Managing your Transition

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Managing your Transition

Transitions at any age can be stressful.  Many people move to an assisted living facility following a significant health event, while some have given the move much more thought as their ability to live independently has diminished over time.  But whatever the reason, it's challenging to face new surroundings and people.

Here are some tips to help manage your assisted living experience.

Understand Your Agreement

Before enrolling in a facility, you should understand the residency or occupancy agreement.  Things to look for include:

  • Date for completing admission paperwork and move-in date
  • Health information needed before admission
  • Required directives, such as health care proxy
  • Room assignment and rules (no personal furniture, etc.)
  • Ability to move to another unit in the future, if desired
  • Plan for getting health aide supplies and medications
  • Plan for administering medications and health supplements
  • Emergency plan
  • Payment and refund policy
  • Charges outside the monthly rental agreement (transportation, etc.)
  • Patient rights and responsibilities
  • Complaint procedures

The Admissions Process

As part of the admissions process, you will need to see a doctor or other healthcare professional to get a health assessment, which typically includes a complete medical history and physical.  The health assessment is the basis for a care plan.  A care plan is a document that outlines suggested services to meet the needs of you or your loved one as identified during the health assessment.  The care plan describes personal care needs and preferences, and details how often and when the care plan will be re-evaluated.  Once the admissions paperwork is complete, moving in is generally the responsibility of you and your family.  Check with the facility about their moving policies.

Settling In

Once you choose an assisted living facility, be prepared for an active social life.  There might be a welcome party, a new resident announcement, and opportunities for a meet-and-greet at mealtime.  Community dining is often the first, and easiest, way to make new friends.  The facility might also ask for personal life details to share with other residents.  Work with the activities director to learn about social events and which might be most appropriate for you or your loved one.

Care Services

Most facilities offer personal care services.  Details about these services should be noted on the residency agreement.  Residents are encouraged to do as much as possible for themselves to support a sense of independence and belonging.  

You may find that your assisted living facility offers onsite medical services, such as a physician's office or a nursing home unit.  Even if that's the case, you or your loved one may choose to maintain a relationship with your own physician outside of the facility.  In either case, facility staff should know your medical history and any existing conditions. 

Understand the Discharge or Transfer Procedure

Sometimes, a resident may require a short in-patient hospital or nursing home stay.  Therefore, it is important to understand the residency agreement provisions regarding holding a resident's bed or unit.  After returning to the facility, the resident's care plan should be reviewed and updated as needed.  There may come a time when a resident's needs exceed the capabilities of the facility.  Be sure you understand the facility's discharge policies and what type of notice is required.  Ask how the facility can help with selection of a new care environment. 

Speak Up

Assisted living facilities are generally committed to providing residents with the best possible care.  But there may be times when your expectations won't be met.  When a resident is unhappy about a situation, the facility should be willing to hear and resolve the concern.  Be sure to refer to your Patient Rights and Responsibilities forms to justify your arguments, or use the facility's grievance policies to solve a problem. 

Generally, most issues involve some type of miscommunication between individuals.  Be sure that the issues are understood, expectations are clarified, and the solution meets everyone's needs.  Some facilities have a resident council to address issues related to the facility overall.  If you feel you need to take your concern to a higher level, contact your state long-term care ombudsman.

See the Care Library Article titled "What is Assisted Living?" and " Questions to Ask an Assisted Living Facility" for help with what to look for when considering, visiting and contracting with assisted living facilities.

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