When the time comes to make a decision about senior care, the choice can be difficult. How do you know you’re making the right one? We’ve put together some tips and advice to help you make the best decision.

Researching Assisted Living Options

First, it’s important to understand the key differences between various senior living options. Independent living is for people who need no assistance with their daily tasks but want freedom from the hassle of caring for a larger home. Assisted living is for seniors who still live independently, but need a little help with the activities of daily living (ADLs). And skilled nursing is for those who need 24/7 professional medical assistance.

Determining needs

If you’re brand-new to learning about assisted living, it may be helpful to narrow down the various options. Use this short checklist to determine what you need and how you can find a community to fit those needs.

seniors researching a senior living community
  • What kind of assistance with the activities of daily living (ADLs) is needed – for example: eating, using the restroom, or getting dressed? Use this insight to ask better questions of specific assisted living communities.
  • Does your loved one have Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia that will require specialized memory care?
  • What is your budget? Will you be able to pay out-of-pocket or rely on other sources of funding?
  • What kind of social interactions and programs do you enjoy?
  • How much space will you need?

Once you have a better idea of what you or your loved one will need or prefer, it will be easier to narrow your search to communities that fit these standards.

Doing online research

As you begin to learn about assisted living options, searching for things like “assisted living near [location]” might be helpful if you’re looking for a specific area.

Be sure you are visiting the direct website of the company or community that you are interested in, rather than an aggregate listing site. That way, you can be sure you are receiving the most accurate information. Any website that represents or portrays multiple assisted living company names is an aggregate site which doesn’t directly represent each company.

As you browse each assisted living community’s website, take time to read through the materials, read any letters or reviews from other families, watch any videos, and look at any resident photos available. This is a great way to gain insight into what you can expect to experience living in each community.

Doing offline research

Of course, the internet isn’t the only place to find information about assisted living communities. Ask your family members, friends, neighbors, and religious leaders if they have any recommendations on various assisted living options.

Remember, the goal of your research – whether it’s online or offline – should be to narrow down your options to an assisted living community that can offer the services that you need, the lifestyle you are looking for, care you feel good about, and a price within your budget.

Contacting Assisted Living Communities

Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a few top picks, you can contact them to ask a few initial questions, as well as schedule a visit. Calling the phone number directly may be the easiest way – you’ll get your questions answered and have the opportunity to ask follow-up questions. Here are some preliminary questions that you might want to consider asking.

Questions to ask when searching for assisted living:

  • Are there any apartments currently available? If not, how long is the expected wait?
  • What is included in the price? Is it all-inclusive, or will there be additional fees?
  • How do you determine if a resident is appropriate for your community?
  • Is the community pet-friendly (if you or your loved one wants to bring a pet)?
  • What type of programs can residents expect each day?
  • Do you offer choices for all three meals?
  • What’s the price range? Many locations may not be able to give you this information without gathering more information first, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Senior woman in black glasses calls on cell phone while looking at computer.

Touring Assisted Living Communities

The best way to decide if an assisted living community is the right fit is by seeing it in person. Choose your list of communities to tour based on the results of your research and any correspondence you’ve had with them.

Most communities offer online scheduling for a tour, and the best ones will allow you to observe different programs and areas to get the best picture of a regular day at the property. Ask about visiting during a planned event or mealtime, talk to current residents and staff, and ask about any other specifics that are important to you while you are there.

Bring along a notebook for writing down your thoughts and observations during your visit, as well as for keeping track of questions you want to ask.

If you can, visit a community more than once, which will allow you to get the best picture of life there. If you are looking for a parent or loved one, revisit with the potential residents – they’re going to be the one living there, and their feedback is important. During the visits, discussing the costs and contract options will also be important. Make sure you completely understand the way they’re laid out – and if you don’t, just ask.

During the tour, make note of these things.

  • What is the surrounding neighborhood like?
  • What is the security like, both for the community as a whole and for the individual living areas?
  • How did the staff greet you when you arrived?
  • Are the staff and residents engaged with each other?
  • Is the community clean and well-kept?
  • What kinds of programs are happening? Does there appear to be information available about upcoming ones?
  • Are the residents dressed properly for the time of day and the weather?
  • 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 ongoing training?
  • Are residents allowed to have overnight or dinner guests?
  • Are there restricted hours for visiting?
  • What are the meals like? Can residents eat throughout the day if they need to?

Deciding on an Assisted Living Community

You’ve done your research, spoken with several communities, and toured a few more. So how do you make the final decision?

Review your notes as well as the thoughts of other family members, if applicable. What are their perceptions of the different communities? Where did they feel the most comfortable? Additionally, think about the costs and contracts you discussed. If you still have questions, follow up with your contacts from the communities to ask them.

In the end, making the right decision may come down to a gut feeling. Even with the prettiest brochures and friendliest staff members, if a location just doesn’t seem right for you or your parent, it probably isn’t. Trust your instincts and choose the community that you know will be the best fit.

senior couple deciding on an assisted living community

Discover Assisted Living at The Bristal

If you’re looking for an assisted living option that gives residents the flexibility and freedom to spend their days as they choose, along with a luxurious setting and expert caregivers, The Bristal could be the right fit for you or your loved one. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have as you begin your research. Learn more about our locations, or contact us to learn more.