When I was first looking for an assisted living residence for my Mother, I toured many facilities. I looked at many residences near to where I lived, some in the towns around where Mom lived, and many in-between. Some were large communities, some were very small. Some were in brand new buildings, some were re-purposed old buildings. No matter what the physical space was like, I mostly concentrated on two things: what did it smell like and what did I see on the employee's faces.
I want to smell fresh air, fresh flowers in the halls, coffee and cookies in the neighborhood kitchen, chicken and broccoli from the facility's kitchen, clean sheets from the laundry room. And most importantly I didn't want to be overwhelmed by the wet diaper smell.
There is no reason in this modern world of adult disposable incontinence undergarments to ever be overwhelmed by the smell of urine. We are so fortunate, in the 21st century, that our elders do not have to wear cloth diapers. As much as I hate "disposable" anything, I am SO very grateful for these magic pink and lilac panties that my Mother can wear, panties that give protection as well as a bit of dignity.
When searching for an assisted living residence, I want to see employees that are happy to be at work. I want to see people who like their job. I want to see people who love working with elders. I want to see honest and real communication between the residents and their caregivers.
One facility I toured had a bad case of "it's not my job". At least that's the feeling I got. The employees were only doing what they were assigned to do. They weren't doing anything else. There was an old pile of windblown trash beside the front door. There was a smelly resident, wining in the hallway. Why did people walk by and not help or comfort this woman? How long did this woman have to be smelly before someone helped her? And if it is not your job, at least alert someone who can attend to her. What if it was my Mother?
Now that I know more and more people who are living in assisted living, or have family members in assisted living, they have reminded me of another very important thing to check on, as you tour and select a residence. You should eat there. You should check out the food. Even the nicest residential living can be a sad experience if the food is lousy, if every day the food is like a flashback to the worse middle-school cafeteria meals.