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Assessing the safety and security of an assisted living facility

By law, assisted living facilities must provide residents with the highest feasible level of care in terms of physical, mental and social well-being. If the facility receives federal funds, it must meet certain standards as set forth in the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987. If you or a loved one is considering moving to such a facility, you will have a lot of questions, including how matters of safety and security are handled.

Common security measures

Your initial questions might concern ordinary procedures. Ask if visitors who come to see residents are required to check in first. Ask if there are video cameras on the premises and if all locked building entrances require key cards or numeric codes; in other words, find out how secure the doors are. Also, verify that the facility has security guards on staff.

Disaster planning

Based on its location, an assisted living facility should have procedures in place to handle emergency situations related to natural disasters. These might include preparation for hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, landslides or fire. The facility in which you are interested should also have disaster supply kits. For each resident, the contents might include canned food for a week, a gallon of water a day, flashlights, candles and matches, a first-aid kit, plus a battery-powered radio and batteries. The kit should also contain a copy of the disaster plan-and by the way, another copy of that plan should have been provided to family members.

Paying a visit

You will want to pay a visit to the facility you have in mind. While there, make sure to check the premises for overall cleanliness. Note the fire exits and the location of all exterior entrances to the main building. Inspect the unit or free-standing home you are considering. Are there smoke alarms? Can the windows be locked? Is there more than one exit door? Your next questions should target emergency procedures. Ask how staff members are trained to deal with emergencies and if they provide incoming residents with disaster plan training. Find out where residents would be taken if the facility should have to be evacuated. An important question would be about individual care plans and how staff will manage medicines and other health needs for each resident in the event of a disaster.

When to talk to an attorney

The move to an assisted living facility is a big step, and you want to feel comfortable with the staff members whose job is to ensure a safe and comfortable home for residents. Sometimes things are not as they seem, however. If you are concerned about matters of safety and security, you should not hesitate to contact an attorney experienced with elder law and assisted living care.

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