There are many things to consider when looking for an assisted living community for a loved one. It’s important that you focus on the right things while you make your initial visit.
Activities are an important part of life at an assisted living center. Ask to see a couple of monthly calendars of activities that are offered to residents. Look for a variety of activities each month and see how often they are repeated and how often new things are added. Do the activities appeal to the person you’re helping make a decision with? You’re likely to be present when an activity is taking place—do the residents seem to be enjoying it? Does the community offer off-site activities and what do they include? Are there cultural as well as activities like shopping? Are there activities that are unique to the community that staff and residents feel are particularly beneficial? Are there outdoor activities on the grounds or in nearby parks?
The staff can make all of the difference in an assisted living community. When you visit, do you like what you see when it comes to staff and resident interaction? Do they seem to be engaged in conversations that are friendly and caring? Do the relationships seem genuine and real, or are the interactions cursory in nature. Ask about the staffing and how many people are working in resident care—there should be a ratio that is satisfactory to you. Find out about overnight staffing and how it is different from day staffing. Connect with one of the community managers and observe their interaction with you and the residents.
Health and safety are likely two of your top priorities. It’s good to know what and how many healthcare professionals are on-site or on-call and how and why are they might be called in to help. Does the building feel secure? What do residents do in an emergency? Ask about fire suppression, emergency power, and other safety features within the living spaces and the community.
Personal care is a large part of assisted living for many older adults. You want to make sure that this service is done with dignity, respect, and frequency. Bathing options, assistance with nails, hair care, and shaving are important aspects of life in assisted living. Ask to see where care takes place if it is not done in a resident’s own room. Learn about how the community manages medications for residents.
Meals and nutrition are vital to the health of older adults. Ask to see a menu. Take note of food options and the variety of meals offered. Are there options for mealtimes, or is food service available during a specific window of time? How does the community help people with food allergies or preferences? Are there options for vegetarians? If you are able to share a meal, talk with other residents about the meals and what they love about eating there—look to find lots of positive feedback instead of complaints.
It might take touring several assisted living facilities before you make a decision—or you might find the perfect new home in just one visit. You’ll know it in your heart if it’s right, and with some guidance in hand, you can trust your decision-making instincts!