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Questions to Ask Assisted Living Facilities When Touring

16 minute readLast updated October 17, 2023
fact checkedon October 16, 2023
Written by Rebecca Schier-Akamelu, assisted living writer
Reviewed by Niki Gewirtz, senior living expertNiki Gewirtz is a senior new hire support specialist with A Place for Mom as has advised families for more than 20 years.
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With an increasingly wide and diverse array of assisted living options, you might spend some time finding the assisted living facility that best fits your loved one’s situation. As you tour facilities, you’ll likely be presented with an abundance of similar information. This may cause some important details to slip past you. To help ensure you cover everything of interest to you at each facility, we suggest preparing for an assisted living tour by thinking of questions to ask ahead of time. Keeping track of how each community responds can help you compare important details and catalog what each facility had.

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Why it’s important to ask questions during assisted living tours

Having questions ready can help ensure your loved one’s care needs and personal lifestyle preferences will be met in their new assisted living 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.

What to ask assisted living facilities during a tour

Your questions during a tour should cover the following topics:

  • Pricing
  • Floor plans
  • Amenities and services
  • Programming and activities
  • Levels of care
  • Caregiver training
  • Staff friendliness
  • Staff-to-resident ratio
  • Community culture

Who to 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.

Rachel Levy has helped many families through the touring process. Before joining A Place for Mom, she gained 20 years of experience in management roles and as a sales director in senior living communities.

“You want to make sure you’re speaking to as many department heads as possible,” Levy recommends. “They’re the ones day in and day out who will oversee your loved one’s care. If your sales director [or other tour guide] doesn’t do this automatically, then you need to ask. Key positions to speak to are the executive director and nursing director, but the maintenance and food service director can also add insights.”

The more people you talk to, the better view of a facility you’ll have. Ask your tour guide who will be available to speak with. You can even try asking if you can talk to a current resident about their experience.

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Critical questions to ask assisted living facilities

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 that 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.

“I welcomed all questions since most of the time it was the first time a family experienced senior living,” Levy says.

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 are the safety features (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 the facility’s 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. Levy encourages families to ask as many questions as they want about the care provided in the community and to be forthcoming with their loved one’s needs.

“Don’t feel like you need to hold back details,” she says. “It’s really important to be honest since communities are not alike. It will only help a community to determine if your family member is a good fit.”

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 medical 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?
  • Are there any reasons that a resident might need to move to a higher level of care that wouldn’t be able to be managed by the community?
  • Will they allow seniors who are already receiving hospice services to move in? Are there any limitations to working with seniors receiving hospice services?

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. Find out 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?
  • What outdoor spaces (e.g., walking paths, secured courtyards, and gardens) does the community have?
  • 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?
  • Does the community offer any religious services on-site or transportation to services in the area? Does the community have any affiliations with a particular religion, like Catholic assisted living? Or is there a large group of residents who share a common religion on-site?

Of course, the people who may give the best insights about community life are the residents themselves. If you see residents during your tour, either in passing or while sampling a meal, ask them about their experiences.

“Most of the time if residents are happy, they’ll even come and interrupt your tour to tell [you] how happy they are. As a former sales director, I’d always love it when residents did that,” says Levy.

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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 special meals prepared for specific holidays, birthdays, or other special occasions?
  • Does the community provide snacks throughout the day? What kind?
  • Is there a café 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 floor plans are available? What’s the monthly cost per layout 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 there in-unit kitchens or kitchenettes? Is there a refrigerator, sink, or 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 or laundry service?
  • Are pets allowed to live in-unit? If so, is there a weight 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. Levy encourages families not to shy away from the financial questions, as these can affect your loved one now and in the years to come.

“Rents typically increase at a senior living community just like they do at apartment buildings. Don’t be afraid to ask about that,” she says.

Important cost- and finance-related questions include the following:

  • Is a contractual agreement available that discloses all health care and supportive service fees, as well as admission and discharge fees?
  • What are the policies for refunds and transfers?
  • What are the billing and payment policies?
  • Are all services included in the monthly fee?
  • What services aren’t covered by baseline costs (e.g., housekeeping, medication management, transportation, etc.)? How much are extras?
  • Are hygiene supplies included in the monthly price? If not, what’s 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?
  • Does the community help coordinate with any public programs that may help cover the cost of care 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 care decision that affects them?
  • Are there any pricing incentives or move-in specials available?

Questions should go both ways

During a tour, it’s normal for your guide to ask you questions as well. In fact, it’s a good sign.

“As a sales director, it was my job to help our customers open up. I’d really focus on [asking] open-ended questions like, ‘What worries you the most right now?’ or ‘What do you think will happen if you don’t make a decision?’” Levy recalls. “I found that families opened up if I told them from the start that I’d be asking a lot of questions since it will help me help them. I always listened for emotional words and then asked them to tell me more.”

The more questions your tour guide and others in the community ask your family, the better. It shows that they care about your loved one and want to help make sure that the community will be a good fit for them.

Be prepared for multiple tours

When selecting the right community for your loved one, you’ll want to do everything you can to make sure you find the right fit. From location to budget and lifestyle, you’ll have many factors to consider.

Of all the families we’ve helped at A Place for Mom, half were referred to between four and six communities.[01] (We refer families to partner communities that would be a good fit for their loved one.) In order to keep the communities clear in your mind, Levy recommends spacing out tours.

She also recommends keeping in touch with any communities you tour.

“It’s typical that a community will follow up with you after a,tour. I encourage you to take their calls and give them honest feedback.” Levy recommends. If something didn’t feel right, let them know. If you need a second tour, ask for it. It’s a big decision, and the more interaction you have with a community, the more likely you’ll know what to expect when you move in.”

How to keep track of answers from your assisted living interviews

Keeping track of details can be tough. They can easily get jumbled among your thoughts or in your notes, especially when you’re visiting multiple assisted living communities.

To help you stay organized, we’ve compiled a handy checklist for assisted living facility tours (it’s the questions above in PDF format). 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 work with you to help find communities that fit your loved one’s lifestyle and budget. Plus they can help schedule tours for you. They’re a wonderful resource and offer advice as you navigate assisted living solutions near you, all at no cost to you.

Original article by A Place for Mom senior copywriter Nirali Desai.


  1. A Place for Mom. (2023). Family survey.

Meet the Author
Rebecca Schier-Akamelu, assisted living writer

Rebecca Schier-Akamelu is a senior copywriter at A Place for Mom, specializing in topics such as assisted living and payment options. With more than a decade of experience as a content creator, Rebecca brings a person-centered approach to her work and holds a certificate in digital media and marketing from Duke University.

Edited by

Marlena Gates

Reviewed by

Niki Gewirtz, senior living expert

The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom and the reader. Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter, and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site. Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

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