As you plan to tour the assisted living facilities in your area, you're likely already thinking about the safety features you'll look for during the visit. While alarms to prevent wandering and window locks are certainly important, there are other less noticeable safety features that are all too often overlooked by potential residents and their caretakers. Look for these five useful safety features on your tour to find a facility that cares about its residents.
Something as simple as the amount of light available in each room of the facility makes a huge difference to the overall level of safety. Elderly adults face a natural loss of eyesight even if they're not dealing with cataracts or macular degeneration. Inadequate lighting increases the chances of falls and other accidents. There's no specific measurement of lumens that you should look for in a facility, but use your common sense to compare which facility has the brightest and most even lighting. Dimmable lighting is preferable for private rooms so the resident can still adjust the brightness to fit their needs.
Flooring in the facility should be smooth but not slick, which can be a tricky balance to find. High pile carpets are a trip hazard because they catch the feet of residents who can't step very high anymore, in addition to snagging the feet of walkers and other assistance devices. Low pile carpets are a good option for a balance of cushioning, friction, and relative smoothness. Wood, composite flooring, and vinyl look good and are easy to keep clean, but they may be too slick for the elderly unless friction safety strips are installed at regular intervals.
Helpful Stair Markers
Most facilities try to limit staircases since residents with mobility issues can't use them, but sometimes it's necessary to have at least a few steps to transition between two areas. The bottom step of the stairs should be highlighted in some way to indicate that there's no more steps below it. Reflective and colorful tapes, lighting strips, and painted lettering are all useful in preventing stumbles and falls due to an unexpected end to the steps. Check that the markings on the last step differ in a noticeable way from markings on the rest of the stairs, or the residents are likely to find the system confusing and of little help.
Now that alarm and intercom technology is affordable and easy to implement, every facility you tour should feature plenty of ways for residents to alert the staff that they need help. For the greatest level of safety, look for an assisted living home that offers individual alarms that are worn as pendants or bracelets. These alarms allow the user to get help and tell staff where in the facility they happen to be when an accident occurs. There's no need for someone on the floor to struggle to the nearest wall to reach an alarm button when it's already within reach.
If you're trying to find a dementia care facility, the personal alarms need to include GPS tracking and wander warnings. Make sure the alarms can't be removed by the resident, or they won't work for tracking down a wandering individual.
Useful Visual Barriers
Finally, try to find a facility that goes beyond just installing fences and alarms to make sure their residents don't wander away. Visual barriers like screens and living hedges that block the view of parking lots, nearby streets, and other areas outside the grounds can go a long way in discouraging residents from leaving. This is especially important if patients regularly spend time outside in order to get plenty of sunshine and fresh air.
Check out the websites of various assisted living facilities for additional reading.