Touring an Assisted Living community can be overwhelming if you are unsure of what to expect or what questions to ask. Whether or not you have already conducted some of the initial research before you visit the community, think about what you want to get out of your time there. Do not be afraid to write a list of questions or turn to professional resources for guidance.
There are pros and cons to scheduling a visit or showing up unannounced to see what life is really like. Either way, here are a few tips to help you remain focused on your loved one’s needs without getting stuck on the “selling points” of the community.
Tip #1: First impressions are everything! Observe how you feel the moment you walk through the front door. Were you greeted by someone at the front desk? Look around and take in what you see. Is there staff interacting with residents? Are residents participating or do they seem isolated and alone? Does this feel like “home”?
Tip #2: When talking about your loved one’s needs, use behavioral questions to get a sense of how the staff cares for their residents. Asking “yes/no” questions can, at times, result in overpromising and underdelivering on the community’s part. Examples:
- Can you provide me with an example of when a resident did not get their medication on time and what the process/procedure was put in place to rectify the situation?
- Can you provide me with an example of how the community helped a family transition a loved one from their home of 40 years, where they were alone and isolated, into an active community and they thrived?
Tip #3: What type of surroundings is your loved one moving from? It is important to think about what type of community and atmosphere that is going to make the most sense for them versus what we might be accustom to. For example: If your loved one is used to a smaller community that is surrounded by trees and finds peace being with nature, the hustle and bustle of a larger community will likely not be a good fit. Or, if your loved one is used to an independent lifestyle and the finer things in life, a community that has not been modified to accommodate this lifestyle will feel tired and likely depressing.
Tip #4: Observe the staff! It is important to interact with the various teams at the community from the front desk, to the aides, to the dining staff and activities. These are the people that are truly providing the care, companionship and assistance to your loved one, day-to-day. Tune into whether staff members smile and say “hello” walking down the hallways, even whether or not they hold the door or the elevator – these are small things, but they can instantly help you determine the overall attitude of the staff. Tune into whether you see staff engaging with other residents in the living room, the dining room or walking through the halls. What does this look and feel like? Do you get a warm feeling? How are they approaching a resident that needs help or is having a bad day?
Tip #5: What are the goals for your loved one? Is it to be part of a community? Is it to have an apartment for them to live in? Is it to be well cared for? Regardless of the goal, ask to speak to particular staff members, or family members of residents, to get a sense of their experience.
Tip #6: Enjoy a meal. Food is important! Ask about the dining hours, seating arrangements, how residents get meals if they are ill, and any dietary needs that are important to your loved one. Enjoying a meal at the community not only gives you the opportunity to sample the food, but to meet residents and make connections prior to moving in.
Tip #7: Observe an Activity. In addition to asking for a calendar of events, visit during an activity to get a sense of the residents that participate, the level of engagement and the level of your loved one’s interest. Do they include trips or outings outside of the community? If religion is important, ask about the services provided in the community or transportation to services. If BINGO is not something your loved one will partake in and that is all there is to offer, you likely need to look at a more intellectually stimulating community.
Tip #8: Ask Questions About Personal Care. Every resident requires different levels of personal care from the community. Ask questions about their personal care plans, medication management, the initial assessment and ongoing assessments of their residents. Consider asking situational questions that relate to your loved one’s care needs to determine if their care model would be a good fit. If you do not feel you are getting the answers you need, ask to speak with the nurse or the aides that provide the care.
Tip #9: Ask About Move-Out Criteria. If your goal is to make this move once, be prepared to ask questions with regards to the community’s move-out criteria and what would prompt such a conversation. Determine under what circumstances a resident would be asked to move out? What type of notice is required by the community? At what point would your loved one be required to bring in and hire additional help? What is the notice period set forth by the community?
Tip #10: Trust Your Gut! Can you see you or your loved one living in this community? Does the culture of the community feel right? Was the staff attentive and informative? Were the residents smiling and happy looking? Were the residents well-groomed and cared for? Do you feel like more than just a number? Follow your gut with regards to these feelings! If It feels right, do not exhaust yourself looking at a lot of options. If it does not feel right, consider getting guidance from a professional to help determine a better fit.