Checklist For Evaluating Assisted Living Facility

Assisted living facilities offer a variety of care services that are between a senior retirement communities (or “independent living”) and a nursing home (or “skilled nursing”).  They’ve increased in popularity because seniors are able to keep their independence, and provide an extra layer of safety.

Moving a loved one to an assisted living facility is the first step on a path to less independence, and therefore can be an emotional, though usually necessary, decision. It is not uncommon for families to discuss options several times before moving forward.

Below is our checklist for covering some important aspects you may forget. We encourage you to take it with you as you tour the options.

Facility Location

  • How important is proximity to friends and loved ones?
  • What transportation options do visitors have?
  • Is the facility located in an acceptable neighborhood? Is it safe to be outside at night?
  • Does your loved one have preferred a location (i.e. near a Church)?

Health & Safety

  • What level of medical care and support is provided and how is it integrated into the residents’ lives?
  • What level of training or accreditation does the medical staff have?
  • Is there a separate care area for various levels of support (i.e. speech therapy or memory care)?
  • Is there a schedule for daily checking-ins?
  • Are the hallways and stairs well lit, with obvious fire safety systems and security?
  • Does each room have housekeeping and laundry services?
  • Do rooms have their own bathrooms, and are they equipped with handrails and call buttons?

Resident Life

  • Do the residents themselves seem happy with their surroundings?
  • Could you see yourself living in this facility?
  • How do residents get around in the community? Are there transportation services?
  • Is it possible for residents to go somewhere on short notice?
  • Can residents visit family whenever they please?
  • Does the facility provide at least three meals each day?
  • Are the meals something you wouldn’t mind eating? (try one while you’re visiting)
  • Do the meals seem nutritious and well-balanced?
  • Does the facility offer on-site banking, a beauty salon or barber, convenient store, or a post office?
  • Can this facility accommodate any special dietary restrictions, preferences, or needs?
  • Is there obvious evidence of resident participation in the community?
  • Are there a daily / weekly social events? Off-campus activities?
  • Does the facility have onsite worship services – or do they provide transportation to offsite ones?
  • Are pets allowed?

Facility Staff

  • What is the interaction like between staff, visitors, and residents?
  • Do the residents and staff seem to have a pleasant relationship? Make sure to ask some residents!
  • Is the staff readily available 24 hours a day?
  • Do staff greet you when you arrive? Do they seem happy to see you?


  • Is there an initial entrance fee?
  • What is the monthly fee (or rent)?
  • Is there a security deposit? Is it refundable?
  • What additional services and amenities are there? And are they an added expense?
  • Are utilities included? What about phone or WiFi?
  • Are there any regular fee-increases?
  • What happens if your financial situation changes?
  • What happens if your level of need increases?
  • Are there any programs that might assist with costs?

Reading the Fine Print

  • Is the contract easy to read and understand?
  • Are all costs, services, and provisions clearly outlined in a residence contract?
  • Is living space held for a resident if they require an extended stay in the hospital?
  • If a resident’s financial situation changes, or if they decide to move out for other reasons, what are the financial penalties you might incur?

As an additional resource AARP provides a good worksheet to help you “ask the right questions”.

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