Home: We dream about it, cry about it, even write songs about it.
Take Me Home, Country Roads…. Please Come Home for Christmas….Mama, I’m Coming Home… It’s home because we know it’s where we belong.
So what happens when Mama needs a new spot to call “Home” herself? The place she’s in now isn’t working, and you’re researching assisted living facilities.
You’ve heard horror stories! How can you know if the place you’re looking at is good or bad BEFORE you move her in?
Is there truly a Very, Very, Very Fine House? Or will you be left Whistling Dixie?
Overwhelming is an understatement, huh?
We get it. We’ve sung the songs, too.
Are there specifics things you can look for? Yes. So when you take a tour, take note of this Top Hits Countdown. In no time at all, you’ll see their True Colors Shining Through.
#8 Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Are the Residents Smiling?
Everybody has their good and bad days, so we’re not looking for fake camera “cheese” here, but do the residents look like they’re content? Comfortable?
Yes, if a patient is struggling with Alzheimer’s, he may also be struggling with his emotions. And yes, some residents may be coming to grips with not having their own place anymore.
But overall, you want to choose an assisted living facility that does its best to help their residents smile.
#7 To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn?
How Often Does the Staff Turnover?
Staff changes are normal here and there, but constant turnover means the workers never get to know your dad and the things he loves…nor the things he doesn’t. That makes it hard for him to feel at home and get the support he needs.
So if it seems like everyone’s coming and going, it’s worth asking, Why Don’t You Stay?
#6 The Lights Are On, But They’re Not Home?
How Many Staff Members Do They Have Present at Night?
Lots of stuff happens during the day, so you, of course, want to make sure the facility has plenty of help for residents when the sun is up.
But when it’s not? Are all the caregivers just Working 9 to 5?
Your mom might still need something in the middle of the night— at the same time as someone else’s dad needs something.
And if there’s only one staff member present?
Someone’s loved one is going to have to wait. Which could mean a potential fall or missed medicine or just a poor night’s sleep which could make the next day hard.
Make sure there’s at least two caregivers on site throughout those late-night hours in case your momma’s Walkin’ After Midnight.
#5 Celebrate Good Times!
What Activities and Social Options Do They Offer?
Maybe your mom loves to play bingo. If so, great. Find a place that plays a lot of bingo.
But if she doesn’t?
She’s going to need activities that she does like to do.
Ask the staff to see their monthly calendar of scheduled events. (By law in Wisconsin, CBRFs are supposed to have that posted.) Is it just bingo 24/7?
Do they have a variety of doings that she can do? Do they have outings she’d be interested in? Do they encourage community involvement? People volunteering in and residents volunteering out?
Is the facility open to adding events to the schedule that do interest Mom?
The more she can do what she loves, the more it will truly be a home sweet home. Because the Fun, Fun, Fun doesn’t have to stop just because someone took the T-bird away.
#4 Little Bit o’ Chicken Fried
Does the Food Taste Good?
Nothing says home like a homemade meal. So when you take your tour, make sure you take time to enjoy the food.
If it leaves much to be desired? Tastes like cardboard? It’s going to get old quick.
Of course, nothing’s going to taste like Mom’s made-from-scratch mashed potatoes. But it doesn’t mean she has to suffer through eating sawdust. So ask to see the menu and be sure to schedule a time to eat it yourself.
#3 Count on Me Like 1,2,3 I’ll Be There
Is the Facility Licensed and Equipped to Care for YOUR Mom’s Struggles?
You want a facility that’s going to focus on what your mom needs.
And just because the place you’re looking at is the absolute best place for Peggy Sue’s Uncle Ned, it doesn’t mean it’s the best place for your momma.
Each CBRF is licensed for a specific set of resident needs and “client groups:” Those with memory loss, mental illness, physical handicaps, aging…
Sometimes these client groups function well together. Sometimes they don’t. That means each CBRF needs to plan for how it’s going to work so every resident is safe.
You need the facility to be an expert on how to take care of your mom.
You also need to check how they work with Mom’s mobility. If she needs a wheelchair, are they wheelchair accessible? If she’s at risk of wandering, are their doors secured? If she just needs extra support with medicines and daily living activities, can she come and go as she pleases with as few restrictions as possible?
(Not sure how much help Mama really needs? Check out this post on the levels of assisted living available to help you decide.)
Whatever your mom needs, you want to know she isn’t just surviving, she’s thriving. To do that, you need a place that’s prepared to be there for her as an individual, where they’re comfortable having her proclaim, This Is Me.
#2 I Smell Trouble!
Does It Smell Good?
Those horror stories? I can’t forget my own. After my grandma had a stroke, she had to go to a nursing home. I could barely stand to visit because the odor was so bad.
And when I mentioned to caregivers that Grandma’s bed needed to be changed? It took them two hours to help her out.
That ISN’T what you want!
Smell is one of the quickest observations to how a place cares for residents. If your nose isn’t happy in the few minutes you’re touring, how would your father be happy there long-term?
Other easy checks: Is each resident’s hair combed? Are clothes clean? Do caregivers quickly clean up messes?
When all else fails, trust your senses. It should be a place where Mom can Stop and Smell the Roses
#1 You’ve Got a Friend in Me
Do the CAREGIVERS Look like They ENJOY the Residents?
It’s important that residents be happy where they are, and if you see them smiling, that’s music to your ears.
But just as important is the look on the faces of the caregivers.
Are they smiling? Do they talk to residents like adults? Are they gentle? Kind? Patient?
Is it just a job or a calling?
This will be your mom’s home, so you want caregivers who will treat her with Love and Respect!
The Greatest Show
Beyond your own observations, you can also check the government site to see if the facility has any deficiencies. But taking a quick tour of an assisted living facility can tell you a lot.
There are great assisted living facilities out there that want to help you give Mom a safe and happy home, and Frontida is one of them. Call if you’d like a tour.
We want your mom happily singing, There’s No Place like Home.
Elizabeth Daghfal is a writer, teacher, speaker, and community volunteer. When she isn't teaching or writing-- Who are we kidding? Her husband and five kids say she's ALWAYS teaching and writing. She has a passion to help people who are struggling and is happy to say her shoulders are drip-dry. Born and raised in the South, she now lives in Wisconsin and loves it--except for the fifteen months of winter. Read more about her at elizabethdaghfal.com.