When someone makes the decision that it is time to move to an assisted living community, people often struggle to figure out where to begin the search. It can be an intimidating process. We’ve assembled this guide to choosing an assisted living community to help you get started.
7 Steps to Choosing an Assisted Living Community
These steps will make it easier for you to organize your search for an assisted living community and to ultimately make an informed decision.
1. Ask friends, family and colleagues. Word of mouth recommendations are a great place to start. Asking for advice from people you know who have been through this process in your local community can help you begin to develop a list of communities to consider. Most family members who have been through this before know how difficult it is and will typically be willing to share what they’ve learned.
2. Research local options online. The internet and social media have made this easy to do. Here are a couple of suggestions:
• Whether you use Google, Yahoo or another browser, be sure to include an appropriate geographic term in your search query. For example instead of just searching for “assisted living in New York” use “assisted living in Westchester County, NY” or “assisted living on Long Island, NY”. That will narrow your choices. If you find it is too restrictive, you can always expand it later.
• Review each community’s website to get an idea about who they are. You can learn a lot about them by reviewing the resources and support they share on their site.
• Visit the assisted living community’s Facebook page. That will give you an inside look at the activities and events that are a part of daily life at the community.
3. Call each potential community. Once you have developed an initial list of communities to consider, block out time in your schedule to make phone calls to each of them. Plan to ask them general questions to determine which communities you would like to visit in person. Here are a few suggested questions to ask:
• Do they currently have any apartments or suites available? If not, how long is the expected wait?
• What is their price range? Keep in mind they might only be able to give you a range until they perform a personal assessment of your loved one’s needs.
• Clarify what services and amenities are included in the base fee. Some communities are all-inclusive and others have a base fee and additional charges based upon how much care your loved one requires.
• Find out if and how they can support your loved one’s medication management needs.
• Ask what other initial and on-going fees you should expect to work in to your budget. It might be a security deposit, a buy-in, cable service, transportation, parking or another expense.
• If there are specific conditions for your loved one making the move, be sure to ask about those. For example, if your mother won’t move unless her pet can move too, be sure to ask if the community is pet-friendly.
4. Schedule personal community visits. This is one of the most important steps to making an informed decision. In some families, the adult children will make the initial community visits to narrow down the search. Then they return for a second visit to the communities they feel are the best fit and bring their senior loved one. Other families visit all communities together and make sure they have the opportunity to spend time with other residents or stay for lunch or dinner. When you tour, be sure to take a pen and paper with you so you can take detailed notes. Here are a few things to observe and ask on your personal visits:
• Does the neighborhood look clean and safe?
• What kind of security does the community offer both for the campus and each resident’s suite?
• Were you warmly greeted in the lobby?
• Do staff and residents look happy and engaged with one another?
• Do staff members look you in the eye when you pass them on your tour?
• Is the community clean both inside and outside?
• Are formal and/or informal activities occurring?
• Do residents look well-groomed and dressed appropriately for the season and time of day?
• Does the suite or apartment you are shown look like the right size space for your loved one?
• What kind of background checks do the staff members go through before they are hired?
• Do staff members receive on-going training?
• Are residents allowed to have overnight guests or dinner guests?
• Are there restricted hours for visiting?
• What is the staff turnover rate?
• Be sure to get a copy of the paperwork you or your loved one will be required to sign for each community you visit.
• Ask what will happen when your senior loved one needs more care.
• What does the community consider its signature programs?
5. Rate each community immediately following your visit. Can you picture yourself or your loved one living at this community? This will help you later when you are trying to narrow down your choices.
6. Review all of your notes. Once you have completed all of your personal visits, go back and review your notes. You will probably be able to immediately eliminate some of the communities you visited. For other communities you may find there are follow-up questions you need to call and ask. If you need to return with your loved one, this may be the time to schedule another visit that includes them.
7. Personal assessment. The final step will likely be to schedule a personal assessment with a clinical staff member from the community. They can confirm your needs and give you a better idea about what your monthly expenses might be.
We hope this guide helps make your search go a little more smoothly. If you would like additional information, the Assisted Living Federation of America has resources that are free for consumers.