There are lots of important factors to consider when choosing an assisted living community for yourself or your loved one. You’re looking for a place that’s an ideal fit, and that means researching everything about the community, from cleanliness and ambiance to management activities and costs.
But it doesn’t have to be as daunting of a task as it might seem. Knowing what to look for – and which questions to ask – will help you make the best choice. Read on for some key questions to ask during your search.
- Where is the community located?
It’s convenient if the facility is a short drive from your home, of course, but experts advise against choosing a community based on convenience alone. Nonetheless, a community’s location is important for a variety of reasons, and some things you should consider include:
- Is the neighborhood considered safe?
- Is it close to doctor’s offices, pharmacies and other important places?
- If the community isn’t near your home and doesn’t allow overnight guests, are there hotels nearby for when you visit your loved one?
- Is it conveniently located for other family and friends to visit?
- Have you visited?
The importance of visiting the prospective assisted living community cannot be overstated. Likewise, it’s a good idea to visit at different times of the day, particularly during mealtimes. While there, take the time to talk to residents and staff to get a firsthand sense of the community’s features and atmosphere. Here are other key questions to consider:
- Are hallways well lit and easy to navigate?
- Are the common spaces clean, pleasant and appealing? Can you imagine your loved one using these common spaces?
- Do most residents have a private or shared room?
- Does each room have its own private (and handicap-equipped) bathroom, or is there one shared bathroom?
- Is there enough closet and storage space?
- Is the lighting good?
- How much will it cost?
The cost of assisted living can seem prohibitive since Medicare does not cover it for many seniors. That said, do your research to find the true costs, since fees can vary depending on your loved one’s needs. Also ask:
- Are there move-in fees, or fees for services (such as laundry)?
- How is the community funded? Is it non-profit or for-profit?
- Is there a charge for transportation to and from doctor’s offices?
- Will the costs go up in the future and why?
- What payment options are available?
- What services are provided?
Be sure to ask what services the assisted living community provides, and whether those services are included in the overall price or will mean additional costs.
- Is housekeeping provided and included in the price?
- Are there religious services at the facility, or nearby?
- Are barber and beauty services provided and are they included in the price?
- Are pets allowed?
- Are there visiting hours, or are guests allowed to visit residents at any time?
5. Is there a written care plan?
Knowing the specifics about your loved one’s care and having those details listed in a customized written care plan is important.
- Who’s involved in developing the care plan?
- What types of specific care are available?
- Who handles medication management?
- Is the facility associated with a hospital or nursing home if additional care is required?
- Is the staff well-trained, friendly and stable?
The staff’s attitude and approach toward residents is of utmost importance; after all, they’ll be taking care of your loved one on a daily basis. Observe several staff members and how they interact with residents.
- Do they listen and make eye contact with residents?
- Is there a nurse or licensed practical nurse on staff?
- How many people are actually involved in your loved one’s care?
- Are they friendly and patient while taking care of residents?
- How much training do staff members receive?
- Have staff members undergone background checks?
- What’s the staff turnover rate?
- What’s in the admissions agreement?
Take your time to read the admissions agreement carefully. In particular, make sure you understand the move-out criteria – in many cases there’s language that requires a 30-day notice to stop billing for services even if the resident has died.
- Is there a negotiated risk agreement?
- Is there a liability waiver?
Experts suggest that liability waivers may indicate that the facility may not have the resources or ability to meet your loved one’s needs.