Six Keys to Ensuring Your Loved One is Safe in Assisted Living

When your aging loved one can no longer remain at home safely, but is not yet ready for a skilled nursing facility, assisted living provides an attractive alternative—support for daily needs, such as dressing and bathing, in a home-like environment; on-site medical resources; dining and recreational activities.

So attractive, in fact, that there are now about 734,000 older Americans residing in assisted living facilities—a number expected to grow as Baby Boomers age and their needs outpace the number of younger family members available to care for them.

But a recent PBS Frontline documentary exposed serious abuses in some assisted living facilities. In response, the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM) surveyed their members about the best ways that families can ensure quality care for their loved ones.

“Too often families don’t have the information they need to protect their loved ones residing in assisted living facilities,” says Julie Gray, NAPGCM president. Survey respondents agreed that asking questions and visiting often are key.

Here are the top tips from the NAPGCM survey for how to monitor and follow up on your loved one’s care:

  • Before choosing a facility, check with state or local licensing agencies and the local long-term care ombudsman to ask if the facility has had safety or quality problems or complaints. If there have been problems, ask what they were, when they occurred and how they were resolved.
  • Visit your loved one often. If you live out of town, or are unable to visit, ask other family members and friends to visit.
  • When you visit, eat the food, observe the residents and their interactions with staff, and talk to other families who visit their loved ones. The more you are involved and know the residents and staff, the better you will be able to identify and address concerns.
  • If your loved one has dementia, learn how the facility assures safety, including how they protect residents who are inclined to wander and if staff are appropriately trained to respond to this and other behaviors associated with dementia.
  • If your loved one begins to need more care than the facility provides, obtain an independent professional assessment to determine if the facility is still appropriate for them. Many assisted living facilities do not provide one-on-one care. A loved one needing individualized care may need additional help hired independently, to be moved to a facility with more care, such as a nursing home, or may need hospice care initiated.
  • If your loved one reports, or if you observe, issues with care, take action immediately. Do not wait. If the problem is serious and is not addressed promptly, help or seek help in moving your loved one to another facility. Expect to make additional visits or hire a caregiver during the transition.

A professional geriatric care manager can be your “eyes and ears” as an advocate and a partner in assuring quality care for your loved one in the facility.

The survey of 355 geriatric care managers was conducted August 26-28, 2013.

The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM) was formed in 1985 to advance dignified care for older adults and their families. Geriatric Care Managers are professionals who have extensive training and experience working with older people, people with disabilities and families who need assistance with caregiving issues. They assist older adults, who wish to remain in their homes, or can help families in the search for a suitable nursing home placement or extended care if the need occurs. The practice of geriatric care management and the role of care providers have captured a national spotlight, as generations of Baby Boomers age in the United States and abroad. For more information or to access a nationwide directory of professional geriatric care managers, please visit

About Deborah Fins Associates
President of Deborah Fins Associates, PC, since 1995, Deborah Liss Fins is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified geriatric care manager. Drawing on more than 30 years of professional experience in geriatric care management, DFA offers comprehensive assessments and planning, guidance in selecting appropriate care, help identifying resources for financial support and professional consulting. Please contact us to set up a complimentary initial telephone consultation.

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