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6 Tips for Touring Senior Communities Virtually and In-Person

Kara Lewis
By Kara LewisJuly 22, 2020
Elderly man and his daughter touring a senior living community on their laptop.

Finding the right senior living community for your loved one is an important and personal decision. Whether you’re touring assisted living communities, memory care facilities, or another type of care, consider the environment your loved one will thrive in on a daily basis.

While in-person tours have long been the norm, the rise of COVID-19 led to a surge in virtual tours. Experts expect these video conferencing visits to continue beyond the pandemic, citing factors such as convenience and advancing technology, like A Place for Mom’s new touring video app.

No matter which touring method you choose, these tips can empower your family to transition to senior living with confidence.

1. Observe community layout and tone

Is the layout small or large? Do its features accommodate mobility challenges? Does the staff maintain the building’s cleanliness? Evaluating these core questions can help you assess if a community can be your senior’s new home. In-person tourers should rely on multiple senses, taking in a community’s sights and scents.

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Look past the surface of a community and into the details, like windows and furnishings. Whether virtually or in-person, ask to see outdoor areas and to select the specific room your loved one will occupy, if possible. See for yourself what view your loved one will have from their window. Lastly, pay attention to the décor and colors to gauge if they will uplift your loved one’s daily mood and routines.

2. Prioritize safety and security

For all seniors, especially those experiencing dementia symptoms like wandering and confusion, safety is paramount. To help ensure your loved one will have adequate supervision, ask the following questions:

  • How is the community secured?
  • Is there a 24-hour nurse on duty? If not, when is a nurse on duty?
  • What medical services are available?
  • How accessible is medical help?
  • For residents with dementia, are there emergency alert systems, enclosed courtyards, or color-coded hallways to simplify navigation?

3. Assess staff friendliness, training, and qualification

Families often turn to senior living communities to provide a greater standard of care and expertise. Try to observe one-on-one interactions between staff members and residents, as a way to assess not only staff knowledge but also traits like friendliness and patience.

From a more clinical perspective, these questions can help assure you staff meet high standards:

  • Is your facility and staff accredited?
  • Do staff attend ongoing training? How many training hours do they receive?
  • Are staff members certified dementia care managers (CDCMs)?
  • What’s the staff-to-resident ratio?
  • Do staff plan individualized care and treatments for each resident?
  • How do staff care for bedridden or wheelchair-bound residents?
  • How do staff care for disruptive or aggressive residents?
  • Who coordinates outside visits?

4. Get to know the community’s social offerings and residents

The other residents at your loved one’s new senior living community will become their friends and daily companions. Do they seem social, engaged, and happy? If you’re touring in person, consider visiting during a group activity, like bingo or a social hour, to observe these interactions with residents.

Incorporating a meal into your tour can provide an opportunity to see available cafeteria options, in addition to the social benefit. During conversations with other residents, ask questions about their daily routines and honest opinions on the community.

If you’re touring virtually, ask about residents’ personalities, outings like field trips, and community clubs. Consider asking to see an event calendar or to speak with individual staff members.

5. Consider next steps if care needs progress

In case a loved one’s condition advances, make sure the senior living community has steps in place to support them. If they need to move out for any reason, like needing a greater level of care, how can families facilitate this transition? Questions include:

  • Under what circumstances is a resident asked to move out of the community?
  • What type of notice does the resident or caregiver need to give the staff?

6. Let your instincts lead you

Though questions and tips serve as a handy guide, they’re no substitute for your gut feelings. Ultimately, you know your loved one best. If you moved your family member into this new home, would you have peace of mind?

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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