By Theresa Pichelmeyer, President & CEO, Valley VNA

Emotional, physical, financial, and geographical factors all impact the choice of a loved one’s new assisted living home, but some factors are simply non-negotiable, including safety and trustworthiness. Ideally, a family will prepare in advance for a move, but many more times they must decide quickly after an illness or medical emergency. The following tips can help as you tour different facilities. Remember that every tour will highlight residents’ amenities and sparkling accommodations. Your objective is to discover the authentic culture of the facility and its deeply held values as in regards to delivery of care, problem solving, safety, and compassion toward residents. You will want to ask:

What range of service is offered to residents and how can we increase or decrease levels of care as needs change?

As people age, their needs will change for the long or short term. If mom moves into an apartment and graduates to needing more assistance, how do you add services? What if she needs a short period of extra help, such as recovery from an illness or surgery? Will she have to move to a new room, or will she be able to stay in her original apartment?

Who are your caregivers? Do you have registered nurses on staff? Have your nurses and caregivers been employed here for a long time?

This is a vital question, as the longevity of caregivers and registered nurses is an important reflection on their job satisfaction. Full-time registered nurses on staff are important in developing each resident’s individual care plan and supervising CNAs and other caregivers if they uncover a medical concern. Registered nurses are also a great help in communicating effectively with a resident’s doctors and specialists.

Valley VNA Dining Room

How does the facility handle problems if they arise?

Your tour guide should be able to discuss the 24-hour procedures in place for addressing problems regarding delivery of care. Formal quality control measures should be part of the organization’s standard operating procedures and should include steps for communicating in a timely and transparent manner with everyone involved.

How are fees determined, and if they will change, how and when will I be notified?

Private pay, county funding, veterans’ benefits, and long-term insurance are the most common payment sources in an assisted living environment. Confirm that a plan of care will be developed in advance, a written statement will be prepared and shared before move day, and billing staff is available locally to answer questions.

Who owns your facility? How long have you been in business?

There are both for-profit and non-profit assisted living facilities. Non-profit organizations are required to reinvest their earnings back into the organization and the well-being of its residents, whereas for-profit organizations do not have this same obligation. In Northeast Wisconsin, very few senior living communities like Valley VNA have local roots that go back more than 100 years. Such history is a testament to its support from the community, multiple generations of families served, and a dedicated board of directors led by talented local visionaries. Ask about community outreach programs coordinated by the organization, too. The answer is a reflection of their shared commitment to the health of the families they serve.

Ask for a list of references, both employees and resident families.

Your tour guide should be prepared to immediately send or give you a list of current employees and residents’ family members who can speak to authentic culture of the organization. If you are comparing brand new facilities with established ones, be aware that the newer places will most likely not have a bank of experienced references.

Be sure the facility’s staff person can answer these questions to your satisfaction. If not, continue your search until you find one that does. Please call us at (920) 727-5555 to ask more questions of us or request a tour of Valley VNA. We would love to meet you.