Having questions ready can help ensure your loved one’s care needs and personal lifestyle preferences will be met in their new community. Knowing what to look for before moving in can help avoid future dissatisfaction, which could ultimately result in another move for your loved one.
Getting answers to important questions ahead of time will help you get a feel for a facility’s environment to help make sure your loved one ends up in good hands.
What to ask assisted living facilities during a tour?
Your questions during a tour should cover the following topics:
- Amenities and services
- Programming and activities
- Levels of care
- Caregiver training
- Staff friendliness
- Community culture
Who should I ask?
Any staff member leading the tour should be able to answer any questions or direct you to another staff member who can. Some communities have designated tour guides while others may have the community director or a caregiver conduct tours. Note that the staff you will have access to during a tour will vary from community to community.
When possible, try to ask questions of more than one staff member to minimize bias. The more people you talk to, the better view of a facility you’ll have. Ask your tour guide if you can also talk to the community director, activity director, chefs, caregivers, etc. You can even try asking if you can talk to a current resident about their experience.
Below, we’ve categorized several questions for assisted living interviews into lists to help you get all the necessary answers. As you navigate assisted living options, remember every question is worth asking, even if you feel like it’s naïve or too specific. All details matter when choosing an assisted living facility for a loved one.
What measures are taken to foster a safe, clean, and comfortable environment?
It’s important to learn how a facility maintains cleanliness, stays up-to-date on regulations, and ensures safety standards are always met. To get the specifics on how facilities foster a safe environment, try asking the following questions:
- What safety features are implemented (e.g., handrails, grab bars, and zero-threshold showers) throughout the community?
- What accessibility features (e.g., elevators, widened doors, stair lifts, and wheelchair ramps) are located throughout the community?
- Are all exits clearly marked?
- Is the common area décor intentional? Does it promote comfort and nostalgia (e.g., uplifting colors, art, and comfortable furniture)?
- How often are the common areas cleaned and the grounds maintained?
- Does the facility undergo regular inspections? If so, by which departments (e.g., the state’s health or social services department), and what was their most recent rating?
How are caregivers trained and equipped to handle residents’ unique needs?
An inside look at the caregiver hiring, training, and assigning process can help you assess how personalized the care is and how caregivers there foster nurturing relationships. To help you get an idea of the facility’s caregiving staff, try asking the following:
- Do staff members make you feel welcome? Do they call residents by their names?
- What is the caregiver-to-resident ratio? How many residents live here?
- How many caregivers and staff members are on duty overnight versus during the day?
- What kind of experience and training does the staff have?
- How does the community facilitate a good match between caregivers and residents?
- Does the community perform background checks on every employee?
- What is the staff turnover rate? Is the staff tenured?
- Does the community have a registered nurse, licensed vocational nurse, or certified nursing assistant on staff 24/7?
- Do caregivers administer medications?
- Are caregivers able to meet the scheduled and unscheduled needs of residents?
- Can residents contact an on-site or on-call doctor, nurse, or other licensed health care professional during emergencies?
- Do caregivers assist with activities of daily living (ADLs)? If so, what does that include (e.g., bathing, dressing, feeding, mobility, etc.)?
How does the facility coordinate access to on-site and off-site health care services?
If your loved one’s been diagnosed with a complex health condition, it’s crucial to ask any prospective community about their available health care and transportation services. Health care questions could include the following:
- Are physical and health assessments performed on residents prior to admission?
- Does each resident have a written plan of care? If so, how often is it updated?
- Does the facility’s care assessment include the resident, their family, the facility staff, and the resident’s doctors?
- What’s the medication management policy? Is self-administration of medication allowed?
- Are there any additional care services or therapies available on-site to accommodate changing needs (e.g., hospice care, memory care, physical therapy, etc.)?
- Are caregivers or on-site health care professionals equipped to provide care for residents diagnosed with different conditions (e.g., diabetes, chronic arthritis, etc.)?
- Who coordinates home health care visits from nurses, doctors, physical therapists, etc., if needed?
- Is there a clear procedure for responding to a resident’s medical emergency?
- Is transportation offered to residents for doctor’s appointments? If so, is the transportation staff-coordinated and wheelchair-friendly? Are mobility escorts available?
How does the facility enable residents to lead active and engaging lifestyles?
