One of the most common concerns that family members have when they are evaluating various assisted living facilities for their loved one is that there will not be an adequate amount of staff ready to help when necessary. Part of the peace of mind that comes with choosing a reputable assisted living facility is knowing that the residents will be taken care of appropriately and will never be stuck in a position where they feel alone and without the necessary assistance. Although many people question the staff to patient ratio when visiting various facilities, it is important to realize that this is just a number and there are other factors that must be considered as well. Some communities boast that they have at least one staff member per two to three patients, but the simple fact of the matter is that these numbers often include administrative staff and food service workers that are obviously not in a position to provide assistance when necessary. Therefore, it is necessary for prospective residents and their families to be informed of several different staff to patient ratios.
The most important staff to patient ratio at assisted living facilities is the number of nursing assistants that are available. While the requirement varies from state to state, most facilities will have at least one nursing assistant per six patients. Although this may not seem like many staff, it is important to realize that assisted living facilities are filled with residents that don’t require the intensive care that nursing home patients do. The staff to patient ratio may decrease at night when activities of daily living are less than during the daytime.
Each assisted living facility will also have several nurses on staff and it is important to understand the difference between their certification levels. Some assisted living communities will only have one or two registered nurses on duty at any given time, but these positions are mainly case management roles and may even have administrative duties to complete. It is important to have one on staff, however, to be present for any true medical emergencies. Licensed practical nurses are much more common to have on the various wings of the assisted living facilities and these positions often oversee medication administration and supervision of the nursing assistants. The number of these professionals will be based largely upon the amount of care required by the residents and the services that the assisted living facility provides.
Food service workers are obviously very important to an assisted living facility, but they should not be counted in the staff to patient ratio due to the fact that they are not trained to provide assistance in the majority of places. However, some locations actually utilize their food service workers to not only help prepare the meals, but also to help with any feeding assistance that may be requested. If an assisted living facility uses this type of staffing approach, it is acceptable for them to include these people in their staff to patient ratio.
While many family members and residents are obviously concerned with the staff to patient ratio, more emphasis should be placed on the abilities and skills possessed by the staff members and caregivers. Prospective residents and their family should feel free to ask any questions they like on the tour and it is typically fairly easy to see how competent the staff members appear to be. If there are multiple people requesting help and it seems like the staff isn’t able to get to them fast enough, this may be an indicator that there are not enough caregivers available.