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Call today! 541-954-2602

Your Personal Senior Living Advisor

Serving Eugene, Springfield and outlying areas

US Federal law states that each senior care facility is to "care for its residents in such a manner and in such an environment as will promote maintenance or enhancement of the quality of life of each resident."
 

Senior care facilities, nursing homes, adult care homes, assisted living facilities, and memory care facilities are governed and monitored by state and federal licensing agencies. Please note that the information you’ll find here is NOT always applicable to nursing homes. When using the term “senior care facilities” here, I will be referring to assisted living and memory care facilities. You can learn more about adult care homes (also called “adult foster homes” or “family care homes”) HERE.

Many rules and regulations apply to every senior care community, regardless of the state in which they’re located. However, as private businesses, these facilities have a lot of freedom to run their affairs how they please. 

It’s essential to understand how the senior care facility industry operates before you start your journey of finding one for your loved one. 

 

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What’s Written In the Rules?


While state regulations cover many aspects of assisted living and memory care facilities, the specifics can vary considerably from state to state. 
Every state regulates:
•    Resident agreements informing consumers of their costs of care prior to moving in
•    Clearly defined resident admission and retention policies based on needs and/or behavior
•    Support services and service plans which describe in detail the type of care provided to residents
•    Required medication provisions, which establish who can administer certain medications as well as the degree to which unlicensed staff may participate in the administration of those medications
•    Food service and dietary provisions, including the number of meals provided to residents and mandatory dietary regulations
•    Staffing requirements, including rules on background checks, training, and continuing education requirements
•    Apartment sizes, roommate rules, and number of people sharing a bathroom
•    Inspection and monitoring policies
•    Remedies and sanctions for non-compliant facilities
 

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These regulations assure you that when you walk into ANY senior care facility in your state, you will find those specifications in place. However, within those rules, you will find variations even within the same state. For example, the rules state that the facility must provide support care staff. However, it may not specify the ratio between caregivers and residents. It may set the rule that the facility must have an RN on staff, but not how many hours a week the RN needs to be present at the facility.


 
The ‘not-so-obvious’ 


In my state, many amazing senior care communities provide great care for their residents. But the bottom line is that senior care facilities are a big industry in the US. Most facilities are owned and managed by large corporations who use them as profit-generating real estate. The basic rule of profit in any business is to have high revenue and low expenses.
 
If your loved one is moving into a brand-new facility with all the bells and whistles, someone needs to cover those expenses. The fee your loved one pays for their room, board, and care is only one way to recover the building's investment. Another way to cut costs is to reduce staffing, so that more residents are looked after per caregiver. Paying lower salaries to staff (anywhere from caregivers to the administrator) may be another way to increase profit. These cost-cutting measures may affect the quality of care the facility provides to its residents.
 
When you look at the history of any senior care facility, you will see that every few years it has possibly changed ownership. A new owner would buy the property, make a structural improvement (building facelift, building additions, etc.), and once the property shows an adequate profit, put the building back on the market for the next investor. 
 
I always remind my clients to keep in mind that at the end of the day, caring for seniors  is a business. These facilities are by and large,  owned by investors to generate profit for people who may never set their foot in the building. 
On the other hand, remember that a profitable business will have the means to provide excellent care to its residents. It’s all about the small details.

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The Small Details


The intention of the obvious is to help you set your expectations at the right level. Every senior care community has its strengths and weaknesses. Some of these are more obvious than others.
If you’re on your own and looking for a senior care community for a loved one, here’s what you need to pay attention to and ask:

Stability of staff: administration and caregivers
This is an industry that is known for its high turnover. However, you will find that turnover rates can vary greatly between facilities. Ask how long the administrator, nurse, and activity director have been at their job - and then ask about those before them. Ask if they have a core group of caregivers who have been working longer than two years.

The level of care provided / end of life care
Some facilities provide a high level of care, designating two people to assist or operate mechanical lift, while other facilities prefer to care only for high-functioning residents. You need to be confident that your loved one won’t need to move if their care level increases.

Number of caregivers on each shift 
There is a difference between the number of staff on every shift and the ratio of caregiver residents. Many facilities may count the chef and the house cleaning person as part of the staff to help show a better ratio of caregiver to residents. While it is true that those people take part in providing a service, they are not the ones who answer a call for help or provide hands-on care. Ask for the number of residents and the number of caregivers. Then, do the math.

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Compliance and complaints
There are two ways to get information regarding compliance and complaints: 
1.    State websites provide information on inspections and licensing for every senior care community in the state. You can see the records of the state of Oregon HERE. Note that during COVID 19 the inspections are not done as regularly as before and information may be lacking. 
2.    Every facility is required to keep records of all inspections and violations. You can ask the facility to view those records.

Customer reviews
If you google reviews, pay attention to when those reviews were written. The quality of services in any senior care community can change at any time for the better or for the worse. It mostly depends on who the current owner and administrator are. On the other hand, keep in mind that what may be an issue for one reviewer may not be an issue for you. Try to keep a bit of space from online reviewers and ask yourself if you have similar values.

 

Of Course, There Is More


What you’ve read so far is a good start to approach your senior care facility search with important basic knowledge. Choosing a senior care facility for a loved one is nothing like buying a shirt. If you wear a shirt once or twice and find out it doesn’t look good on you, it’s not much of an issue to get another one. A move into a senior care facility is a big deal, since it involves commitment  to your loved one’s quality of life in their final years.

When you work with a local senior living advisor, you benefit from the support of someone who is local and familiar with senior care communities in the area. When we help you choose the right senior care facility for your loved one, our senior living advisors will ensure that no detail, big or small, will be missed.


 


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