Just as you would tour a potential new home before purchase or tour a new school before enrolling your children, so to should you visit the assisted living communities that you are considering for your parents or loved one. Photos and promotional descriptions on a website cannot replace the firsthand experience of walking through a community and observing the staff and residents for yourself.
Because you will likely be visiting several communities before selecting a one for your loved one, we recommend bringing a checklist which will help you document your observations of the community. This way you can better compare communities since you might forget details when making a decision several weeks later.
In addition to the questions that we list below, be sure to add others which are relevant to your loved one. Here is a PDF version of the checklist which you can print and take with you.
Name of Assisted Living Facility: __________________________________
Date of Visit: _____________
As you approach the facility:
- Is the primary entrance on a low-traffic street? This is an important factor if walking outdoors is a hobby.
- Is the community in well maintained? Fresh paint, nice landscaping, clean sidewalks and patios?
- Are the doors easy to open and close for those with mobility issues?
As you enter the lobby:
- Are residents engaged in activity or sitting/sleeping in the lobby?
- Is the lobby inviting in terms of décor, smell and overall appearance?
- Are you welcomed by the receptionist and asked to sign in? This is often a good security measure.
- If you’re asked to wait, are you offered seating and coffee or water? How long did you wait for a tour?
During your tour of the common areas:
- How long are the hallways? If mobility is an issue, make sure there are benches along the way or apartments available near the elevator or public areas.
- Are there activities that you can observe during your tour? Is the activity well attended and are residents engaged?
- Is there an activity calendar posted and accessible to residents? Consider the activities you or your loved one specifically enjoys. Are these available or can they be accommodated with transportation provided?
- Are a variety of options available at each meal? Diabetic options if applicable? Healthy options?
- Is there flexibility in meal times? How many meals are offered per day? Are you invited for a meal?
- Is seating assigned or open? Do new residents have an ‘ambassador’ or another resident to introduce them to others in the dining room and at activities?
- What is the average age of the residents?
- Do the common areas look well maintained? Are fall prevention measures in place, such as the carpet is even and any steps are well marked?
During your tour of the apartments:
- Are there emergency cords or systems in both the bathroom and bedroom? Ask how long it takes for a staff to respond to a call.
- Is the kitchenette well suited to preparing meals if less than three meals are offered daily?
- Can the stove/burners be disabled if necessary?
- Is there plenty of closet space and storage available?
- Is there a walk-in shower or cut-out tub available?
- Are there handrails near the toilet and shower?
- If medication management is needed, will the medications be administered in the apartment or the nursing office? (Privacy vs. encouraged interaction outside of the apartment)
- If a pet will be moving in, are there patios or exterior doors nearby? Is pet care provided as an additional service?
Ways to confirm the facility is in compliance with state laws:
- Is the facility’s license posted in a readily accessible area, such as the lobby or near the entrance?
- Is the facility’s latest inspection report posted? If you ask to see the facility’s inspection reports, what is the response? Does the administrator provide the reports or dismiss your request? Oftentimes the inspection reports must be made available upon request.
- Does the facility post how and where complaints against the facility may be registered or the telephone number of the state ombudsman office?
- Are the evacuation routes displayed? How often does the facility conduct fire drills?
- What services are included in the monthly rent? What services are extra?
- How are care levels determined and how is cost assigned, i.e. is care assigned on a point system and each point corresponds to a dollar amount, or is it based on the number of hours care is required?
- Does the monthly rent increase each year, and if so, what is the average increase?
- Can residents age in place? Is the facility equipped to care for residents if they develop Alzheimer’s or dementia?
- What is the staff to resident ratio, not only during the day but also at night? You don't want your loved one to feel ignored if staff don't have time to provide one-on-one attention when it's needed.
Additional Considerations to Keep in Mind:
- Smaller apartments are often better, particularly if mobility is an issue.
- Consider the entire facility as your loved one’s new home because social interaction will be an important component of daily living. Are there gathering areas or places where your loved one will spending time?
- During a tour, pay particular attention to whether the Marketing Director and/or other employees interact with and refer to residents by name regularly.
- Schedule another visit on a weekend or during the evening when the management team is not on site. Are residents engaged? Chat with current residents and their family members if possible. Residents are a great source of honest information.