When you begin to research assisted living options for yourself or a loved one, there’s a lot to consider in order to make your most confident decision. Fortunately, you can turn to reliable sources of information, such as trusted neighbors or healthcare professionals, in order to begin the process with exceptional choices. However, you can’t make a decision without seeing the community itself.
Taking a tour of an assisted living community, whether in person or virtually, gives you a glimpse into what life is like there. For an hour or so, you get the opportunity to experience life in the community, interact with staff members, and ask questions. You can make the most of your time and energy by knowing what to look for and how those observations can guide you to choosing the right assisted living community.
In this article, we outline observations to note and questions to consider when touring an assisted living community.
Observations and Questions About Assisted Living Care
Perhaps the biggest consideration when choosing an exceptional assisted living community is to ensure they offer the type of care and services you or your loved one needs to be safe, happy, and healthy. Assisted living communities should offer personalized care for every resident, meaning care isn’t one size fits all.
Assisted living communities offer assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as showering, eating, dressing, or incontinence management. Staff members also provide assistance with medication management and care coordination with physicians or specialists. Caregivers are there in case of emergencies, which provides reassurance for residents and family members.
You can assess the quality of care offered at the community by observing these things during your tour:
- Are residents well-dressed, and do they appear well cared for?
- Are caregivers present and available?
- Do residents use a variety of mobility devices like the ones that you/your loved one uses?
- Are there residents who represent a variety of abilities and challenges?
- Are the hallways well lit in order to prevent falls?
- Are apartments outfitted with emergency pull cords or other safety systems?
You can also ask specific questions that will address personalized care and medical needs, including the following:
- Are there pharmacy and therapy services offered on-site?
- Does the staff prepare personalized plans of care based on individual needs and preferences?
- Are families invited to be a part of the care plan process?
- Can a personal physician visit, if needed?
- Does the community have any residents with diagnoses similar to mine/my loved one’s?
- How do caregivers help residents maintain independence while still giving them the care they need?
- How does the community communicate with physicians and specialists?
- Does the community offer increased levels of care, if you/your loved one’s needs change?
Questions and observations like these can help determine if the care provided in the assisted living community is personalized and compassionate.
Observations and Questions About Assisted Living Communities
The care offered in assisted living communities is crucial to the health and wellness of the residents who live there. However, residents also receive positive health outcomes when they feel connected to neighbors and staff members. Community living is all about friendships and social opportunities.
When you are touring potential communities, don’t forget to observe community life. Assisted living residents should enjoy social opportunities, dining experiences, and other amenities. Although these opportunities are fun, to be sure, there is also research behind each event, meal, and opportunity.
The Community in General
Feelings of community can prevent social isolation and loneliness, which have been linked to negative health outcomes for older adults. When you observe residents chatting in the hallway or laughing together while watching a comedy show in the living room, you are getting a glimpse into connections that keep residents healthy and happy.
You can look for these interactions and social opportunities by making observations and asking questions about life enrichment during your community tour.
Things to observe include the following:
- Is there an active calendar with events offered during the weekdays and on the weekends?
- Are residents actively engaged with one another and staff in the hallways and throughout the community?
- Are residents happy and cheerful?
- Are family members there interacting with residents and staff?
- Is an event happening while you are on the tour? If so, does it seem engaging and interesting?
Questions to ask include the following:
- Are there regular family events, including support groups or education sessions?
- What are visiting hours or policies?
- What trips or outings are planned for residents this month?
- May I have a copy of the community’s event calendar?
The Dining Experience
Beyond events, socialization between residents happens at the dining room table. In addition to offering delicious meals three times per day, an exceptional dining program should encourage socialization. Be sure to swing by the dining room during your tour to make observations and ask questions about the dining program.
Things to observe include the following:
- Are meals in the dining room appetizing?
- Are there choices offered for entrees and side dishes?
- Are staff members serving residents with a compassionate and friendly approach?
- Does the dining room seem like a vibrant hub of the community?
Questions to ask include the following:
- How does the dining department address special meal requests or prescribed diets?
- Can I eat with my loved one during a meal?
- May I have a copy of your community’s monthly menu?
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Questions About Assisted Living Cost
Finally, you can’t make a confident long-term decision about senior living if you don’t take time to assess the costs. Fortunately, assisted living is typically more affordable than most people think. For many older adults, paying a monthly fee for assisted living that includes rent, utilities, meals, transportation, personalized care, and social events is well worth it in terms of general happiness and safety, and is often comparable to the cost of living at home alone.
You can determine if assisted living fits into you or your loved one’s financial goals and budget by asking questions like:
- Are there additional costs besides the monthly payment? What are those costs?
- Does pricing increase as the level of care and needs increase for me/my loved one?
- Are there any VA benefits I could use to offset the cost of assisted living?
- Does my long-term care insurance offset any monthly or yearly costs?
A Tour is Just the Beginning
The process of finding an assisted living community for your loved one doesn’t stop after one tour. In fact, we recommend returning to the senior living community or communities that are on your final list. Ask if you or your loved one can attend an event or meal. Consider attending a family event.
Don’t be shy about calling back to ask follow-up questions. The community staff should be ready and willing to answer your questions, and give you the information you need to make the best, most informed decision.
It’s never too early to begin looking for assisted living communities for you or your loved one. By planning ahead, you are able to do diligent research to find the ideal community. Unfortunately, some family members wait until a medical crisis or emergency occurs, which means the decision for assisted living is made under a great deal of stress. The more you plan ahead, the more time you have to take that second tour and to involve your loved one in the process without feeling rushed or worried.
Curious about assisted living and how it could fit into you or your loved one’s financial plans? Discover more about assisted living costs by downloading our free guide, The Insider’s Guide to Understanding Assisted Living Pricing. It is an excellent resource to keep on hand as you begin your search for the right community.
Originally published May 2021. Revised February 2024.