Assisted living has become that long overdue “happy medium” that families have waited for to provide peace of mind while also helping their elderly loved one maintain some degree of independence. It’s often a preferred option to a nursing home while also having skilled medical care on the grounds. While it’s not the right choice for many, many of us know that our parents are living longer and healthier in a modern society – which makes it right for those families.
Remember, each state has its own licensing and compliance guidelines. What works for your cousin in Wyoming might not be an option in New Hampshire. Not only that, but not all assisted living facilities are created equally. For instance, in early March, New Hampshire state officials forced an assisted living facility to close its doors and send its residents back to their families. The reason is the facility failed to meet minimum state code requirements. The codes require the elderly residents of the facility to be able to evacuate the building within 13 minutes. The staff was unable to do that.
According to State Rep. Laurie Harding, the vice chair of the Health, Human Services & Elderly Affairs Committee, families of many older New Hampshire residents “struggle to find affordable assisted-living facilities and nursing homes because of the low reimbursement rates paid by Medicaid and Medicare.” This, she said, “…is a huge policy issue in terms of trying to evaluate our long-term care for the elderly and how we pay for it. “We have to get more creative because people don’t want to live in nursing homes necessarily and assisted living gives them greater alternatives for less money.”
The issue is especially important for New Hampshire. Harding notes, “We are fast becoming one of the four oldest states in the country.”
That’s not to say all facilities are lacking, but it does reiterate the purpose of due diligence and careful selections.
Many assisted living facilities provide private units or apartments and most offer plenty of recreational opportunities. For those who are active and want to stay that way, they often discover golf courses, walking trails, swimming pools and even tennis courts in very close proximity to their assisted living facility.
The versatility is an additional benefit. For those who aren’t as active as their neighbors, they are afforded other options, perhaps dinner at a local restaurant, while the more active residents carry on with their plans for a shopping day. That’s not to say it’s available in every facility, but it’s important to understand what’s offered and what’s not offered.
Some assisted living facilities will also offer laundry service, minimal health monitoring and some will take on the task of ensuring a resident’s prescriptions are always filled. Note too that most New Hampshire assisted living facilities are committed to excellence. They carefully investigate any potential employee’s past – including criminal charges, a history of drug abuse and more.
Families feel comfortable with their choices when they know the facility does not leave the proverbial stone unturned. Remember, too, that most also offer around the clock security With Alzheimer’s and dementia always a possibility, security can keep Mom or Dad from wandering off.
Other things to look out for include the presence of handicap parking, ramps and more. Can wheelchairs navigate the property? Have you checked with the Better Business Bureau as well as New Hampshire’s licensing ability? What is the facility’s employee turnover rate? Is the facility clean? Is the staff helpful and patient?
Finally – don’t forget to schedule a meeting with your or your loved one’s elder law attorney. Keep him in the loop so that he can catch potential problems with healthcare coverage, Medicaid and other government programs.