Finding the right assisted-living facility isn’t easy. But even if you can’t quite find the perfect place, you can at least avoid the worst ones by looking out for key details when you tour a facility. Below are eight of the best ways to spot an assisted-living facility you wouldn’t want your loved one to inhabit.
1. Dirty clothes
All clothing should be washed on a timely basis. Stains don’t necessarily indicate neglect—some stains may be difficult to remove without dry cleaning—but the clothes should be clean. If you notice old laundry smells or ratty clothing on residents at an assisted-living community, it’s a warning sign.
2. Improper attire
If it’s a cold winter day and you see residents walking around outside without a jacket, they might be neglected. Likewise, residents should be wearing light, loose-fitting clothing on hot summer days, and using sunblock when going outdoors for extended periods of time.
3. Unkempt appearances
Many assisted-living homes have on-site barbers and salons. If they don’t, there should be adequate transportation provided to get residents cleaned up at a local beauty shop.
If you notice residents with unruly hair, unkempt beards, or an otherwise dirty appearance, it can be a sign of neglect by the staff.
4. Uninformed staff
When you ask a staff member a question, can she answer you? If not, does she direct you to someone who can? Any staff member should be able to answer the most basic questions such as when meals are served and when laundry is done. If she can’t, then consider another facility.
5. Cluttered, dirty rooms or personal spaces
Assisted-living facilities should be clutter-free and reasonably clean. If you notice something on the floor, see how long it takes for a staff member to take care of it. Remember, falls are the No. 1 reason for emergency care visits by the elderly, so floors and walkways should always be clear.
Don’t limit your inspection to the model rooms the facility shows potential customers. While the facility won’t let you wander into any resident’s room without permission, that doesn’t mean you can’t get permission. Chat up a resident and ask to see his room. If it’s relatively clean, that’s good. If it’s in dire need of cleaning, that’s a red flag.
6. Bad reviews
If the assisted-living home you are looking at is also a continuing care facility or part of a continuing care campus, then you may want to look for more details about the facility on Medicare.gov. Many people go into continuing care communities because of the easy transition from assisted living to nursing care. But if the nursing care isn’t any good, there’s no reason to decide on that facility.
7. Questionable lease clauses
Be on the lookout for an arbitration clause, which will lock you out of going to court and into arbitration should you have any serious issues that need to be resolved. Some experts warn that arbitration clauses are not always in the best interest of the person signing the contract.
Also look at causes for eviction or discharge from the facility and be sure to compare leases.
8. The price is wrong
The median monthly rate for assisted living is $3,500, according to Genworth’s 2014 Cost of Care Survey. If the facility you’re looking at is significantly over or under that amount, take a step back.
An expensive facility should have significantly more staff, better amenities, and more advanced emergency systems. If you can’t see a clear difference, you could be paying for nothing. If the facility is too cheap, it’ll likely have fewer staff members and less impressive amenities.
Remember, $3,500 is just the national median. Prices will vary by region and level of care required.