Edited By Ceridwyn

Assisted Living Assignments: The Visit

Contributed By WalesMaven, Mystery Shop Forum Member

FAQ: Okay, I studied how to construct a believable scenario. What should I expect when I arrive for my appointment? Expect to describe and get the name of the receptionist or concierge who greets you. You may have to wait for the marketing associate (MA) with whom you have an appointment. Once you have been greeted by the MA, you will probably be taken to a private area for some qualifying questions and rapport building. Be sure to note whether or not any residents or staff could overhear this conversation, since it will include some personal, financial and medical information that should be held in confidence.
FAQ: What qualifying information will I be asked, and what, if anything, should I volunteer? The MA will probably focus on three things: what problems do you or your loved one most want addressed by assisted living; who is the real decision maker; and where is the money?

Be sure to study your shop instructions so that you are confident about how much help your loved one (YLO) needs. In other words, are you in the market for what is called “memory care”, (which may include dementia/Alzheimer’s care in a secure area) or just assistance with daily tasks such as bathing safety, diet, reliable medicine dosage, grooming, toileting, and housekeeping?

In either case, be ready to say when you noticed the problems/issues and what form they took. These can be quite simple, such as noticing that YLO lacks confidence on stairs, is not eating a balanced diet, does not seem to have any fresh food in the refrigerator, or seems to be forgetting to take essential medications.

In the case of a memory care scenario, again, play it “simple.” YLO asks the same question over and over within a few minutes or an hour, forgets where she/he is during visits outside of the home, was found in the shopping mall parking lot, confused and unable to give a home address, for instance.

FAQ: What will I see on the tour? Assisted living and memory care communities are not your granny’s nursing home! Unpleasant odors are not part of the typical scene here! Be alert for how the MA and other staff interact with residents. Do they greet by name? Do residents smile and volunteer greetings?

You will probably be shown the dining area and two or more room/apartment types and asked questions about the best fit. The MA should point out design features of common and private areas that subtly assist and protect residents. What looks like a chair rail along the hallways may be a safety feature. Curved wall areas at the ends of hallways and distinctive paint colors or artwork in different halls may be innovations to assist memory patients who may wander.

Even if you came for a tour of the assisted living area, do not be surprised if you are also taken into a secure memory care unit.

FAQ: Weren’t you shocked or scared when you first toured a locked dementia unit? Actually, I was reassured by the first tour and almost all subsequent ones. A few very gentle and confused residents have touched my arm or taken my hand and tried to talk to me. Very advanced dementia patients may have to be spoon fed and may have to be secured in wheelchairs in order to sit up.

But the emphasis is almost universally on services and facilities designed to prolong the ability of the residents to have a sense of community (e.g., eating together at a table) and extending interaction with symbols of the residents’ past life (e.g., displays of tools, household items, pictures and historic materials in the public places).

In the past, many of those residents would have been warehoused in nursing homes. It was inspiring to see the respect and concern for their dignity and comfort that I found in most secure memory care facilities.

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