5 steps before choosing an assisted living facility

National Assisted Living Week is Sept. 10-16. Over 900,000 Americans are living in about 40,000 different assisted living facilities across the United States and costs are rising.

Finding an assisted living facility you trust your family members to be at can be intimidating and overwhelming. After everything they did for you, you want to make sure your loved one is in the best care.

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BBB offers these tips to help you in deciding which is the best place.

First, determine if assisted living is appropriate for your family. If your loved one only needs minimum help, consider home care services. But, if more care is needed, choosing the right community requires serious consideration. Take your time and evaluate the services, features and policies offered.

Second, help assess your relative's physical, mental and financial situation. Consider consulting a geriatric-care manager for information on your relative's health and the assisted living care options available in your area.

Third, go online to www.caremanager.org for a list of assisted living facilities approved by the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers. Also, visit bbb.org for a list of BBB Accredited assisted living facilities and Business Profiles on ones you're considering. Visit bbb.org or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301. Your family doctor or local senior citizen center may also offer recommendations.

Fourth, visit facilities. Check the atmosphere. (Do you like the location and outward appearance? Is it homelike, with a warm greeting from staff? Do the residents seem happy and comfortable? Are staff professional and friendly?) Also, check the physical features and services. (Is the floor plan easy to follow and wheelchair/walker assessable? Does the residence have means of security if a resident wanders? Is there a physician or nurse that provide medical exams? Is the residence free of odors and clean? Make sure the residence provides a list of services available, including housekeeping services, medical services, food services, activities and if regular visits by family members are allowed.) Get a copy of the admissions contract, as well as residence rules and rights, before deciding. Ask about staff to patient ratios, staff training and if background checks are performed.

Fifth, understand the costs, contracts and finances. Note any costs for extra services your relative will need, policies regarding the return of a deposit, costs involved in any hospitalizations and possibility of unexpected rate increases. Make sure your contract discloses the healthcare and supportive services your relative will need, as well as all fees and admission and discharge provisions. Understand refund and transfer policies.

Transitioning your family members into a home can be a difficult time. You can also contact the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center at www.ltcombudsman.org to speak to an independent resident advocate.

John North is president of the Dayton Better Business Bureau.

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