Frequently Asked Questions: Assisted Living
If you’re thinking about assisting living, you likely have questions—and with good reason. The senior living world can seem complex, and it can even be difficult to know what you should look for. When family members are certain it’s time to start or continue to look for an assisted living community for a loved one, you want as much knowledge as possible so you can make the best decisions.
Questions about assisted living range from asking what “assisted living” actually is, to what to expect from a community apartment—and everything in between. If you’ve already started looking at possible assisted living communities, you’ve probably already had your basic questions answered, like what care levels are available. Now you know what care your loved one needs, and you have an idea of what kind of senior community would suit them best.
It’s time to ask more community-related questions to get your answers. To guide you through this next phase, we’ve put together a few of the most common assisted living questions and answers.
1. Will my loved one have roommates, or are private rooms available?
Private vs. Companion Living
Most assisted living communities offer private apartments—and they can be quite luxurious and spacious. If a private living space is a top priority, make sure to tour communities that can offer that to your loved one. When touring communities, you’ll want to look at floor plans and see all of the community’s private apartment options.
Comforts of Home
It’s also crucial that residents enjoy a maintenance-free lifestyle, so make sure that you’re looking at places that provide all the comforts of home. This includes:
- Spacious bathrooms designed for safety
- Convenient kitchenettes
- Well-apportioned living areas
- Comfortable bedrooms
And don’t forget pets! If your loved one has a beloved pet, then a “no pets” policy is a deal breaker. If it’s essential that your loved one takes little Sparky or Mittens with them when they start their new phase of life, make sure the community you choose has a pet policy that agrees with them.
The Bottom Line
Assisted living can vary by community, so make sure you know what you’re looking for when you tour. Don’t assume that because one community you tour is pet friendly, that the rest will be too. The same goes for apartment styles. Some assisted living communities may only have one floor plan to choose from, while others might have several.
2. What should I realistically expect from assisted living staff?
First and foremost, you should realistically expect assisted living staff to take the best possible care of your loved one. But “the best” can mean different things to different people, so let’s get a little more specific.
Observe Staff Behavior
When touring an assisted living community, there are a few key things to look out for. Some are obvious, like if you see assisted living staff being unkind or impatient. But other things are less obvious. Kind and patient staff are important, but you want to make sure the kind and patient staff provides your loved one with everything they need.
Take a bit of a deeper look when you tour a community. Keep an eye on is the staff and ask yourself three basic but very important questions:
- Are staff members actively engaging with residents and calling them by name?
- Does it look like there are enough people on staff to take care of everyone?
- Are the residents who have greater needs, like those in memory care, getting the attention they need?
Let’s say everything “looks” good. You hear staff call residents by name, see a memory care resident receiving special care, and there seems to be plenty of people working to ensure the well being and safety of all the residents. These are all great signs.
But you should go beyond just looking—ask. Community representatives should be more than happy to tell you about staff-to-resident ratio, share caregiving policies, and explain how they meet the needs of residents who need more care. Then really dig deep and ask about staff qualifications and if the needs of your loved ones can be met.
This includes asking questions about:
- Safety protocols
- Staff with special training, such as Alzheimer’s care
- The staff-to-resident ratio
- How much individual attention your loved one will get
Don’t be afraid of asking too many questions. You’re making an important decision, so ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable.
The Bottom Line
Keep looking and asking until you find the place with the right staff for your loved one. The best assisted living communities have staff that truly get to know residents and their needs, treating everyone like family. They’ll welcome your questions, knowing how very important this assisted living decision is for your family.
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3. What type of activities will be available to my loved one?
The types of activities in assisted living communities can vary greatly. While many communities organize events like regularly planned social outings, special entertainment, guest lecturers, access to church services, and special events, not all communities are created the same.
Some communities might have limited options, while others might go out of their way to make their communities unique by tapping into the talent and creativity of its residents. This makes the residents feel even more at home, contributing their skills and talents to bring joy to their fellow residents.
The Bottom Line
If it’s important to your loved one that they go to church every Sunday, or that they still get to paint, make sure the community you choose embraces their preferences. They’re starting an exciting new phase of life and should be able to continue doing what’s important to them if they are able.
4. How often can we visit, and are there areas for special events?
If you happen to find a senior living community that discourages family interaction, run!
High-quality assisted living communities are devoted to keeping residents connected with their loved ones, and these days, residents can connect in such a variety of ways.
If family and friends aren’t local, your loved one’s assisted living community should help them connect using technology like smartphones and tablets. As for in-person visits, most assisted living communities are thrilled to help residents with loved one visits, and they usually provide an area for special events like birthdays and anniversaries.
The Bottom Line
Family visits are a crucial part of a senior’s life in assisted living, so if a community doesn’t encourage those connections, move along to the next community tour.
Get Real-Life Perspective About Assisted Living: Read a Resident Story
You can ask all of the questions you want, but real-life stories tell you what life is really like for your loved one in assisted living. It’s one thing to see and ask during a tour, but it’s another thing to learn from someone who’s been there—or is still there.
You can start here, with this incredible senior living love story. Take a moment and check out a day in the life of two assisted living residents who also happen to be a devoted husband and wife. See how assisted living can be truly transformative when one spouse has memory care needs and the other does not.