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7 Steps to Choosing the Right Assisted Living Facility

Kara Lewis
By Kara LewisAugust 26, 2020
A group of seniors gathers in the living room to watch sports and have fun.

With an increasingly wide and diverse array of assisted living options, how do you pinpoint the best senior living communities? When evaluating your choices, compare factors like staff friendliness, amenities, and overall culture. Be prepared with cost, care plan, and general lifestyle questions to ask assisted living tour guides and staff. By following these simple steps, you’ll be able to find a community that fits your senior loved one’s specific needs.

1. Pay attention to cleanliness, curb appeal, and design details

The assisted living facility you choose will be your senior loved one’s new home. Details reveal how this home will be maintained, as well as how it may enrich your parent’s physical and mental well-being.

Note your first impression as you observe the community’s outdoor areas and entryways, says Louis Kievit, vice president of customer experience at Enlivant, a senior living provider with communities in 26 states. Porch seating and a garden or courtyard signal a welcoming, social tone, for example.

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In addition, when searching for assisted living, compare details such as:

  • Physical safety features, like handrailsgrab bars, and zero-threshold showers
  • Accessibility features, like elevatorswidened doorsstair lifts, and wheelchair ramps
  • Decor details, like uplifting colorscomfortable furniture, and opportunities for personalization
  • Social areas, like dining roomslounge spaces, and event halls that encourage gathering
  • Cleanliness and upkeep in common areas and facility surroundings

2. Get to know caregivers and staff who provide daily support

“At the end of the day, your decision is going to be driven by, ‘Will this team have my parent’s best interest at heart?’” says Kievit. “Will they take care for them and make them feel special? People are the most vital asset.”

If possible, observe one-on-one interactions between staff and residents to assess staff compassion, friendliness, and patience. Be sure to also ask about staff accreditation, background, and training.

3. Connect with residents to understand the community’s culture

The other residents at your loved one’s new assisted living community will become their friends and daily companions. The best senior living communities promote quality of life, resulting in residents who seem engaged, social, and happy. Try to tour during a group activity of interest to your parent to observe interactions among residents.

Incorporating a meal into your tour can provide an opportunity to see available cafeteria options, in addition to the communal benefit. During conversations with other residents, ask questions about their daily routines and honest opinions on the community. In some communities, a volunteer resident ambassador may accompany staff on tours.

4. Consider your loved one’s unique interests and personality

Though many families wonder how to find the best assisted living, the ideal fit is different for everyone. Choosing the right assisted living facility depends on your senior loved one’s hobbies and personality, as well as how the community can support and engage them. Seniors who regularly practice a hobby experience lower rates of depression, cognitive decline, and mortality, according to a study of elderly Japanese adults in the Journal of Epidemiology.

“If Mom loves gardening, I would ask to see the courtyard and meet the gardening club. If it’s reading, I would ask to see the library, where she can curl up on a comfy couch and enjoy a good book,” Kievit says. “If she’s very active, ask to see a copy of the activity calendar. The apartment is mainly for sleeping and bathing. The rest of the community is home.”

When searching for your loved one’s new home, evaluate the assisted living services and amenities your loved one would enjoy, such as the chapel, fitness center, game room, or bar.

5. Prioritize budget-friendliness with key cost questions

For most families, the cost of assisted living becomes a major factor in the decision-making process. Determine whether the community you’re touring uses all-inclusive pricing, tiered pricing based on levels of care, a la carte pricing, or another model. Additionally, avoid sticker shock by asking about move-in fees and contract terms. Generally, a business office manager can answer these questions and address related concerns.

6. Ensure the community will meet short-term and long-term care needs

Choosing the right assisted living facility means selecting a community that can meet your senior loved one’s needs as they evolve. First, verify the staff has experience managing any condition your senior loved one may have. Then, look toward the future: Can the community adapt if needs progress? Reach an understanding of how often staff members reevaluate care plans.

Lastly, consider what will happen if your senior loved one eventually requires a nursing home or memory care. Ask about the facility’s licensure, as well as move-out process and any associated fees.

7. Reach out to a Senior Living Advisor for help

A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors know the details of senior living inside and out. At no cost to you, they can help assess your family’s specific situation, share information about different assisted living options that may be a fit, and connect you with local communities. 

Kara Lewis
Author
Kara Lewis

Kara Lewis is a content writer at A Place for Mom. She’s worked in writing, editing, and creative strategy for several years, most recently at Andrews McMeel Universal, Hallmark, and Gannett Media. Her writing has appeared in Bustle, Alma, and The Kansas City Star, among other outlets. She has won awards for digitally conscious journalism, investigative reporting, magazine writing, and poetry.

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