Senior Living Advice: Factors to look for when choosing senior housing

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By Beth Dow, Solutions by Beth

The senior housing boom has indeed hit the Newnan-Coweta area.

Assisted Living and Personal Care communities, scarce 10 years ago, are now popping up all over the county. If you are looking at Assisted Living or Personal Care as an option for you or someone you love, how do you know which one is the right one?

Let’s first start with the difference between Personal Care and Assisted Living. Personal Care Homes (PCH) range from 2 to 200 beds. Assisted Living Communities (ALC) will have more than 25 beds.

The ALC also must meet fairly stringent fire and building codes, that PCHs do not have to meet. Other than the fire and building codes, the main difference is the ability to age in place. No one wants to move their loved one more than they have to and ALCs are permitted to retain non-ambulatory residents without special permission from the state. In order for a PCH to keep non-ambulatory residents, they must obtain a state-granted waiver. In many cases, people living in an ALC can age in place longer than those in Personal Care Homes.

Staff ratios for both ALCs and PCHs are the same. At least one responsible staff person must be on the premises 24 hours a day.

The minimum staff to resident ratio is 1:15 during waking hours and 1:25 during non-waking hours. Communities must exceed the minimum ratios if residents’ care needs require doing so.

Once you decide if a Personal Care Home (PCH) or an Assisted Living Community (ALC) is best for you, you want to make sure that the one you choose has the following traits.

• Family and friends are always welcomed. No one wants to go visit a loved one and sit in their room and stare at them. The best communities understand the vital role family and friends have in the resident’s social and emotional well being and will provide an environment that is “fun” and comfortable to visit and enjoy.

• The Community is fresh and clean. The best communities put the health and safety of their residents first. This means they invest in housekeeping, custodial services and 
maintenance staff.

• The best communities place high value on individualized care. Watch for those communities that “hug” the staff/resident ratios closely. The ratios mentioned above are the bare minimum and should not be the standard level of care provided.

• Location. Location. Location. A central location that is easy to get to and close to shopping and restaurants, make it easier for families and friends to find time to stop by and visit. If the community is “out of the way,” there will be fewer visits.

• Watch for “Levels of Care” and Annual Increases. Communities will often bring you in at one rate and then as your care needs change, your rate goes up. And not by dollars a day but by amounts that could add $1,000-or-more to the monthly bill. Also ask about annual “cost of living” increases. These annual increases can be from 3 to 7 percent or more.

While communities prefer for you to make an appointment for a tour, I suggest you “show up”, and ask for a tour. And I wouldn’t stick to Monday through Friday times. Go on weekends and in the evening. It is important for you to really see community life as it is when no one is expecting you. This is the only way you will truly see what staff is on the premises on the weekends or what type of community life happens after 6 p.m.

Make a list of five communities. Visit all of them. Then visit your top two a second time.

This is a great time to be looking for an ALC or PCH in Coweta. There is a very good chance you will find the perfect community for yourself or a loved one.

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Beth Dow is a Dementia and Alzheimer’s Educator, CAEd, 
Geriatric Case Manager and 
Certified Senior Advisor. Contact her at [email protected].

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