It can be a daunting task for seniors and families searching for the perfect new home. The “just right” choice may be a modern senior living setting with many retirement amenities, or it may be a smaller “country” style home with rocking chairs on the front porch.
ALAA member-communities are licensed by the Alabama Department of Public Health and must meet rigorous inspection standards.
“Specialty Care Assisted Living Facilities” or “SCALF” are assisted living communities specifically developed in Alabama to best serve the needs of seniors with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. ALAA conducts dementia training for caregivers and is a leading advocate for public policy regarding this disease.
As you begin your search contact ALAA staff for assistance in finding your “just right” new home. We will be happy to help you connect to the resources you need to make an informed decision.
Click the link below to begin finding the community that is right for your loved one. You can also browse the facts and tips on this page to help guide you in this important process.
To file a complaint against an Assisted Living Facility:
- Email – ALFComplaints@adph.state.al.us
- Call the Complaint Hotline at (800) 356-9596
- Mail Complaint to:
Alabama Department of Public Health
Bureau of Health Provider Standards
201 Monroe Street, Suite 700
Montgomery, AL 36130
ATTN: ALF Complaint Unit
To file a complaint against an Assisted Living Administrator:
- Fill out the complaint form at http://www.boeala.alabama.gov/PDFs/2019/Forms/ComplaintForm.pdf
- Mail Complaint to:
Bd. Of Examiners of Assisted Living Administrators
Attn: Executive Director
60 Commerce Street, Suite 1440
Montgomery, AL 36104
Department of Human Resources – Adult Protective Services
To report Elder Abuse call the Adult Abuse Hotline at 800-458-7214
Alabama Department of Public Health
To report abuse in an assisted living facility call 800-873-0366
Aging American Population
- Population over 85 (in Millions)
- Population over 85 (in Millions)
Types of Communities
Senior living residences can range from a purpose-built, high-rise apartment to a converted Victorian home to a renovated school. They can be free standing or housed with other options, such as independent living or nursing care. There is no single blueprint because consumers’ preferences and needs vary widely. Most residences have between 25 and 110 units, varying in size from one room to a full apartment. They can be operated by nonprofit or for-profit companies.
The number of residential care settings that provide dementia care, including assisted living, adult foster homes, group homes, and special care units within skilled nursing facilities, has exploded during the past five to 10 years. If you or your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, the following information can help guide you through the maze of care options to find the facility that best meets your needs.
Plan Now for Care Later
When considering residential care options, planning ahead is key. It’s best to become familiar with available care options in your community long before an admission is needed. Too often, people don’t want to think about a possible need for residential care in the future, so the admission takes place in a crisis, without the time and knowledge to evaluate available options.
Today, with increased awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, more people are diagnosed earlier, allowing them to plan for the future, including their financial, legal, and residential care needs. For example, a person with an early diagnosis of dementia can talk about his or her preferences and visit local residential care facilities. He can make his decision and share with others where he wants to live should the time come when he can no longer live alone.
A Commitment to Alzheimer/Dementia Care
This area focuses on the philosophy and mission of a care setting. Staff should be able to discuss and describe their residence’s philosophy of care. Does the philosophy and mission address the unique needs of persons with dementia? Do you see the needs of current residents being met as you walk through the community?
Ask about admission and discharge criteria. Request specific examples of situations that would result in a resident’s discharge from the setting or unit. Be cautious if staff members are unable or unwilling to share examples or specific discharge criteria.
Assessment and Care/Service Plan
A good residential care provider will spend a significant amount of time getting to know the person with Alzheimer’s disease and his or her family and friends. The staff should ask many questions about the person’s past and present including interests, family relations, likes and dislikes, hobbies, communication styles, daily routine, etc.
As you walk around a care setting, watch to see whether staff are interacting with residents on a personal level and appear to know personal things about each resident.
More than anything else, you’ll want to be confident that the person with dementia will receive the best care possible. All staff must recognize residents with dementia as unique people and treat them with dignity and respect.
Watch how staff members approach residents. Are they talking to residents or talking to each other? Do residents seem alert and active, or are they lethargic and sleeping? Are residents freely moving around the area or are they restrained? These are important things to look for when touring each setting.
Find a care provider that believes activities are much more than just structured group functions. Activities should be defined as everything a person does throughout the day. Staff should be skilled in creating meaning out of each task a resident undertakes. However, other more structured activities that are individualized to each resident should be available every day as well. What are residents doing in the evening and on the weekends? Do residents appear to be stimulated and engaged in their surroundings?
The most important component to quality care is a committed, dedicated, and knowledgeable staff. Ask the staff about the training they receive. Do the interactions you see between staff and residents appear genuine? Are staff members addressing residents by name? Do staff members appear happy and content or do they seem stressed and upset?
You’ll also want to know adequate staff is available to meet everyone’s needs. Ask how many residents each direct-care staff member is responsible for in the unit. As you walk around, do you see residents with unmet needs or not receiving needed attention?
The physical building and interior decorating offer the first impressions when you walk into a building. But quality of care is so much more than the furniture or wallpaper. Care providers have made significant advances, however, in incorporating the environment into the total care offered to residents.
Safety is the first concern for most people. Ask the staff what measures are in place to provide a safe and secure environment. As you walk through the residence, do you spot potential hazards? Examples might include cluttered hallways that increase the risk of falls, poor lighting, or confusing hallways.
Another important environmental feature is the availability of outdoor space. Residents should have easy and frequent access to a secured outdoor space. Do you see residents using the available outdoor space? As you consider care environments, be sure to keep this resource handy to help you make an informed decision.
