The Cottages Blog

10 Things You Need to Explore Before Choosing an Assisted Living Community

Posted by Dawn Owens on Jan 21, 2016 9:00:00 AM


When considering which assisted living community is the right one for your loved one, do your research. Visit different communities. Know what questions to ask yourself while you are visiting, and know what questions to ask others who are already a part of that community. Let’s explore ten things that you need to research and the specific questions that you should consider with each one.

1. Your Loved One's Needs

  • Why does your loved one need to move to an assisted living community?
  • What are your loved one’s particular daily living and medical needs?
  • Does location matter? Does your loved one need to be at an assisted living facility that is close to your home or close to the home of another family member?

2. Cost and Finances

  • How much can you afford to spend monthly on assisted living?
  • What is the community’s entrance fee? What is its monthly fee? Are utilities included in the community’s monthly fee, and if so, which ones?
  • Is there a security deposit? Are these deposits refundable?
  • Do the community’s billing, payment, and credit policies make sense to you? Do they seem reasonable?
  • Are there government or private programs available that can help cover the cost of care for your loved one? Does the community accept long-term care insurance? Do they accept Medicaid? Does the community participate in the Veteran’s Administration Aide and Attendance Program?
  • Are residents required to purchase renter’s insurance to cover their personal property located in their unit?
  • Is there a parking fee for residents and/or for visitors?

3. Health Care

  • Are there different costs for different levels of care or is it a flat fee? Which one fits your loved one’s situation?
  • What are the community’s medication policies? Are the staff trained in medication assistance and supervision? Are residents allowed to administer their own medications? Are medication records are kept? What is the system for keeping medication records? How and where are medications stored?
  • Are residents allowed to choose their own doctors, therapists, or pharmacies?
  • Who coordinates health care visits from medical professionals, like nurses and therapists?
  • Does the community have a specific, well-documented procedure for responding to a medical emergency involving a resident?
  • Does the community allow Hospice care to come in and care for a resident?

4. Residency Agreement Contract

  • Does the community have a residency agreement that details all services and fees, move-in and move-out procedures, and their policies on payments, refunds, and transfers? Is the contract easy to read and can you understand it?
  • Is there a written care plan for each resident? How often does the community update their residents’ care plans?
  • What is the procedure for assessing a resident’s needs? Who is involved in a resident’s needs assessment--the staff, the resident, the resident’s family members, the resident’s doctor or doctors? How often are a resident’s needs assessed?
  • If a resident is unsatisfied or has a complaint, is there an appeals process? Does the contract deny the resident’s right to bring legal action against the community for negligence, injury, or any other reason? Find an elder care lawyer in your area here.
  • Does your loved one have a living will? Does the family have or need Power of Attorney for healthcare and/or finances? Find more information on these legal questions here.
  • For what reasons would a resident be asked to move out of the community? How much advanced notice is a resident given before they have to leave?

5. Assisted Living Community Features

  • Do you like the area in which the community is located?
  • Do you like the way the outside and the inside of the community looks?
  • Does the community seem clean and odorless?
  • Is the community appropriately heated and cooled?
  • Are the stairs and hallways well lit?
  • How many units are in the residence?
  • Can residents come and go as they please?
  • Do the staff make you feel comfortable and welcome? Are they dressed and do they act professionally? Do they interact with the residents in a professional yet friendly manner?
  • Does the community have specific visiting hours? Are loved ones allowed to spend the night with a resident in the resident’s unit? Is there a fee if a loved one stays the night?
  • Are there volunteer opportunities for residents’ family members or for other people who wish to help in the community?

6. Apartment Features

  • Are the apartments designed well for your loved one’s particular needs?
  • Do you understand and like the floor plan options? Is there more than one size and style of apartment available? Are single and double occupancy apartments available?
  • What furniture is provided by the community for each unit? Are residents allowed to bring their own furniture?
  • If the building is more than one story, are there elevators available?
  • Are the bathrooms, doorways, hallways, and other rooms built to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs?
  • Are there handrails in areas where your loved one might need them?
  • Are the bathrooms private?
  • Are shelves, counters, sinks, and light switches easy to reach?
  • Are the floors carpeted or made of non-skid material so walking is easy?
  • Are there enough windows and light fixtures for ample natural and artificial light?
  • Are residents allowed to decorate their unit--paint the walls, hang pictures on the walls, etc.?

7. Additional Amenities

  • Is there a list of personal care services available? Which personal care services are add-on services that require additional fees?
  • Are there staff members available to provide 24-hour assistance with activities of daily living if needed?
  • Are housekeeping services provided or available in living areas? Are laundry/linen services provided or available?
  • Are transportation services available to residents for needs like doctor’s visits, shopping, haircut appointments, and worship services?
  • Are telephone, cable tv, satellite tv, and/or internet access available in every apartment? Is there an additional fee for any of these amenities?
  • Are residents allowed to smoke in their unit or in a specified public area in the community?
  • What are the community’s policies on pets? Are residents allowed to bring their own pets? Do pets have to be a specific size or type in order to be allowed?
  • Are worship services offered on-site?
  • When and how often can a resident change and update their additional services on their contract?

8. Social and Recreational Opportunities

  • When you are there visiting, do the residents seem to interact warmly with one another? Do they seem comfortable and happy? Are residents willing and happy to talk to you when you approach them?
  • What social, recreational, and exercise activities are available on-site? What clubs are offered? Is there an outdoor space with a walking trail?
  • Is there a place, such as a bulletin board, located in a central space in the community, where staff and residents can post information about events and activities?
  • Does the community encourage residents to participate in activities?
  • Do residents participate in activities and events outside of the assisted living community? Is transportation provided to these activities and events?

9. Food Services

  • How often do the dining room menus vary? Daily? Weekly?
  • Does the community provide three meals a day, seven days a week, to all residents? Do they provide snacks?
  • Do the meals and snacks meet the nutritional needs of its residents?
  • What are the community’s policies regarding specially requested foods and special dietary needs?
  • Is there a common dining area or areas available where residents can eat their meals together? Where is the main dining area?
  • Are residents allowed to eat meals in their unit?
  • Are meals provided at specific times or by request of the resident?

10. Security and Staff Training

  • Are there smoke detectors in every unit and clearly marked exits all over the community?
  • Are there emergency call buttons located in easily accessible areas in every unit?
  • Are there safety locks on the doors and windows of all units?
  • Is there a generator or alternate emergency power source?
  • Are background checks conducted on all of the staff?
  • Are the staff trained in how to handle emergency situations, such as fires and severe weather?
  • Are the staff trained in how to recognize elder abuse and neglect? What is the community’s policy in reporting suspected abuse?
  • Are residents with dementia located in a separate, closed wing?
  • Are there security measures in place in the event that a resident with dementia wanders?

Finding the right assisted living community for your loved one is of utmost importance. You can only find the right fit if you are thorough with your research and unafraid of asking questions.



Topics: Senior Safety, Senior Housing, Senior Care Resources

Dawn Owens

Written by: Dawn Owens

Dawn has been part of the Cottage family for over 10 years. She comes from a strong background in mental health care, with a certification in crisis intervention. Dawn has two daughters, Alika and Ava. She enjoys walking, scrapbooking, and playing softball.