Choosing an assisted living community

What you should know about …

 Assisted living residents enjoy mimosas in the garden at Reformed Church Home. Assisted living residents enjoy mimosas in the garden at Reformed Church Home. When considering an assisted living community for a family member or friend, it is vital that you spend considerable time researching the services available at several facilities to make an informed decision. It is worth the time it takes to investigate various aspects of the community’s reputation, quality of care, staffing, food service, activities, and overall philosophy, to ensure the choice will be appropriate for the long term. It is important not to judge the facility on the basis of one guided tour or how nice the décor is. Push past the marketing efforts of the community, such as photos of happy grandchildren and landscaped grounds, to uncover the daily way of life your loved one can expect.

There are many ways to go about selecting an assisted living facility that will be right for you. Besides researching state inspection reports, getting word-of-mouth recommendations and looking at promotional literature, nothing is more valuable than the insight you gain from making personal visits. Visit more than one assisted living facility, and visit more than once. Ask a lot of questions, and trust your feelings about the places you visit.

Find out as much as you can about each facility. A good way to do this is to talk to:

 The state ombudsman for longterm care, who visits assisted living facilities and investigates complaints.

 Doctors, nurses, hospital social workers, clergy, and other professionals who are familiar with assisted living communities.

 Family members and friends of people who live in assisted living communities.

 Residents of the facilities.

 Facility employees, especially nursing assistants, who give 90 percent of the care.

Ask a lot of questions about any facility you are interested in


 Do people you talk to hold this assisted living community in high regard?

 Has the state licensing agency found an unusual number of violations here?

 Does the home have enough staff, especially nursing assistants, to give residents the care and attention they need?

 Are staff friendly, considerate, and helpful?

 Are residents treated with dignity and respect?

 Are there a lot of staff changes because workers leave?

 Do staff members do their jobs well?

 Does the facility provide the special services your loved one needs?

 Are there always enough linens and other supplies?

 Are families concerned about fee increases or extra charges for supplies or services?

 Is the quality of life good — such things as choices of food at meals, help with activities of daily living, a homelike environment, and interesting or entertaining activities?

 Does the facility have an active resident council? An active family council?

 Are there things that stand out about this facility?


Planning ahead is one of the best ways to ease the emotional stress when seeking an assisted living community. If you are helping a relative or a friend find a facility, involve them in the process as much as possible.

If the person is mentally alert, it is essential that their wishes be considered every step of the way.

By planning ahead and educating yourself and your family about the facility’s care and services, it will become a much easier transition when the time is right to make the move. It will also put the future resident’s mind at ease to know what to expect in the admission process and the first few days in their new home. For example:

 Visit rooms where various therapies and recreational programs are held.

 Observe the dining area, beauty salon and the schedules for each.

 Inquire about security measures.

 Ask about facility policies regarding use or installation of telephones, cable television and bringing personal items into the facility.

 Observe how the staff meets with you and how they interact with other residents during your visit (are they respectful, caring, and attentive?)

 Observe if the residents are occupied, supervised, satisfied, well groomed and if the rooms are personalized.

 Is the facility free of overwhelming unpleasant odors?

 Is the home clean and well-maintained?

 Do chairs and other furniture seem sturdy, attractive and comfortable?

 Is the facility well lighted?

 Taste the food; is it good?

 Are the residents who need help eating receiving assistance?

 Are there hand rails in hallways and grab bars in bathrooms?

 Is the temperature comfortable?

 Do the rooms have windows?

Many resources are available online or by calling assisted living communities in your area. Your research will be time well spent during this transition in your family member’s life.