Ten Things to Consider When Comparing a Large Assisted Living Facility to The Potomac House


1. More Personalized Care and Attention for Your Loved One

Did you know the Virginia Assisted Living Regulations do not set a minimum caregiver-to-resident ratio?  In fact, the regulations only require a facility to maintain an “adequate number of staff” to meet the needs of the residents as determined by the facility. The regulations also state that if the facility has 19 or fewer residents the staff do not even need to be awake at night!  Simply type “22 VAC 40-72-320” into google to review these regulations.

In reality, the large facilities often only have one caregiver for every 14 residents.  The large facilities also often only have one nurse for the entire facility.  These ratios are worse at night. You can imagine how long it might take for someone to come to your loved one’s room when she rings the call bell at 2 am!

The Potomac House is managed by a licensed administrator named Margie Sekandi that works full-time and is on-call at night and on weekends.  The Potomac House also employs professionally trained and certified Personal Care Aides and Registered Medication Aides to provide additional care.  Our caregiver-to-resident ratio is 1 caregiver to every 4 residents during waking hours.  Your loved one will receive more personalized care and attention at The Potomac House than at any larger facility.

2. Faster Response Time When Your Loved One is in Need

Your loved one might wait 8-15 minutes for a caregiver to come to her room if she rings the call bell in a large assisted living facility.  A long response time can lead to residents sitting in urine or lying in an uncomfortable position.  The Potomac House caregivers are trained to respond to your loved one within one or two minutes of ringing the call bell.  The small number of residents makes this possible.

3. Multiple Layers of Fees

Large facilities often charge separately for room and board and medication management.  They also often charge additional monthly fees for daily care such as showering, cooking, eating, transferring out of bed, cleaning laundry, and housekeeping.  What starts at $4,500 a month could increase dramatically or even double when all the additional fees are accounted for.  Larger facilities also often have monthly invoices which are very difficult to understand and leave you wondering how the monthly cost became so large.  The Potomac House offers all-inclusive pricing which makes it easier to budget for monthly care and cuts down on unpleasant surprises when you receive the monthly bill.

4.  Unlimited Assistance

Large facilities often mark down all the different types of care your loved one needs and then add them all up to arrive at their monthly total charge for care.  But these charges might begin to increase soon as your loved one needs more care.  For example, you might expect the fee to increase if your loved one begins to need assistance getting out of a chair or needs prompting to eat lunch or can no longer stand steady in the shower.   A couple hundred dollars a month for each charge really starts to add up.

In other words, the initial fee you are quoted at the large assisted living facility is often only a starting point.  It usually goes up as your loved one ages and declines.  This makes it difficult to budget how your loved one’s money will last as she ages.

At the Potomac House we assess your loved one and quote you one all-inclusive fee (minus incontinence supplies and medications).  And we will not add charges with each new daily activity your loved one is no longer able to complete herself.  We do not want you to feel like you are being nickeled and dimed for care.

5. Personalized Care and Attention

At the large assisted living facilities the caregivers are very task-oriented.  They have so many residents to care for they often do not have the time to sit down with your loved one to ask about her day or family or if she enjoyed her dinner.

Potomac House currently employs about 10 caregivers.  This means all the caregivers will develop personal relationships with all of the residents and get to know their likes and dislikes.  It is our hope that the caregivers and residents become friends and the house feels like a big happy family.

6. Direct Supervision

Our cozy and family-oriented atmosphere invites residents to be in the common areas with other residents and caregivers where they receive direct supervision.  At larger facilities many residents spend time isolated in their private rooms where they lack social interaction and direct staff supervision.  It is easy to get lost in the shuffle in this environment.

7. Protecting Dignity and Autonomy

At the Potomac House we are not in a rush.  We have time to assist our residents in their daily routine in a way that gives the resident the autonomy to complete parts of the activity as they are capable.  This preserves our residents’ dignity throughout the aging process.

8. A Resemblance of Home

The Potomac House is a large home in a very nice neighborhood on the border of Mclean and Arlington.  The home environment is very different than the large three or four-story facilities with multiple elevators, stairwells, locked floors, and locked offices.  Our close-knit environment allows the aging resident to maintain the ability to be active and interactive on a daily basis.

The larger facilities have more common areas which look appealing to younger people.  But these larger spaces can bring some serious challenges for people in their 80’s and 90’s.  Each morning your loved one might be forced to walk with a walker from her second-floor apartment at the end of the hall, wait for a slow elevator, make room for other residents with walkers on the packed elevator, and then make it down another long hall to find her seat at dinner with strangers.  This will never happen at The Potomac House.

Our smaller environment means our residents can participate in group activities and eat their meals with other residents in a comfortable and familiar setting.  It also means you will not be assessed a higher monthly fee to pay for a caregiver to walk your loved one to breakfast!

9. Learning Likes and Dislikes

The large assisted living facilities are often preparing meals for hundreds of residents based on a set diet calendar that is written to try to appeal to everyone.  It’s impossible to make everyone happy and tailor make meals in this environment.  For example, your loved one might tell a different server every morning that she hates pulp in her orange juice.  And she might get angry every morning when she must repeat herself to a different server.

At The Potomac House our small staff will quickly learn your loved one’s likes and dislikes.  Your loved one will tell us she hates pulp in her orange juice.  (In fact, she might tell us the very first day with a raised voice!)  And the next morning her juice will arrive without the pulp!

10. Removing the Triggers Can Remove the Anger

Care staff at large facilities regularly call family members to report “angry outbursts” from the residents.  And the more frequently these “angry outbursts” appear in your loved one’s chart the more difficult it becomes to move her to a better environment because the records paint your loved one as a “problem resident”.

These outbursts may certainly be caused by an underlying condition which must be managed by medication.  But there may be an easier and healthier way to stop the anger.  At The Potomac House we know these angry outbursts could be caused by your loved one being set off every morning by a strange care giver that doesn’t know her likes or dislikes.  At The Potomac House we believe it might be better to consider removing the triggers instead of adding more pills.  And this might be easier to do this in a small environment with fewer residents and fewer caregivers.