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Assisted Living: Is There a Doctor in the House?

Perhaps your mother is having cognitive issues and is ready to trade independent living for assisted living.

This sounds like a good idea, but is this the right move? Do you know the difference between assisted living, continuing care and a nursing home? Will your loved one have the care she needs?

Need-based facilities

As a continuing care retirement community, an assisted living facility is “need-based.” An ALF is where many people go when they can no longer stay in their own homes and before they need the round-the-clock medical care a nursing home provides. There are 30,000 to 40,000 ALFs in our country and many in the state of Florida. All ALFs house the more vulnerable and frail, and many will accept residents who are dealing with dementia and other cognitive issues.

You may, therefore, assume that the ALF you have your eye on for Mom has a doctor on staff, or at least on call, but that is not necessarily true. State regulations vary as to the kind of personnel an assisted living facility must employ. Some do not even have a registered nurse on site, although the trend is for ALFs to provide more nursing services than they once did.

A concern about neglect

Depending on the level of personal attention your mother requires, the matter of neglect may be top of mind. What happens when her forgetfulness and memory lapses become more pronounced? How stable and attentive is the ALF staff? If there is a high turnover, there will be new faces on a fairly regular basis, which your mother might find confusing. New staff members must familiarize themselves with the needs of each resident, raising concerns about neglect, even though a lack of proper care may be unintentional.

Round-the-clock care

It may not easy to obtain comprehensive information about the services of an assisted living facility and how the staff treats residents. If your mother’s cognitive issues increase, she might have to move on to a continuing care facility or nursing home. However, some ALFs will allow a resident with dementia or Alzheimer’s to stay if the family can afford to provide around-the-clock aide.

Consider all the available options before you commit to an ALF for your mother. She may need care in a different kind of environment—one with a doctor in the house.

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