Learn how a facility helps residents stay physically, mentally, and socially active and involved within the community so that you can be sure your loved one will have plenty of engaging options. Learn how an assisted living facility accommodates your loved one’s hobbies and interests by asking the following:
- Are residents happy or satisfied with their lifestyle? How do you measure resident satisfaction?
- Do residents have a voice? Can they suggest new activities, clubs, or events?
- Are residents actively encouraged to participate in activities?
- What types of activities are available to residents? How often do they occur? Is there a calendar of events?
- Is live entertainment provided? If so, what kind and how often?
- What amenities are there (e.g., media center, fitness center, spa, barber shop, etc.)?
- What common spaces are available (e.g., dining rooms, lounges, game rooms, event halls, etc.) to encourage gathering?
- Do you have any outdoor spaces (e.g., walking paths, secured courtyards, and gardens)?
- Are there any shared community animals, such as dogs, cats, birds, or fish?
- Is there a place where residents can do their own gardening, arts and crafts, or other personal hobbies?
- Does the facility collaborate with the surrounding community for events (e.g., local libraries, parks and rec, colleges, etc.)?
- Do residents go on regular outings or do volunteers come into the community?
What kind of dining services does the facility offer?
To address how your loved one’s dietary needs and tastes will be met, it’s important to ask about on-site dining services. Depending on a senior’s needs and preferences, you can try asking the following:
- How many meals are provided per day, and are mealtimes set?
- Does the menu change daily? Is the food prepared daily?
- Can meals be tailored to a resident’s specific dietary needs, restrictions, or special requests?
- Are residents permitted to keep or cook food in their apartments?
- Can you sample meals during a tour?
- Are meals prepared for specific holidays, birthdays, or other special occasions?
- Does the community provide snacks throughout the day? What kind?
- Is there a cafe for snacks, drinks, and treats?
How does the facility accommodate residents’ unique living preferences?
Every senior leads a unique lifestyle, and it’s important for communities to account for that in as many ways as possible. See how the community can accommodate your loved one’s living preferences by asking the following:
- What floorplans are available? What is the monthly cost per type?
- Do residents have the option of a private or shared room?
- Are couples allowed to live together? If so, how do they accommodate elderly couples?
- Are furnishings provided? If so, what types?
- Can residents personalize and decorate their own units?
- Does each unit have a private bathroom, or are the bathrooms shared?
- Is each unit and bathroom designed to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers?
- Are unit kitchens provided with a refrigerator, sink, and other cooking appliances?
- Does each unit have good natural lighting?
- Is temperature controllable? If not, how is it maintained to help ensure residents’ comfort?
- Does each unit have a 24-hour emergency response system?
- Is housekeeping offered? If so, does it include linen and laundry service?
- Are pets allowed to live in-unit? If so, is there a weight and/or breed restriction?
How do costs and fees vary in the community?
Cost is perhaps one of the most important factors in choosing an assisted living facility. Be upfront with questions about monthly costs, additional fees, and financing options in order to avoid potential hidden fees or a future increase in costs. Important cost- and finance-related questions include the following:
- Is a contractual agreement available that discloses all health care and supportive services, fees, as well as admission and discharge provisions?
- What are the policies for refunds and transfers?
- What are your billing and payment policies?
- Are all services included in the monthly fee?
- What services are not covered and how much extra do they cost (e.g., housekeeping, medication management, transportation, etc.)?
- Are hygiene supplies included in the monthly price? If not, what is the cost for such items (like incontinence items)?
- Does rent increase on a yearly basis, or is a rent-lock program in place?
- Is there a requirement for renter’s insurance? If so, what must be included in a policy?
- Can the community help coordinate with any government, private, or corporate programs that may help cover the cost of services to the resident (e.g., Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits, etc.)?
- Is there a process for dissatisfied residents to file complaints?
- Is there a process for a resident to appeal a decision that impacts them?
- Are there any pricing incentives or move-in specials available?
Keeping track of details can be tough. They can easily get jumbled among your thoughts or in your notes, especially when visiting multiple assisted living communities.
To help you stay organized, we’ve compiled a handy checklist for assisted living facility tours. You can print out multiple copies, one for each community you visit, to keep track of the answers across each tour. At the end of all the tours, you can compare and contrast your notes to help you and your loved one make an informed decision.
And, of course, you can always talk to a Senior Living Advisor at A Place for Mom. They’ll continually offer free advice as you navigate assisted living solutions near you — all at no cost.