At a Glance
- You should be comfortable with the care philosophy of the residence you choose. Do the philosophy and the mission address the unique needs of persons with dementia? Expect the staff to take time to get to know each resident.
- Activities are a key element of dementia care. Activities should be defined as everything a person does throughout the day. And, structured activities should be individualized to each resident.
- A committed, dedicated, knowledgeable, and well-trained staff is the most critical component of quality dementia care.
Senior Living Checklist
The following is a consumer checklist of important services, amenities and accommodations in assisted living communities. Every home and community is unique. We recommend making several visits, at various times of day, to each residence you are considering.
Ask for written material. ALAA recommends that all communities have a written statement or copies of their resident agreement outlining, at a minimum, services, prices, extra charges, admission and discharge criteria, staffing and house rules. As you start your search, it is important to assess your needs as they are now and ask representatives of each community how they will accommodate any changes over time. It is also important to examine your finances and ask about costs. Monthly rates and fee structures vary. Most of all, if you are seeking assisted living or a memory care facility for someone who cannot visit the residence personally, it is important to respect the prospective resident’s needs and wishes by including him or her as much in the process as possible. The result will be greater satisfaction. To help, many communities now offer videos or virtual tours. Consider the following as you visit and assess an assisted living community:
- As you arrive at the residence, do you like its location and outward appearance?
- As you enter the lobby and tour the residence, is the décor attractive and homelike?
- Did you receive a warm greeting from staff welcoming you to the residence?
- Does the administrator or staff call residents by name and interact warmly with them as you tour the home or community?
- Do residents socialize with each other and appear happy and comfortable?
- Are you able to talk to residents about how well they like the community and staff?
- Do the residents seem to be appropriate housemates for you or your loved one?
- Are the staff members appropriately dressed, personable and outgoing?
- Do staff members treat each other in a professional manner?
- Are the staff members that you pass during your tour friendly to you?
- Are visits with the resident welcome at any time?
- Is the community or home well designed for the residents’ needs?
- Is the floor plan easy to follow?
- Are the floors, walls, ceilings, doors and furnishings in good repair?
- Are there any unpleasant odors?
- Does the home or community have good natural and artificial lighting?
- Is the community clean, free of odors and appropriately heated/cooled?
- Does the home or community meet local and/or state requirements?
- Does the home or community have sprinklers and clearly marked exits?
- Does the memory care home or community have a means of security?
Needs Assessments, Contracts, Costs & Finances
- Is a contracted agreement available that discloses healthcare and supportive services, all fees, as well as admission and discharge provisions?
- Is there a written plan for the care of each resident?
- Does the home or community have a process for assessing a potential resident’s need for services? And are those needs addressed with written interventions?
- Does this process include the resident, the resident’s family and community staff, plus the prospective resident’s physician?
- When can a contract be terminated? What are the policies for refunds and transfers?
- Are additional services available if the resident’s needs change?
- Can additional services like nursing care be provided when those services are needed on a temporary basis?
- Are there different costs for various levels or categories of services?
- Do billing, payment and credit policies seem fair and reasonable?
- Can residents handle their own finances, or should a family member or outside party be designated to do so?
- Are residents required to purchase renter’s insurance for personal property in their units?
- Is staff available to meet scheduled and unscheduled needs?
- Is there a grievance process for dissatisfied residents?
Medication & Health Care
- Does the home or community have specific policies regarding the storage of medication, assistance with medications, training and supervision of staff and record keeping?
- Is self-administration of medication allowed?
- Is there a staff person to coordinate home care visits from a nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, etc. if needed?
- Is a physician available to visit residents in the facility?
- Does the home or community have a clearly stated procedure for responding to a resident’s medical emergency?
- To what extent are medical services available, and how are these services provided?
- Does the home or community provide a list of services available?
- Is staff available to provide 24-hour assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) if needed? ADLs include:
Hygiene & grooming
Bathing, toileting & incontinence
Using the telephone
- Does the home or community provide housekeeping services in residents’ units?
- Does the home or community provide transportation to doctors’ offices, the hairdresser, shopping and other activities desired by the residents?
- Can residents arrange for transportation on fairly short notice?
- Are barber or beautician services offered on site?
Individual Unit Features
- Do dining room menus vary from day to day and meal to meal?
- Are different sizes and types of units available?
- Are units for single or double occupancy available?
- Do residents have their own lockable doors?
- Is a 24-hour emergency response system available to each unit?
- Are bathrooms private with handicapped accommodations for wheelchairs and walkers if needed?
- Are residents able to bring their own furnishings for their units? What is provided?
- Is a kitchen unit provided with a refrigerator, sink, and cooking element?
- Can residents smoke in their units? In public spaces?
- Can residents decorate their own units?
Social & Recreational Activities
- Is there evidence of an organized activities program, such as posted daily schedules, events in progress, reading materials, visitors, etc.?
- Do residents participate in activities outside the home or community in the neighboring community?
- Do volunteers, including family members, come into the home or community to help with or conduct programs?
- Does the home or assisted living community create a sense of community by encouraging residents to participate in certain activities or voluntarily perform simple chores for the group as a whole?
- Are residents’ pets allowed? Who is responsible for their care?
- Does the home or community have its own pets?
- Does the community provide three nutritionally balanced meals a day, seven days a week?
- Are snacks available?
- May a resident request special foods?
- Are common dining areas available?
- Can residents eat meals in their units?
- Can meals be provided at a time residents would like or are there set times for meals?