One day, it happens. You get that call from your sister in the middle of the night. Mom fell, but she’s ok. The paramedics helped her up and made sure she didn’t have more than just a few bruises. But this is the not the first time Mom has fallen in that house, living there all by herself. You and your sister fear that Mom’s safety and health is in jeopardy if you don’t do something. 

Making that first call to a retirement community can be daunting. You really don’t know what you’re looking for or even what to ask. You just know Mom needs help. How do you know if an assisted living community is appropriate? Does Mom need around-the-clock supervision or just a little help day to day?

Assisted Living in Alabama is a licensed care level for which a community provides assistance with activities of daily living, such as using the bathroom, getting dressed, and bathing. Specialty Care Assisted Living (or SCALF) is a licensed care level for which a community provides the assistance of assisted living, but with added personnel and security precautions for people with higher cognitive impairment. Skilled Nursing Care (Nursing Home) is a licensed level of care in Alabama that provides advanced supervision and assistance with activities of daily living. 

Some retirement communities offer only one or two levels of care, but others, like Fair Haven in Birmingham, AL, offer a variety of care levels to help meet the needs of older adults at various stages in their life and health.

Though only a medical professional can determine the appropriate care level needed, here is some information that can help you understand what a medical professional is looking for when assessing your parent’s needs.  These categories are taken straight from a document called a Physical Self-Maintenance Scale (PSMS), which is often used as a placement tool in conjunction with a mini-mental assessment that helps determine cognitive functioning. It is important that your parent be placed in the correct care level at a community for your parent’s personal safety, health and happiness.

#1 – Toileting – Can your parent go to the bathroom by himself or herself? Are there occasionally accidents? Accidents while awake?  Accidents while sleeping?  Does he/she have complete loss of his/her own bowels or bladder?   

#2 – Feeding – Can your parent prepare a meal and eat by themselves? Does he/she need some assistance to prepare food or to eat? Does he/she resist the efforts of others to help with eating?

#3 – Dressing – Can your parent choose appropriate clothing from their own wardrobe and dress and undress by himself/herself? Is he/she completely unable to dress on their own?

#4 – Grooming – Is your parent always neatly dressed and well-groomed without having been helped by others? Can they perform grooming tasks themselves, such as combing hair, shaving or caring for nails? Do they need total attention from another person to help with grooming?

#5 – Physical Ambulation – Does your parent get around the house and the city by themselves? The use of an assistive mobility device such as a walker, scooter or wheelchair is not important. The question is, can they operate the mobility device by themselves, without anyone else’s help. Can your parent get into and out of bed or a chair by themselves? Is your parent bedridden more than half of their usual day?

#6 – Bathing – Is your parent capable of cleaning themselves, whether in a tub, shower or by sponge bath? Are they able to wash their face and hands, but unable to reach other parts of their body without help? How cooperative is your parent if he/she needs bathing assistance?  

How your parent scores on these PSMS categories, as well as their level of cognitive functioning, will help your parent find the right care. And once they have their physical and health needs managed, your parent can spend more time enjoying family and building new friendships with others who are very much like themselves. 


For more information about life at Fair Haven, including details on our how to make Fair Haven your or your loved one’s new home, contact our admissions team at 205-956-4150, or send an email to Traci Kennedy at


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