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Checklist for Visiting Assisted Living Facilities
What to Ask when Visiting Assisted Living Facilities

Seniors, family members, and caregivers have many questions and concerns while searching for information on the topics of senior care and housing.

AssistedLivingFacilities.org wants to help you get the answers you need and provide you with practical suggestions and useful checklists on senior living and care related topics.

This checklist gives you questions to ask and to discuss with the staff, residents and family members. It includes what to look for and what to consider when visiting a facility. Finally, how to assess if the housing property is the best fit for your needs.

The checklist is for seniors and family members looking for the best choice in assisted living.

What is Assisted Living?

What is Assisted Living

It is a senior housing and senior care option that combines independence, safety, and personal care in a residential setting. The facilities offer the latest amenities, privacy, comfort, and beautifully decorated home-inspired environments for seniors. The settings and surroundings range from easy to get to (urban) high-rise apartments near metropolitan centers, college campus surroundings, and full campus settings that offer inclusive small town attractions.

Once the search begins, you'll learn that a single blueprint does not exist. Most offer between 25 and 120 suites or apartments, a studio, or a single room. They either operate as a nonprofit or for-profit organization.

What the Checklist addresses

  • Costs & Finances
  • Environment/Surroundings
  • Medication & Health Care
  • Moving In
  • Needs Assessments
  • Personal Care
  • Residency Agreements
  • Services & Amenities
  • Social & Recreational Activities

Whether your needs are immediate or long-term, planning for senior living takes time and effort. It also requires that you gain clarity on how you want to live and where-the location. Take a close look at what your needs based on: care options, health status, social and entertainment desires, food and nutrition, and financial capabilities.

Don't wait to begin the search till it becomes difficult for the loved one to research and tour facilities. As people age, they face challenges like vision loss, poor balance, memory loss or forgetfulness, fatigue, loneliness, dementia, or a physician-prescribed move to a care setting. So, start the search early and maintain control.

Where to Begin

Keep a journal as you answer the questions. You will want to revise and adjust as you research and visit facilities.

Important Decisions

  • What do I know about senior living care options and their differences?
  • What do I need to know?
  • What's the best way to get accurate information?
  • How would I describe my life-what would a personal successful outcome look like to me a year after moving in?
  • Can I afford to live at the community? What about a year from move in and subsequent years thereafter?
  • What are my personal distinctions between price and value?

In the beginning, you will notice that your level of understanding on long-term care options is very little. That's why we've put together this checklist to help you gain knowledge during site visits.

Select the Place based on What You Want

  • Quality of life - Standards of care - Cost and value
  • Define Quality of Life - here are a few listed from others, like you, seeking senior housing options:
  • Comfort and peace of mind
  • Affordability and financial security
  • Quality and value
  • Very high standards of care
  • Optimized independence
  • Socialization
  • Experience/adventures/nostalgia
  • Individual recognition
  • Intellectual stimulation
  • Self-expression and fulfillment
  • Get clear on your goals and expectations.

Define and rank Standards of Care

When visiting, pay close attention to medical processes, procedures and hi-tech innovations that's used either for social activities, medical monitoring, safety and independence at the facility, and by residents and staff. Keep a watchful eye out for the standards kept by staff.

Questions your adult children and family members can ask during the visits:

  1. How will you respond if my "dad" has a medical emergency?
  2. How will you continuously monitor his condition? Do you have mechanisms in place that use discretion and avoids invasion of privacy?
  3. How will you monitor and handle the changes in conditions?
  4. What types of care are given around the clock?
  5. How often will my dad, throughout the day, receive direct, hands on assistance and care? Can you show me a typical staff member schedule?

Price and Value

Put costs in perspective. Objectively evaluate one's current cost of living. Is the assisted living option more expensive than your current cost of living? Look at all current living expenses like home maintenance, home owners insurance, and real estate taxes, and utility costs. Now look and compare to the comprehensive services and costs provided by an assisted living residence.

Since this is an important decision, ask if you should seek the lowest price - buying a commodity - or choose a comfortable, high-value community of choice?

Impressions during On-site Visits

Choose Assisted Living Suited for You
Choose Assisted Living Suited for You

Neighborhood setting - the landscaping quality, the campus layout, and the residence's exterior.

Residence/Apartment - what is your comfort level?

Shared spaces - grounds, dining area, living area, social and entertainment rooms, public restrooms, theaters, etc. - these replace the rooms in your home.

Seek Opinions

Seek a balanced perspective about the community by talking to the staff, residents and family members of residents. Learn what a typical day looks like how staff participates. Get a feel for the social interaction. Ask residents and their families:

  • How do you feel about living here and how did you arrive at the decision to make it home?
  • What was the deciding factor? What steps did you consider when choosing this facility?
  • What challenges and hurdles did you overcome?
  • If you knew then what you know now, what would you do differently?

