By Dr. Marion Somers, Ph. D., Ask Dr. Marion

QUESTION: I have no idea how to determine if my parents should be moving into an assisted living facility? How will I know when the time is right? Shirley in Florida, 59

ANSWER: If you're thinking about moving your elder into an assisted living or nursing facility, you have to realize that the staff will make a huge impact on the quality of your elder's life there. Take your time before making any decision. Look around the place and engage the staff. Find out what you can about how they've been trained, their experience level, their education, and if they are appropriate and qualified for the job. Do they enjoy what they do? Are they smiling? Are they friendly? What's the staff to resident ratio? Go to the facility at a time other than the regular tour, and see how the staff acts when they're not on their "guest" behavior. Are residents treated well? Is the staff positive and encouraging? Are the TV and radio tuned to age appropriate entertainment for the elderly or the staff's favorites?

You want to be sure that your elder will come first. Ponder these additional questions.

  1. Is security obvious and a priority?
  2. Are residents well-dressed?
  3. Is the first floor bathroom clean?
  4. How is the food in the cafeteria and/or dining hall?
  5. Is the physical plant in top condition?
  6. Is the staff attentive to the residents' needs?
  7. Are residents clean and well-behaved?
  8. Do residents seem content? Are any wandering the halls, looking lost?
  9. Are the wheelchairs clean and fully-functional?
  10. Are the activities enjoyable and age-appropriate?
  11. Is appropriate music playing? (I can't tell you how often I walk into a nursing facility to find staffers blasting rock and roll music that the residents don't want to hear).
  12. Is the communal TV tuned to elder-appropriate programming or the favorite show of on-duty staffers?
  13. Is the facility insured?
  14. Will you and your elder have access to staff members?
  15. Do staff members knock before entering resident's rooms?

Observe and see if communication occurs on an adult-to-adult basis between staff and residents. Have two choices ready to go in case you're put on the waiting list by the first choice. This is common at popular nursing homes and nursing facilities.

©2006 Elder Health Resources of America, Inc.