Finding the Right Assisted Living Community: 50 Essential Questions to Ask

Elderly couple playing cards in an assisted living facility

By Meeka Ghebrai, staff writer

Determining whether or not an assisted living community meets your loved one’s needs may seem like an overwhelming task. We’ve made it easier to narrow your options with a list of topics and questions to cover, including staffing, care, costs, common spaces, and more. Consider these important factors and questions to ask assisted living facilities during in-person visits, virtual tours, or over the phone:

Questions to ask your loved one about assisted living

Identifying your loved ones’ needs early on can reduce stress and speed up the search for their new home. Discuss these questions before your assisted living search:

  • What do you expect and need from assisted living?
  • What is your budget? How can you save money on assisted living?
  • Where do you want to live?
  • What activities and amenities would you enjoy?
  • Do you have any other preferences or concerns?

Questions to ask assisted living facilities

It’s important to be prepared when calling and touring assisted living facilities. Defining your criteria will give you a better understanding of how the community can meet your loved ones’ care needs. Start by creating a list of questions for your initial conversation and community tour.

Here are a few of the best questions to ask assisted living facilities:

Ask about staff

  • What is your staff-to-resident ratio?
  • What kind of experience and training does your staff have?
  • How many staff members are on duty overnight and during the day?
  • What is the staff turnover rate?
  • Can staff members administer medications?
  • Do you have a registered nurse, licensed vocational nurse, or certified nursing assistant on staff 24/7?
  • Are staff available to meet the residents’ scheduled and unscheduled medical needs? If not, are they able to contact a nearby doctor, nurse, or other licensed health care professional in the event of an emergency?
  • Is staff available to provide 24-hour assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) if needed? ADLs include dressing, eating, mobility, hygiene and grooming, bathing, toileting, using the telephone, shopping, and laundry.

Ask about resident living spaces

  • What types of apartments are available? What is the monthly cost per type?
  • Do residents have the option of a private or shared room?
  • Are furnishings provided? If so, what kind?
  • Can residents personalize and decorate their own apartments?
  • Does each apartment have a private bathroom, or are the bathrooms shared?
  • Is each apartment and bathroom designed to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers?
  • Is a kitchen provided with a refrigerator, sink, and other cooking elements?
  • Are pets allowed? If so, is there a weight and/or breed restriction?
  • Does each room have a 24-hour emergency response system?
  • Is house cleaning for personal living spaces included in the price? If not, what is the additional fee?

Ask about food

  • How many meals are provided per day?
  • Does the menu change daily?
  • Can meals be tailored to a resident’s specific dietary needs, restrictions, or special requests?
  • Is the food prepared daily?
  • Are there set times for meals?
  • Are residents permitted to keep food in their apartments?
  • Are there any dishes that are especially popular with residents? Can you sample them on the tour?
  • Can meals be prepared for specific holidays, birthdays, or other special occasions?

Ask about common spaces

  • What common spaces are available to residents?
  • Do you have any outdoor spaces?
  • Is smoking allowed? If so, where?
  • Are there any shared community animals, such as dogs, cats, birds, or fish?
  • Does the community have any on-site concierge services or special amenities, such as a barber shop or beauty parlor, fitness room, physical therapy services, pharmacy, a pool, etc.?
  • Is there a place where residents can do their own gardening, arts and crafts, or other personal hobbies?
  • Is there a media or TV room?
  • Can you provide a list of services available?

Ask about activities

  • What types of activities are available to residents? How often do they occur?
  • Is there a posted schedule of events?
  • Are residents actively encouraged to participate in activities and events?
  • Do residents often interact with the surrounding community?
  • Do residents go on regular outings or do volunteers come into the community?
  • Is there any live entertainment provided? If so, what kind, and how often?
  • Can residents arrange for transportation on fairly short notice?

Ask about health care

  • Do you perform or require an initial physical or health assessment prior to admission, followed by a written plan of care for each resident? If so, how often is it updated?
  • Is there a process for assessing a potential resident’s need for services, and are those needs addressed periodically? If so, does this process include the resident, his or her family and facility staff, along with the resident’s physician?
  • What is your medication management policy? Is self-administration of medication allowed?
  • Are services such as hospice and physical therapy available within the facility? If so, is there an additional charge?
  • Who coordinates home health care visits from a 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 wheelchair/disabled-friendly? Is there a fee?
  • Are incontinence supplies included in the price? If not, what is the cost?

Ask about costs and finances

  • Is a contractual agreement available that discloses health care and supportive services, all 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? If not, what services are not covered and how much extra do they cost?
  • Are there any government, private, or corporate programs available to help cover the cost of services to the resident?

Ask about the community

  • What are the residents like?
  • Is there a wait-list to be admitted into the facility, how many are on it, and what is the policy?
  • What is your eviction or discharge policy?
  • Are residents’ rights posted in a common area and available for everyone to see?
  • Which organizations audit the facility? How often do they visit? What do they check for?

Download our assisted living checklist to help guide you during visits. Our detailed questions can keep you prepared and organized while choosing the right assisted living facility for your loved one.

How to find the right assisted living community

Finding the right community can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors can provide you with a list of assisted living communities that meet the needs and preferences you’ve established using our checklist.