Cost, quality of care, faith, and location are the primary factors people usually consider when choosing a facility, but there are many other features to take into account.
Below is our checklist of things to look for when evaluating assisted living facilities or nursing homes:
Staying near family and friends is crucial for maintaining well-being. Experts say that ideally you want to stay within 10-15 mins of at least one family member, and usually a spouse. Depending on their level of activity, you may want to be close to your church or a grandchild’s school.
Also if your loved one has medical issues that require treatment, is a hospital or clinic nearby?
Are the current residents comparable in health to the family member in question? Can spouses requiring different levels of services be accommodated? What medical services does the facility provide (i.e. medication management, emergency response), and are they adequate for your family member’s medical needs?
States generally regulate what services are mandatory in assisted living facilities. Ask how many minutes in a 24-hour day a resident receives hands-on assistance and whether staff is available around the clock to help with unexpected needs. If your family member has Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, make sure that the facility is physically secure and has monitoring practices in place, such as periodic check-ins throughout the day, to keep residents safe.
You’ll also want to know if a family member can get quick help in case of an emergency.
Ask about the staff who work at the facility (nurses, aides, financial counselors, security, etc.), whether they go through a screening process, and what sort of skills or training they have.
Some states require special training and certification for the staff — find out what the standards are in the state in question. Spend some time at the facility to observe how staff treats the residents. Talk to residents about whether they are satisfied with the way staff treats them. What are the procedures for handling complaints?
Some senior communities are beautifully landscaped, with outdoor garden areas for residents’ use. Others are high rises with minimal views of nature. As a long-term living arrangement you should consider what’s important to you or your family member.
Does the facility provide continuing care as a resident’s health deteriorates and the need for services increases, or must the person go elsewhere?
How many meals are served a day, and in what setting (community dining room, individual service if needed, etc.)?
Talk to residents and find out whether the food is varied and can be customized. Many senior living facilities have regular snacks available in lounges or bistros. You may have special dietary needs—is a dietician or nutritionist on staff or available for consultation, and can special diets be accommodated? Do individual units have refrigeration and cooking equipment?
Consider your loved ones’ interests and social level. Does the facility provide exercise classes, social events, and other forms of entertainment such as periodic concerts or speakers? Is there a piano, a library, a TV room, an arts and crafts area?
Residents want to know that staff is pleasant and friendly, but they sometimes fail to consider the social aspect of an assisted living facility. Some are plagued by social cliques who exclude new residents from dining tables or card games. How does the staff encourage social interaction and address problems?
Ask if the facility provides transportation to and from medical appointments and whether they can provide transportation at short notice.
Obtain a written copy of the facility’s financial policies. Consider not only the current costs, but how they increase over time and whether you can afford higher assisted living costs. What forms of payment are accepted? What are the policies for payment and lapses in payment? Some facilities have staff available to assist residents with their finances or help families put together payment plans.
Here’s the average price for assisted living facilities in the U.S. for 2020.
There’s a lot of options out there, but fortunately the internet has made researching assisted living facilities easy-as-pie. Make sure to check the reviews from residents online – if you search for a specific facility online you can see how many stars it’s received.
Once you find a senior home that seems like a fit, check its inspection records with the gov. agency that regulates long-term care facilities in your state. Talk not only to staff, but to current residents and their family members. Check not only their level of satisfaction with their choice, but what the most important factors in their decision were and whether they would make the same choice again.