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October 21, 2019

Questions to Ask When Searching for an Assisted Living Community

As you begin the process of searching for an assisted living and memory care community for your loved one, you’re more than likely experiencing an array of emotions, not to mention an endless list of questions running through your mind. After all, searching for your elder’s next home is a big decision.

Knowing what to look for and ask about when visiting a community can help simplify your search. To help, we’ve created an assisted living and memory care checklist. We encourage you to share your notes with those you trust when discussing this transition.  

Cleanliness

An unusual odor around the community can indicate that residents are not properly cared for and housekeeping is subpar. Ask questions, such as:

  • What products do you use for incontinence?

  • What type of products do you use to clean the community?

  • How often are the residents’ units cleaned? 

  • Do you provide hygiene products, or should my loved one have their own?

Environment

Environment plays a critical role in assisted living and memory care communities. If you don’t feel comfortable in a building, your loved one won’t either. Questions to consider:

  • Was I greeted warmly by staff?

  • Do the residents and staff look happy or joyful?

  • Does the community look lively?

  • If there’s something that’s broken, does it look like it’s being fixed?

Resident Apartments 

While your senior will spend a large portion of their time out in the community engaging with others, they will also spend time in their apartment. Things to observe:

  • Are the units set-up in a way that allows enough room for my loved one to move around?

  • Can the temperature be controlled within the unit?

  • Is there enough lighting in the room?

  • Do the apartments have any trip or fall hazards?

  • Are the bathrooms accessible?

Licensure and Resident-to-Staff Ratio

It’s imperative that the assisted living communities you’re considering are properly licensed through the Department of Health and Senior Services. Questions to ask:

  • What requirements and level of care does your license cover?

  • What is the state limit on resident-to-caregiver ratio and does it differ from your company policy?

  • What is the staff turn-over rate?

Activity Program and Socialization Opportunities

A robust activity program is critical for the wellbeing of seniors. It’s not unusual to find seniors becoming isolated or inactive as they age. A well-rounded activity program will ensure each residents’ physical, spiritual, social, and mental needs are met. Questions to ask:

  • What types of activities do you offer daily?

  • Do you have a monthly activity calendar? 

  • How do you engage residents who can’t physically join planned activities?

  • How long do the activities last?

Safety Features

The safety of residents is the first priority of any assisted living community—especially in memory care. Each community should have specific safety features, such as keypads for entrances and exits, alarmed exits, pendant alerts or pull chords, and 24-hour staff monitoring. Questions to ask:

  • What is the security process when a visitor enters or exits the community?

  • What kind of technology is available to help monitor the safety of my loved one?

  • What are the plans in case of a fire or natural disaster?

  • What is the staff rotation schedule for 24-hour monitoring?

Communication

Communication with the community about your loved one is vital to building trust and providing peace of mind. Questions to ask:

  • What is the communication process if my loved one has an emergency?

  • Can I drop in and check on my loved one at any time of the day?

  • Does each unit come with a telephone?

  • What tools or software do you use to provide daily updates?

  • Who is my point of contact for the community?

Care Plans

Care plans provide direction for the individualized care of each resident and should be organized by the resident’s specific needs. When visiting an assisted living and memory care community, consider asking the following questions:

  • What do the care plans look like?

  • How are the care plans implemented?

  • What is the process if a care plan needs to change?

  • How often are care plans reviewed?

Staff Education and Training

Staff development is critical to creating an exceptional place for elders and their families. The next time you visit an assisted living and memory care community, ask the following questions:

  • How often are staff required to participate in professional development and training?

  • What types of education and training are available for staff?

  • What makes the education of your staff different than those of another community?

Nutrition

As our loved ones age, their dietary needs and personal preferences change, and it’s important that a community is able to accommodate those needs and changes. Questions to ask:

  • What types of dining do you offer?

  • Can my loved one eat on their own schedule?

  • My loved one is a picky eater; how do you ensure they get the nutrition they need?

  • Where does your food come from?

  • Who prepares the meals?

  • How do you accommodate dietary restrictions?

Finance Opportunities

There are many ways to finance assisted living and memory care. These options include Veteran’s Benefits, long-term care policies, whole life insurance, savings, pension, and family contribution. Questions to ask:

  • What types of finance opportunities are available at your community?

  • If I’m using multiple forms of financing—for example, Veteran’s Benefits and family contribution—how will I know what I’m to pay monthly?

  • Do you correspond with third parties (insurance companies, Veterans administration) on my behalf to get benefits, or is that something that I need to do?

  • When is the monthly payment due?

  • What types of payment do you accept?

Medical Oversight and Medication Management

Assisted living and memory care communities should have a partnership with the local medical community in case of emergency and for routine care. Questions to ask:

  • Is there access to off-site care?

  • Who provides medical oversight at the community?

  • Are there any physicians that come to the community?

  • What is the process if my loved one needs a check-up, gets sick, or if there is an emergency?

  • Does the community have a partnership with a local pharmacy?

  • What is the process of administering medicine?

  • What is the documentation process for prescriptions?

While this list provides great options for questions, there is an additional area you should pay attention to when visiting assisted living and memory care communities—your instinct. You know your loved one better than anyone else and what’s best for them. How did you feel when you pulled into the parking lot and walked into the building? How did you feel when you completed the tour?

Coupling your instinct with the questions provided will help you make the best decision for your family member. If you have any questions about the process of searching for an assisted living and memory care community for your loved one, we encourage you to speak with one of our care consultants today.