Think about the Future and What It Holds for You

Questions to Ask before moving to assisted living

This checklist is a guide to evaluating assessments, agreements, amenities, services, living quarters, and care provided by assisted living facilities. You may need to make several visits during different times of the day before making a final decision.

Obtain from each facility: copies of the residency agreement that outlines the services, fees, extra charges, move-in and move-out criteria, staffing, and house rules.

If you're deciding for a loved one who cannot visit the community, respect their needs and wishes. It's imperative that they be included as much as possible.

Questions to Ask

Needs Assessments, Residency Agreements, Costs & Finances

  • Is a residency agreement available that discloses personal care and supportive services, all fees, as well as move-in and move-out provisions?
  • What are the policies for refunds and transfers?
  • Is there a written plan of care for each resident? How frequently is it reviewed and updated?
  • Does this periodic assessment process include the resident, his or her family, and community staff, along with the resident's physician?
  • Are any government, private, or corporate programs available to help cover the cost of services?
  • Are additional services available if the resident's needs change?
  • Are different costs for various levels or categories of personal care offered?
  • Do billing, payment, and credit policies seem fair and reasonable?
  • Are residents required to buy renters' insurance for personal property in their units?
  • Is there an appeals process?

Environment and Surroundings

  • As you arrive, do you like its location and outward appearance?
  • Is the community well-designed for your needs?
  • As you enter the lobby and tour the community, are the design, style and ambience attractive and homelike?
  • Did you receive a warm greeting from staff?
  • Does the executive director address residents by name?
  • Does the executive director interact warmly with you and others during the tour?
  • Do residents socialize?
  • Do residents seem happy and comfortable? Are they smiling? Do they make eye contact with you?
  • Are you able to talk with residents about how they like the community and staff?
  • Are residents a good match as housemates for you?
  • Are staff members appropriately dressed, personable, and outgoing?
  • Does each staff member treat others professionally? Are they friendly to you?
  • Are visits with the resident welcome at any time?
  • Is the floor plan easy to follow?
  • Are doorways, hallways, and rooms accommodating to wheelchairs and walkers?
  • Are elevators available for those unable to use stairways?
  • Are handrails available to aid in walking?
  • Are cupboards and shelves easy to reach?
  • Are floors of a non-skid material and carpets firm to ease walking?
  • Does the community have good natural and artificial lighting?
  • Is the community clean, free of odors, and properly heated/cooled?
  • Does the community have sprinklers, smoke detectors, and clearly marked exits?
  • Does the community have a means of security if resident wander?

Safety

  • Does the residence have a fire sprinkler system throughout the facility?
  • Where are smoke detectors located?
  • How often are fire drills rehearsed?
  • Does the facility have an emergency preparedness plan?
  • How are emergency and evacuation plans reviewed with residents after admission to reinforce their memory?
  • What systems are available to keep residents with dementia or Alzheimer's secure from leaving the residence on their own?

Location

  • Is the location convenient to shopping, medical services, and entertainment areas?
  • Can family members and visitors easily locate the residence for visiting?

Apartment Features

  • Are different sizes and types available?
  • Are apartments for single and double occupancy available?
  • Do residents have their own lockable doors?
  • Is a 24-hour emergency response system accessible from the apartment?
  • Are bathrooms private and designed to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers?
  • Are residents able to bring their own furnishings for their apartment? What may they bring? What's provided?
  • Do all apartments have a telephone, cable or satellite TV, and internet access? How is billing handled?
  • Is a kitchen area provided with a refrigerator, sink, and cooking element?
  • May residents keep food in their apartments?
  • May residents smoke in their apartments? In public spaces?
  • May residents decorate their own apartments?
  • Are the residents' rooms furnished or unfurnished?
  • What is the policy about personal belongings?
  • What is the policy for overnight guests?
  • Are guest rooms available?
  • What are the guest fees?
  • Is additional storage space available?
  • Is there an extra fee?
  • Does the residence meet the rules for people with disabilities?
  • Can residents have automobiles?
  • Is there assigned parking?
  • Is there an extra fee?
  • Are patios and courtyards available for resident use?
  • Is there an area for resident gardening?
  • Does the residence provide security?
  • Are pets allowed to reside in the residence?
  • If so, are there additional fees and or deposits?
  • If not, are pets allowed to visit?

