Now nearly a million Americans are in assisted-living facilities. But a Consumer Reports' investigation reveals the multi0billion dollar business is largely unregulated and the amount and kind of care offered varies dramatically from facility to facility.
This is what many people imagine when they think of assisted living - meals served in a pleasant setting. Lovely accommodating with the comforts of home. Medical care on site to provide health screenings and administer prescriptions to residents.
And a variety of activities to keep seniors engaged.
But Consumer Reports' Amanda Walker - who toured a dozen facilities as part of a a three month investigation says that is no national standard for what an assisted living facility must provide.
"Just because a facility calls itself 'assisted living' doesn't guarantee you will get a certain level of assistance. The facilities are regulated by the states and the amount of oversight varies greatly. For example, they might inspect facilities annually or they might inspect them once every five years."
Beyond glossy brochures, Consumer Reports found it's difficult to get the information you need to evaluate a facility. Consumer Reports asked the ten largest assisted living chains for the necessary information and got very few specifics.
"You need to take a good look at the contract and costs that are involved. Some facilities will charge a flat fee. Others charge escalating rates depending on how much assistance you need. You also want to look at the staff levels and the amount of training the staff has had."
And you want to tour the facility, Consumer Reports says it's a good idea to go back several times.
"Hello, mind if we come in and show your apartment?"
Be sure to ask to see one of the rooms - ideally one that is occupied. And make a point of talking to the residents to see if they are happy and look well card for.
Consumer Reports found assisted-living facilities run the gamut from large, lavish establishments to small, modest homes. Also evident from he three month investigation outward appearances are no indication of the quality of care being given to residents.
Consumer Reports has identified 12 steps for checking out an assisted living facility. You can find that information and Consumer Reports' complete article free on its web site - www.consumerReports.org