Key Questions to Ask When Touring an Assisted Living Community

 

There’s no doubt about it; finding the right Assisted Living Community for you, or your loved one, can be a daunting process. It’s natural to feel nervous when facing such an impactful decision, and invaluable to know all the facts. This article will help clear the rubble so you enter a tour feeling confident, comfortable, and secure in the knowledge that you have the proper tools to make an informed , choice.

The marketer’s job, in any community, will be to talk up the amenities the building has to offer. The questions listed below veer away from obvious pros, and cut straight to the topics less often discussed, yet equally vital.

Staffing
Anyone who has spent some time in the senior living industry knows that longevity among care staff can be difficult to find, yet invaluable to have. Knowing you or your loved one will be cared for by familiar faces who have memorized the details of your unique preferences will help you feel more comfortable and, ultimately, more at home. Which leads us to our staffing questions:

  1. How does your community increase longevity amongst its care staff? How long have some of your caregivers worked here?
  2. What is your staffing ratio? (Meaning, how many residents is each caregiver responsible for per shift?)
  3. Are your care staff continuously trained even after initial hire? If yes, how so?
  4. Who is on your health services team? Do you have a RN on staff?
  5. The key topics of focus here: are the staff happy, do they have a comfortable work load, and is the health services team available to step in for support if needed.

Cost:

Although we’d like to hope assisted living communities wouldn’t apply hidden fees to their costs, here are a few questions to make certain there are no surprises before moving into your, or your loved ones’ new home:

  1. What is included in your base rent? (Housekeeping, Laundry, etc.)
  2. What is not included in base rent?
  3. Do you charge extra for Medication Administration?
  4.  How do your level of care charges work?
    Point #4 is a tricky one–the answer you want to hear is a “point system.” Say, for example, it wasn’t a point system and the applicant was a diabetic, and say a diabetic was considered Level 3 care at this particular community, but the applicant needed no other additional assistance. It would be unfair to charge the inquiry a Level 3 care cost for the sole reason of being diabetic. The benefit of the point system is that it ensures you are only being charged for what you need assistance with.
  5. Do you increase your rent yearly? If so, how much?
  6. Do you accept Medicaid? If our funds deplete and we eventually have to transfer to Medicaid, will we have to move again?

There are some things that just about every community does, like yearly rent increases, but these questions will help you know exactly what you’re getting into before you get into it.

Activities:
Although these questions can vary drastically depending on you, or your loved ones’, interests, it’s important to make sure that the activity program is 

ever growing and adjusting to accommodate its residents. A healthy activity program = healthy happy residents.

  1. Does your community host a Resident Council or Town Hall Meeting where residents can make suggestions to activities?
  2. Can I have the activity calendar from last month as well as this month? (This will help you identify if the program is growing or doing the same routine each month.)
  3. What scheduled outings do you provide? (Day trips, country drives, walks in the summer, etc.)
  4. What activities do you have that support physical, mental, and emotional health?

 

Food:
If you are anything like me, delicious food is a major factor in quality of life and overall happiness. If you are able to, ask to tour the community around a meal time so that you have the opportunity to judge its tastiness yourself!

  1. What is your Head Chef’s culinary work experience?
  2. Do you provide scheduled snack times in addition to 24-7 snack availability?
  3. What diets are you able to accommodate? (In addition to vegetarian, GF, things like that, you want to ask if they can accommodate mechanical soft, pureed, and thickened, so if something happens down the road, you’re covered.)

Legalities:
If the marketer is confident in what their community has to offer, this section of questions can actually be rather fun and relieving. It can also be very helpful in revealing aspects that might mean the community isn’t the right fit for you.

  1. What is your philosophy and mission statement? (What you want to hear here is that they are focused on encouraging independence and protecting dignity)
  2. Do you do an initial assessment before admitting a resident? (This is crucial in Assisted Living, Residential, and Memory Care Communities. If they do not do an initial assessment it means they are willing to go in blind and accept a resident they might not be able to provide proper care for. Assessments protect both the community and the applicant from unsafe and risky situations.)
  3. Ask to see the state survey book. The book is supposed to be out in the open, so if the marketer is digging in a locked file cabinet to find it, that’s a red flag right there. In the state survey book there’s a skeleton outline of how their last survey went and what improvements need to be made. The main goal here is watching the marketer’s attitude toward the state survey book and seeing if they are open about discussing it.

The most important thing to remember while visiting any Senior Living Community is to follow your gut. If your inner voice is telling you something is not right, then it’s probably true. If you are able to, visit a community more than once before making a decision. It is impossible to gather all the information and the true personality of the community in just one viewing, and it’s important to make sure you’re as confident and comfortable as you can be moving forward.

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