Advice on searching for a facility

This story originally appeared in the U-T San Diego.

Tips on picking a facility

Choosing an assisted living facility can be daunting. Some tips to make the search easier:

  • Start with a simple question. Do you, or does  your loved one, need round-the-clock medical attention? If so, a nursing home is likely a better choice than an assisted living facility, which is designed for seniors who need some help with the tasks of day-to-day living, but are generally able to manage their own affairs.
  • Know the basics. Again, assisted living facilities differ from nursing homes. Most provide 24-hour supervision, three meals a day, personal care services such as help with bathing and dressing, assistance with self-administration of medication, laundry and linen services, arrangements for transportation, exercise programs and recreation services. Unlike nursing homes, however, they are not staffed with medical professionals.
  • Know your rights. According to the San Diego County Long Term Care Ombudsman’s office, residents have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, be free from physical and chemical restraint, retain personal management of finances, voice grievances without fear of retaliation, communicate privately with any person, send and receive personal mail, have medical records kept confidential. Discuss these rights with prospective homes.
  • Check the file. The Department of Social Services maintains a paper file on each licensed assisted living facility in San Diego County in its Mission Valley office at 7575 Metropolitan Drive, Suite 109. Call ahead at(619) 767-2300 to make sure the file is ready for viewing. Alternatively, check out, a local nonprofit that has scanned thousands of records and makes them available to the public for a nominal fee. A look at a facility’s file allows a potential resident to confirm that it is licensed and to review fines, complaint investigations and the results of inspections.
  • Visit more than once. The National Center for Assisted Living recommends visiting facilities at multiple times of day and talking not only with administrators and staff, but residents as well. The center’s list of key questions to ask staff and residents includes who plans services offered at the facility, how are residents’ needs assessed, are there special programs for residents with dementia, are there accommodations for residents to get exercise outdoors, how does the facility handle a change in a resident’s health care needs, does staff assist residents in medication administration and if so, what kind of training do they receive?
  • Take a checklist on your visit. It can be difficult to remember all of the things that need checking during a facility visit. Several organizations, including the National Center for Assisted Living and California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, publish checklists — some available online — that provide a methodical way to make sure all questions are answered before making a decision.
  • Don’t sign agreements on site. Several assisted living and long-term care groups advise against signing an administrative agreement with a facility right away. Many advise a potential resident, or their loved ones, to take the agreement home and read it through thoroughly. 

Assisted living resources

  • The San Diego Long Term Care Ombudsman: 800-640-4661
  • San Diego Aging and Independence Services: 800-510-2020
  • Consumer Advocates for RCFE Reform: 619-795-2165
  • San Diego Adult Protective Services: 800-510-2020
  • California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform: 800-474-1116

To order a consumer guide on choosing an assisted living residence from the National Center for Assisted Living, call 202-842-4444

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