Finding the right assisted living option for a family member can be a daunting task, and it's not always easy to find data about the quality of facilities.
To help families get the information they need, A Place for Mom Inc., a commercial housing referral service for older adults, recently created an online state-by-state guide to obtaining records on assisted living communities.
Josh Lucas, regulatory licensing program manager for A Place for Mom, said the tool grew out of the company's efforts to make sure all the facilities it works with were properly licensed.
The directory ranks states based on the ease with which consumers can gain access to inspection reports and other documents — like notices of complaints, violations or fines — for assisted living centers. Assisted living centers, as opposed to skilled nursing homes, are for older people who need help with activities of daily living, like dressing, bathing or meal preparation.
According to a recent report from Genworth Financial, the median rate for assisted living nationally is $3,500 a month.
A Place for Mom's tool groups states into four categories, based on how easy it is to get inspection reports, for example, Lucas said.
Florida and 28 other states were deemed of "exceptional" or "high" rank.
Here are some additional questions about assisted living:
Where can I find tips for selecting an assisted living center?
The National Center for Assisted Living (tinyurl.com/kungabk) and the National Long Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center (ltcombudsman.org) offer guides and checklists for consumers.
Should I rule out an assisted living center if it has had a recent violation?
Violations vary in severity and risk, Lucas noted, so that should be taken into account. A citation for leaving lids off garbage cans, for instance, may not be as much of a concern as one for having disconnected security alarms at a facility that houses residents with memory disorders. He suggests asking the facility, as well as state regulators, about the details of a violation and how it was fixed.
Lucas also said consumers should consider whether the facility has corrected problems; and if it had multiple violations two or three years ago but fixed them, and has remained free of deficiencies, which signals a commitment to improve.