If you’re exploring options in assisted living facilities for a parent or loved one, you may feel a bit more confident in your discoveries if they can be made under the radar, when the administration and staff are unaware of observation. In other words, you may want to “spy” on each of the facilities before making a decision. The question then is “how do you spy on assisted living centers”?
You can begin your spying missions through the Internet, researching reviews, ratings, and past experiences of the facility. But it’s important to follow-up your initial research with a scheduled tour or visit to the facility. This is never going to be as neutral as a regular “tour” because you (as a spy) will be going into the venture with a very critical and skeptical eye.
Touring a Facility
When you tour a facility you’ll have to take everything with the proverbial “grain of salt”. This means that you are going to nod and/or smile, but you’ll also make a mental note to double-check everything that sounds too good to be true.
For example, if the program coordinator says that she takes the residents to the local shopping mall once each week, accept that statement, but then go and ask at least three residents if they take the weekly trip to the mall. If they look perplexed or negate the statement provided by the coordinator, you can either accept that you were misled or go even further by asking the staff at the local mall if there is indeed a weekly visit from the site.
So, you know to use a very critical “ear” during your tour, but also be sure to develop your most critical “eye” as well. For instance, you may not be the world’s best housekeeper and may find it hard to distinguish a freshly washed floor from a not-so-freshly-washed one, but pay attention to such small details when touring a facility. Make a point of “accidentally” entering some of the rooms not on the tour and look at the levels of cleanliness. If the public rooms are far cleaner than these “background” rooms, you know that there’s a serious discrepancy in what is being presented versus the actuality. Scrutinize and analyze the following:
Going to an assisted living facility’s website will automatically provide you with the names of the administrators currently running the show. Double-check the credentials provided, and don’t forget to use your favorite search engine to check out any “news” about these people too. You can do this in Google by entering the name in brackets, i.e. “Administrator’s Name” and then clicking the News tab at the top of the search page. This might uncover some unfavorable information, or it can show you that one of the administrators is the recipient of recognition. When you make your visit, you’ll want to assess how the staff interacts with residents, and be sure to watch for any strain or artificiality.
Use the website to see if they provide details about menus or meal plans. Make notes about this for the times that you will visit and see if the choices match up to the descriptions or “rave reviews” that the site makes available.
Never trust photographs at face value to guide your decision-making process. A well-trained photographer, and the availability of photo editing software, can make even the dumpiest locations look great.
Make a note of how the facilities are described, and then do a very thorough comparison when you make the actual visit. Did they say that they had gardens? Are these really as described or is it just a bare area of lawn? Did they say that there is an exercise room? Was anyone using it during the visit? Did you go in and check the quality of the machines? Did it all seem safe and “above board”? We already mentioned that you need to double-check the cleanliness but check the website to see if they mention how often maintenance, upgrades, and cleaning are done.
Explore the programs that they offer. These MUST be a mix of regularly scheduled and special events. For example, you’ll want to see daily exercise options and trips that are outside of the facility. Make sure that the range of activities on-site and off-site activities are a good mix to stimulate both the mind and body. Make a point of speaking with residents about some of the things you found listed. Did they happen? How many people participate? Are they often canceled? Find out as much as possible because programming is a cornerstone for an enjoyable experience as a resident.
We all know “shabby” when we see it, and a tour should make it pretty easy to see if the quality of the facility is good, excellent, or downright shabby. Take into consideration everything from the quality and condition of the carpeting and window dressings, to the way that the parking lot has been maintained. It may all seem like a “surface judgment”, but it’s also indicative of the atmosphere and attitude that the administration is willing to maintain.
This is the MAJOR area of spying. Residents should look happy and healthy, should positively interact with staff, and should freely talk about their level of satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with life at the facility. Make a very strong point of interacting and engaging as many residents as possible in brief conversations. They’re a primary source of information and will let you know by their mannerism and reactions whether the facility is all it is “cracked up” to be or if there is a certain amount of deception or misleading going on about the services or general quality.
Spying has a negative connotation attached to it, but it’s a great way to uncover the truth about an assisted living facility before agreeing to live there – and that is the most important part of the equation. So, ignore the naysayers and do your best “James Bond” because a happy retirement is a goal.
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