Social & Recreational Activities

  • Is there evidence of organized activities, such as a posted daily schedule, events in progress, reading materials, visitors, etc.?
  • Do residents participate in activities outside of the community in the neighboring community?
  • Does the community have its own pets?
  • Are residents' pets allowed in the community? Who is responsible for their care?
  • Do volunteers, including family members, come into the community to help with or to conduct programs?
  • Does the community create a sense of inclusion by encouraging residents to participate in activities?

Food Service

  • Do the dining room menus vary each day and meal to meal?
  • How many meals served each day in a common dining area?
  • Are snacks available?
  • May a resident request special foods, and can the community accommodate special dietary needs?
  • Are common dining areas available?
  • May residents eat meals in their apartment or suite?
  • May meals only provided at set times?
  • Does the residence accommodate special diets?
  • Does a dietician or nutritionist review the menus?
  • How often do the menus rotate?
  • Are residents and families involved in the menu planning?
  • Are residents allowed to have guests for meals?
  • Is there a separate guest dining room?
  • Are separate fees for guests?
  • What are the criteria for residents to eat meals in their rooms?
  • Do you charge for delivered meals?

Moving In

  • What is the move-in process?
  • What are the paperwork requirements and the timeframes involved?
  • How is the initial assessment managed?
  • Who completes the assessment?
  • Is the residence affiliated with a hospital or nursing home should acute or Long-term care be needed? If so, is there a priority admission process?
  • If you need hospital or nursing home care, is your room held?
  • What are the associated fees?
  • Is there a discount for unused services (e.g. meals)?
  • Does the residence subscribe to a set of resident rights and responsibilities?
  • Are printed copies of resident rights and responsibilities available?
  • Medication, Health Care & Personal Care
  • Does the community have specific policies regarding storage of medication, assistance with medications, training and supervision of staff, and record keeping?
  • Is self-administration of medication allowed?
  • Will a staff member coordinate home healthcare visits from a nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, etc., if needed?
  • Does the community have a clearly stated procedure for responding to a resident's medical emergency?
  • To what extent are supplementary services offered?
  • How are these services provided? Ask if there is an additional charge for services?
  • Is staff available to respond to both scheduled and unscheduled needs?
  • Is assistance with eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, and walking available?
  • Do you offer easy access to health and medical services, such as physical therapy and hospice?
  • Is an emergency call system in each resident's apartment?
  • Do you offer medication management?
  • Does the facility provide care for residents with cognitive impairments?
  • Will my family be involved in care planning and implementation?
  • How does the staff foster independence for each resident, and promote individuality?
  • Does the facility promote the resident's right to privacy?
  • Services & Amenities

  • Can the community provide a list of personal care services available?
  • Is staff available to provide 24-hour assistance with activities of daily living if needed? Help with activities include dressing, eating, mobility, hygiene and grooming, bathing, and toileting.
  • Does the community provide housekeeping services in personal living spaces?
  • Can residents arrange for transportation on fairly short notice?
  • Are barber/hair stylist services offered?
  • Does the community provide scheduled transportation to doctors' offices, the hairdresser, shopping, and other activities desired by residents?
  • Are there other social activities like hobbies, book club, or movies?
  • Do you offer housekeeping services? Do you offer personal laundry services?
  • Does the facility have 24-hour security?
  • What are the exercise and wellness programs like?
  • What are the social and recreational activities?

Staff

  • What are training and qualifications required for staff?
  • Are training programs provided for staff?
  • Do staff members receive special training in care for residents with Alzheimer's or dementia?
  • Are they positive and courteous?
  • Do staff members handle resident requests in a timely way?
  • What is the residence occupancy level?
  • Can private duty companions be hired? What is the procedure for that type of service?
  • Does the residence have a volunteer program?
  • If yes, what types of activities do the volunteers perform?
  • Does the administrator or director practice an "open door" policy?
  • Who owns the assisted living community?
  • Is the residence licensed?
  • (Ask to review the last licensing or certification report.)
  • If the state requires the administrator be licensed or certified, is it current?

Additional Questions

  • Does the community conduct criminal background checks on employees?
  • Does the community train staff on elder abuse and neglect? Is there a policy for reporting suspected abuse?
  • Does the community have a special wing or floor for residents with cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer's disease? If so, is it secured?
  • Does the community allow hospice to come in and care for residents?
  • Does the community accept long-term care insurance?
  • Does the community allow a family member, like a grandchild, to spend the night? If so, what is the charge?
  • Does the community participate in the Veterans' Administration Aide and Attendance Program? Will the community help complete the paperwork?
  • Does the community accept Medicaid?
  • What are the most common reasons why a resident must to move out?

AssistedLivingFacilities.org hopes this checklist serves seniors and families to clearly know the best fit when searching for an assisted living residence.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.