Taking Action for your Parents: How to choose the right assisted living facility for your loved ones

A game plan for transitioning into assisted living

TAMPA - Mary Beth Schnell's father, Pete Moose, is suffering from early onset dementia. Mary Beth's mom has been his primary caregiver for 8 years.  

A year and a half ago, she started having health issues of her own. "When I felt like I needed to step in was when my mom had a fall and bruised her ribs and broke her collarbone. And she actually blacked out and didn't remember falling."

Mary Beth suggested they transition her dad into an assisted living facility. "Then we had to struggle with where to put him.  Do we put in him in South Carolina where my mother and father were living at the time or do we bring him to Tampa?"

After deciding to bring him here, she started doing some research. "I think the internet provides probably more information than you could ever imagine in terms of directing you to different facilities out there."

She asked family and friends and focused on Horizon Bay Memory Care by the Bay near her home in South Tampa. The next step would be interviewing both staff and families.

Jacquee LaFrance is with the West Central Florida Area Agency on Aging. She said, "Our agency has an assisted living facility check list of questions that they can view on our web site: Aging Florida.com. "

Her other advice: "Look at physical features, it's important to notice the little things,  listen with a third ear to what's going on in the assisted living facility so that you know behind the scenes what's going on day to day. It's also important to look how the staff interacts with your parents and the other clients in the facility. The financial portion is also something big that needs to be discussed. What options do you have?  If that facility accepts state funded programs. Not all of them do. If they accept private insurance - the long term care insurance."

When medical issues like Alzheimer's are involved, Jacquee says, "Safety is the first issue.  At this point, it's important to check the windows.  See what safety precautions they have for lock down. Do they have locks on the windows? If they have the life alert button available? If there's security available?"

Mary Beth chose Horizon Bay for all of those reasons, but also because it provided her dad with a social life.  Mary Beth says, "So all of that together really created what I was looking for, which was kind of a home and comfortable community and environment."

For more information you can call the statewide hot line for elder issues:  1-800-963-5337.

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