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What to look for when choosing an Assisted Living Community

What to look for when choosing an Assisted Living CommunityThis article by Laura Dixon,’s Editorial Manager, is shorter than the original; for the complete checklist, visit their website at

Hunting for assisted living can be hard. But the process doesn’t have to be intimidating or overwhelming. Here are three simple steps you can follow to help narrow down the choices to the perfect community.

1. Assisted Living Research Checklist

Online research

Start with online research to find facilities near you or your loved one. has a nationwide directory of assisted living communities or you may be able to find facilities listed in the phone book or through word-of-mouth recommendations. The Departments of Health and Human Services for each state are also good resources for finding facilities. These questions can help narrow down the options:

Is the location close to shops, doctor’s offices, a pharmacy, and other important places? Is the location convenient for family and friends to visit?

If the facility is not in your town, are there hotels nearby for when you visit the area?

What are others saying about this provider in reviews?

Phone research

The first time you speak to providers on the phone, find out whether they’re currently accepting new residents. If not, ask about their waiting lists. It’s worth keeping in mind that families often put their names on waiting lists at several facilities, so the list may be shorter than it seems. Don’t hesitate to put your name on a list just because the waiting time is significant. You also want to ask questions early on about how expensive the provider is. Pricing for assisted living can vary significantly based on your loved one’s needs, so this may not be the time to pin down specific pricing. That said, it is wise to ask general questions to determine whether a provider is way out of your price range.

What types of payment are accepted, and/or do they have programs to help residents afford care?

If there are any negative online reviews about them, what is their response or explanation?

When do they offer tours, and how long do tours last?

What will they show you when you tour – will you have a chance to try the meals or meet with residents?

2. Assisted Living Tour Checklist

On the way in

Is the neighborhood quiet and pleasant?

Is there easy parking outside, including handicapped spaces?

If your family member will be bringing a car, is parking provided?

Is the building’s exterior clean and attractive?

Are the grounds attractive, with plants and trees?

Is there a safe, enclosed area where residents can walk and socialize?

The greeting

Most tours start in someone’s office or in the lobby – the director of marketing or another staff member will spend time talking to you about the community in general. He or she should be asking you questions about your needs and what you want to see, so the tour can be tailored for you.

Do you feel the tour guide is listening to your needs and questions?

Does the tour guide speak only to you (the adult child) or does he/she make an effort to include your loved one?

Are you able to talk to staff members other than the tour guide, either in a formal session or informally during or after the tour?

The walking tour

Residents’ living spaces:

Do most residents have a private room or
share a room?

Is it possible to view all the different types of rooms available?

Does each room have a private, handicapped-equipped bathroom, or is there one shared bathroom?


Are the dining rooms clean and attractive?

How many meals per day are provided?

Are there snacks and, if so, how and when do residents get them?

Can the community cater to specific dietary needs or special requests?

Can visiting family members join the residents for meals?

Can you taste the food or come for a meal to try it yourself?


Is there a posted, varied schedule of activities, and are there any activities that you think your loved one would participate in?

Do the residents have any scheduled interaction with the outside local community?

3. Assisted Living Follow-Up Checklist

Surprise visit

Pop in for an unannounced visit in the next week or so, potentially in the evenings or on a weekend. If everything looks just as pleasant as it did during the tour, that’s good. If the atmosphere is completely different, it might be worth considering other facilities. And if the staff won’t let you in other than during a tour, it might be a signal that you should look elsewhere.

Documents to request

It’s a good idea to get as many of the following documents as possible. They can help you compare the fine details of one facility versus another.

Sample admission contract

A copy of the Resident Bill of Rights

A copy of the most recent survey results from state regulatory inspectors

A recent list of weekly activities and events

A recent weekly menu of meals and snacks

Follow-up conversations


How much will assisted living care cost for your loved one? Be sure you feel the staff understands your needs and is communicating the answers clearly.

Does the cost include any special move-in fees or fees for services, such as laundry?

Is there an extra charge for transportation to doctor’s appointments or outings?

Under what circumstances might costs go up?


What’s the ratio of staff to residents?

Are background checks performed before hiring staff? If so, when and how?

How much training do staff members have?

Is there an RN, LVN, or CNA on staff?

Care plan:

Is an initial assessment of needs conducted and a written care plan developed?

What specific care is available from doctors,
nurses, physical therapists, occupational
therapists, and others?

Who handles medication management, and how well trained are they?

Is the facility affiliated with a hospital or nursing home if more care is needed?

What medical emergency procedures are in place?

Does the facility have an adult day program? Sometimes older adults are more comfortable moving into a facility if they’ve already spent several hours having fun with some of the residents.

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