Choosing the right senior living facility for a loved one is an important decision, so you want to make sure you have all the right information.
It’s a wise idea to visit several different senior housing communities and tour them. To get the most out of your visits, you should know how to spot signs of a good or bad senior housing community by keeping your eyes and ears open.
What to Look for When Visiting Senior Housing Communities
When you tour senior housing communities, note how the lobby, living spaces and dining hall make you feel. Print out one of our checklists for independent living, assisted living, nursing homes or continuing care retirement communities to take with you and provide some quick focus points.
Then start looking for good and bad signs, like these:
- Do the residents have clean clothes and appear groomed? Signs of neglect include dirty clothes and an unkempt appearance.
- If the buildings and amenities look old and are showing signs of wear, it could mean the facility does not have enough capital to update it. If heavy renovation is needed in the future, it could displace your loved one to an affiliated facility.
- Are staff members friendly and engaged or “just doing their job”?
- Is the floor plan easy to navigate? This is especially important for assisted living and memory care facilities.
- Are things like cabinets and shelves in easy-to-reach locations? Are there handrails in the hallways? Is every area wheelchair accessible?
Questions to Ask on Your Senior Community Tour
You won’t be able to see everything during a tour. Be sure to ask your tour guide about things you can’t see, with questions like these:
- What is the employee turnover rate? High staff turnover can indicate a problem with management. Plus, your loved one may have to keep being introduced to new staff, rather than make long friendships.
- Does the staff undergo a background check?
- What emergency system is in place if a resident has an emergency?
- Is there 24/7 security?
- What kind of meal plans and menu options are there? Can you order off the menu?
- Ask to see the kitchen and try the menu. You’re looking for a clean facility and tasty food.
- Ask if meal times are set or if dining hours are open. Also ask if residents can bring food back to their rooms.
- Can residents have visitors whenever they want? And are there overnight accommodations for them?
- How often are personal spaces cleaned?
- What kind of activities are provided? See if you can sit in on a few.
- What kind of programs are there to get new residents involved in the community? You want a place that welcomes new residents and makes them feel comfortable as soon as they arrive.
- What are the transportation options? Ask how often it is provided, where it goes and if they take requests.
If your guide does not know the answer to a specific question, they should be able to refer you to someone who does. At the end of the tour, politely remind them to do so.
Make Sure to Listen, Too
Hang out for a bit in the dining hall or a common room. Listen in on conversations. If the residents appear to be in good spirits, it’s a good sign. If they’re complaining about the community, that’s not a good sign.
If you can, talk with a resident and listen to their feelings about the facility.
Listen for cordial conversation between staff and residents—do the staff members call the residents by name? Or are they impersonal?
You want a senior housing facility with a warm, community atmosphere. Most importantly, listen for laughter and good conversation—the more, the better.
Read the rest of our 7-Step Guide to Senior Housing:
1. Recognize If Your Parents Need a Change
2. Learn About Types of Senior Living Communities
3. Assess Your Financial Options
4. Tour Senior Living Communities
5. Know These Senior Housing Lease Clauses
6. Make a Senior Housing Community Feel Like Home
7. Manage the Emotional Toll of a Parent’s Move