truly say that although not a perfect physical plant, the staff was on point, services were above par, and ultimately it was the staff that made the difference. I attribute this directly to the commitment and work ethic of the staff. Corporate support and training was also very important in succeeding while competing with much nicer assisted living facilities in such a highly competitive market.
The AZ Dept. of Health, services, inspects and monitors all facilities for compliance. This includes; investigating a complaint, ensuring meals are being served timely and according to the menu, meds are being passed safely, and those requiring services and assistance with the ‘activities of daily living’ are being delivered. So how to you know that a facility or a home is safe and up to the standards as well as the rules and regulations are being adhered to?
Fortunately there is an on line data base that enables the consumer to review the latest survey/inspection, deficiencies, and possible enforcement actions. That web site is http://hsapps.azdhs.gov/ls/sod/SearchProv.aspx?type=AL. Within the search parameters, you can provide the name of the facility or home and it will provide the consumer with detailed information that will serve as an overview of how the facility or home is being run. This includes their latest inspection and if the facility incurred any deficiencies. Very important information to assist the consumer while making a difficult decision.
Additionally, you can check the manager’s/operators credibility and history by visiting: http://www.aznciaboard.us/managers.html. You can also see if there has been any kind of complaint filed against the manager’s license, and what the disposition of the complaint is. This is also an excellent tool to be utilized while you’re conducting a search.
So while the process of searching for a ‘safe and credible’ assisted living solution for your loved one is not an easy one, at least the state of Arizona has a system in place to check on the status of the hundreds of providers/operators that are licensed in the state to ensure your choice is the best one possible.
Be very careful of placement agencies, especially smaller, local companies, or even a national company with a celebrity spokesperson. The placement companies advertise they have done the research for you. The independent data provided by the state is completely unbiased and is more reliable. Once you have made a choice I would recommend unannounced visits. especially in the smaller care homes, as the larger centers typically have a corporate quality assurance program in place. Don’t ever let them tell you, ‘we’re not accepting visitors after 7 pm’ (This has actually happened to me personally). Unannounced visits will ensure that the caregivers are on their toes and doing their jobs. Larger centers usually have a 24/7 concierge, and should welcome you with open arms.
There is certainly no proof positive way to ensure your choice is a good one as there are so many variables that can affect the way a facility operates. But common sense and the following questions should always be the motivating factor:
1) “Do you feel that your loved one and family member is in a safe haven”?
2) Would you live there?!
3) Are there offensive odors when you walk in?
4) What are they having for dinner?
5) Do the caregivers provide TLC services? i.e.,
6) Are all residents properly groomed, etc?
7) Do they have a fresh change of clothes?
All these questions matter and are important. Attention to detail is crucial. Please make it a point of never assuming anything!
So no matter where you are in your search, remember that you’re not alone. Several mitigating factors (based on the State of Arizona rules and regulations) dictate how assisted living facilities operate to ultimately help make you make a wise and educated choice. You may be wondering: ‘what do I look for when looking for’ an appropriate assisted living option? This article should help. ; )