When a parent or senior loved one first moves to an assisted living community, it’s natural to worry about their adjustment and whether or not they are getting superior care.
Read our tips on how you can assess their level of care in assisted living and what to look for if you’re too far for an in-person visit.
Listening to Your Loved One in Assisted Living
When you visit your parent or senior loved one, you can check for a few signs of superior care in assisted living.
Ask them if they are comfortable and feel that the staff members respect them. If they have bonded with a specific staff member(s), all the better. These bonds are a sign that your loved one is coming out of their shell in their new home and that staff are making an effort to reach out to them.
Some questions to ask a senior loved one include:
- After you call for a staff member, how long does it take them to arrive?
- Are you worried about anything?
- Do you find the meals enjoyable?
- Have you made friends with any other residents?
- Have you participated in any activities that you enjoy since my last visit?
- When was the last time you had a bath?
Don’t rush your loved one through these questions like a checklist, however. Instead, work them into your conversation. Cornelia Poer, a social worker in the Geriatric Evaluation and Treatment Clinic at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, suggests that starting everyday conversations with your parent on a regular basis will help you assess their care.
“Inquiries are important, but try to avoid turning every visit into an interrogation,” Poer told U.S. News. “You will be able to determine if there are areas of concern in normal, everyday conversation.”
Top Questions to Ask Assisted Living Staff
If your parent or senior loved one is short on answers, it may be because they can’t remember due to a condition like Alzheimer’s or dementia, not necessarily because they’ve been mistreated.
Instead, you’ll have to have conversations with staff to determine if your parent is getting the superior care in assisted living that they deserve.
Some questions to ask assisted living staff include:
- Are there any reasons to change my loved one’s medication?
- Does my parent eat most of their food at mealtime?
- Is my loved one easy to wake up in the morning?
- Is my parent social and does he/she enjoy any activities?
5 Ways to See If Your Senior Loved One Is Getting Superior Care in Assisted Living
It’s rare, but some staff members may be less than forthcoming about your loved one’s condition. In this case, you can use some physical signs to assess your loved one’s condition:
- Check their weight: If possible, ask a nurse for their records or have them briefly stand on a scale. If your parent is at their normal weight, they’re eating regularly.
- Look at their clothes: Are their clothes clean, in good condition and properly fitting? The condition of your loved one’s clothes indicates more than the efficiency of the community’s laundry services. When your parent is well-dressed, it shows that the staff is taking their time with your loved one in the mornings and helping them look their best, which can boost your loved one’s self-esteem.
- Look for bruises: Keep your eye out for bruises, cuts and scrapes when you see your parent.
- Stop by unexpectedly: If you visit when the staff and your loved one aren’t expecting you, then you can see if they are sitting in front of a television or actually participating in engaging, rewarding activities.
- Watch them with other residents: Does your parent engage with the people around them and not just the staff?
However, don’t take physical signs as hard evidence that something’s wrong. Josh Uy, assistant professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, told Hospice of Southwest Ohio, that some decline in physical condition is to be expected.
“Some of these changes represent the inevitability of the underlying disease and not poor care,” he said. Ask the staff for explanations of any physical trouble you find. Perhaps your parent bumped into the dining table or refused their dinner because they weren’t hungry.
Ways to Stay in Touch From Afar
If you live too far from your parent to visit regularly you have a few options to assess their level of care:
- Consider sending a trusted family member or friend to visit in your place
- You can also arrange for video calls with your parent, which can be much more illustrative of their care than an email or phone call
- You can hire an elder care expert to perform checks on your parent if no one is available to be with them in person
Tell the assisted living community and your parent that this expert will be coming — but don’t tell them when. Their expert eyes can give you peace of mind that your parent is receiving the superior care you expect.
In what other ways can you assess whether your senior loved one is getting superior care in assisted living? We’d like to hear your tips in the comments below.