Look For These 6 Things When Evaluating an Assisted Living Community

Finding the right assisted living facility for a loved one can be a complex and involved process. You can’t afford to select one at random, or without doing the appropriate due diligence. After all, choosing the wrong option can significantly impact the quality of your loved one’s life on a daily basis. As you want an assisted living community that will be the best fit all-around, there are some key items that you should look into before making your selection.


These include the cost and other financial considerations, the level of care available, the quality of the care provided, the caliber of amenities offered, the general environment of the facility and the ability to age in place. These 6 criteria can help guide you through this sometimes challenging process, in order to make the right decision at the end of the day.


Criteria #1:  Cost and Other Financial Considerations

Paying for assisted living is often the biggest question in people’s minds, when it comes to evaluating potential facilities. The cost can vary widely from option to option, so it’s critical that you take the time to properly shop around. Knowing what your loved one can afford to spend is important as well, so you’ll want to form a clear picture of their feasible monthly budget.


In addition, be sure to carefully weigh the services being provided for the money charged, as a facility with a lower upfront charge may cost you more in the end. How? Through added services and additional charges, the bill can steadily begin to creep up. If your parent or other loved one is likely to need most or all of the services offered, then ask if there is an all-inclusive package available.


This type of offering is quite common, and can allow you to save money versus paying for extra services (like laundry, housekeeping or even certain meals like breakfast) on a piecemeal basis. However, if your parent won’t need all of the services offered, a facility that allows you to pick and choose will afford you a chance to save money.


Finally, you’ll want to discuss the options available for paying once your loved one’s resources are depleted. Typically, a portion of the cost for care can be covered by Medicaid, but conditions and asset thresholds apply. Your parent may also have long-term care insurance, so you’ll want to confirm that the facility you choose will be covered by their particular policy.


Criteria #2:  Level of Care Available

Once you’ve squared away these important financial questions, you’ll want to determine whether a specific assisted living community can adequately meet your loved one’s needs. You cannot assume that the appropriate level of care will be universally available, as this can vary widely from facility to facility. This is especially true if your parent suffers from cognitive impairments such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.


Inquire if the facility in question has trained medical personnel on-site to dispense medication, and state-certified nursing aids to assist in various activities of daily living (like bathing, dressing, toileting and so on). At this stage in the evaluation process, it’s a good idea to check into assisted living reviews – especially state inspection reports and scores. Be aware that not all states license assisted living facilities, though you can generally find some type of independent evaluation. For example, local newspapers sometimes carry out their own investigations into the conditions present within various assisted living facilities and nursing homes.


Criteria #3:  Quality of Care Provided

One of the most important considerations during this process, the quality of care provided can differ dramatically. It’s not enough to rely upon a sales presentation or marketing brochure provided by the assisted living community. Instead, you need to determine if the facility is maintained to a high standard when it comes to general cleanliness, responsiveness of the staff to resident requests for assistance, meal quality and variation in menu, training requirements for the nursing staff and aids, engagement of the management and even the average tenure of the workforce.


Determining this information during a short visit can be a challenge, but there are some strategies you can use to gather the facts that you need. First, ask to see documentation concerning these areas from the facility itself. Secondly, take time to speak with residents of the facility, to ask them how responsive and friendly the staff is, and inquire about the best and worst aspects of living there. Be sure to ask them if they have to wait an inordinate amount of time for medication or assistance with bathing, toileting and so on.


Third, once you’ve narrowed down your choices to one or two contenders, go back for multiple visits at different times. This will allow you to get a fuller picture of what it would be like to live there full-time. Fourth, don’t be afraid to speak with the staff directly, as many times they’ll let you know if there are long-standing issues. At the very least, interacting with the staff can help you get a sense of how friendly and accommodating they’re likely to be.


Finally, sometimes staff are very friendly and accommodating when you’re present, but their attitude swiftly changes when they’re unsupervised. Even after your family member moves in, feel free to make spot checks often by dropping by unannounced. If you have any reason to suspect that your loved one isn’t getting the care they require, you can even place a discreet nanny cam in their room – allowing you to see how they’re treated when you’re not around. If this uncovers any elder abuse, neglect or just poor service, you can move your loved one to another community.


Criteria #4:  Caliber of Amenities Provided

When looking at assisted living reviews, the amenities may begin to sound similar from community to community. Speak with your parent about what amenities are priorities for them. Available choices include transportation for shopping or planned outings, weekly group activities like cards, crafts, movie night or water aerobics. Some facilities also have special events like a cookout in the summer and holiday parties. Others even provide a conference room with video chatting equipment – so your parent can reach out for a face-to-face visit whenever they wish.  


The amenities available aren’t the end of the story, as the enthusiasm with which these are delivered and the care taken when planning them can be night and day. You may find that at one facility the activity director is warm and deeply concerned with the well-being of the residents. At another community, the activities may be lackluster and the attitude of the staff one of bored disinterest.


Criteria #5:  General Ambience

When considering assisted living reviews and performing your own evaluation, you’ll also want to think about the general ambiance. The goal is to find a place which feels as much like home as possible – so your loved one is comfortable and at ease.


While there will certainly be an adjustment required when moving from their own home to a small assisted living residence, you can attempt to recreate the same general atmosphere. If your parent is accustomed to high-end furnishings and luxurious appointments – you’ll naturally want to gravitate towards more lavish communities. In contrast, if they prefer a simple setting, then keep this in mind when choosing a facility for them to live in.


Criteria #6:  The Ability to Age in Place

Even if your parent is currently capable of caring for themselves for the most part – and only requires a small amount of assistance – you may want to select a facility that will allow them to age in place. In order to do so, the facility you choose will need to offer a more comprehensive level of care than your parent needs at the moment.


This could include the dispensing of medicine by a qualified nurse, who will not provide reminders but actually hand out the appropriate doses at the correct times. Your parent may also need help in the future with bathing, some grooming tasks, toileting, dressing, cleaning their living quarters and preparing meals. If the facility you select has all of these options available, then you can spare your loved one the upheaval of moving to a different facility down the road.


When looking at assisted living reviews and carrying out your own inspections of various facilities, these 6 criteria will help steer you in the right direction. While these are by no means exhaustive, paying special attention to these items will allow you to evaluate communities much more proficiently.


This will hopefully lead to you choosing the perfect living situation for your loved one – to ensure that they have the care they need, in a setting you’re comfortable with. Knowing that their needs are being serviced by a competent and attentive staff, will allow you to rest easy and provide Mom or Dad with an ideal setting in which to live out their golden years.