As you embark on assisted living tours, you probably have a million questions running through your head: What is the food like? Does the community offer more than Bingo? How much does it cost?
But one of the most important factors to consider is the care your loved one will be receiving. You don’t want to let a pretty facility mask that the care services offered just aren’t right for your loved one.
Of course, it’s nice to have the bells and whistles — the beauty salon and barbershop, the pub and library, the outdoor courtyard and community living room with a fireplace. But it’s the people who are providing the care who truly make a difference.
“Most assisted living communities are these big, beautiful buildings and the only different thing between us are the people in it,” says Lindsay Redin, Executive Director of The Ivy at Ellington.
That’s why asking assisted living team members about their care philosophy and getting specific about how your loved one’s personal and health care needs will be provided is so important.
Here are some key questions to get you started.
8 Questions to Ask about Personal Care During an Assisted Living Tour
It’s important to not only consider your loved one’s current care needs but also what their future needs might be, says Jason Rieger, Executive Director of The Ivy at Watertown.
“Although most assisted living communities offer similar services, no two are the same,” he says. “Make sure you ask what services and care are provided. As your parent’s health changes, how will their needs be met?”
1. What criteria do you use to determine whether this community is appropriate for my loved one’s needs?
2. What kind of assessment is done to determine my loved one’s needs? What are the qualifications of the person conducting the assessment? How often is the assessment done?
3. What happens if my loved one’s needs change — if they need more help, become incontinent, become confused?
4. How does the community tailor the schedule for bathing and dressing to accommodate the preferences of residents? Can changes be made?
5. How does the community help residents maintain their abilities to care for themselves, especially in regard to toileting, dressing, and eating?
6. If a resident displays a difficult behavior, what steps will the community take?
7. How often is the room cleaned?
8. Is there a schedule for staff to check on a resident’s whereabouts and well-being?
11 Questions to Ask about Care Staff During an Assisted Living Tour
“Working at an assisted living community requires passionate, kind-hearted people motivated to make a difference in other people’s lives,” says Jonathan Athanas, Executive Director at The Arbors at Dracut.
Research shows that assisted living communities with full-time registered nurses and direct care with in-house nursing staff have a positive impact on residents’ lives.
9. How many staff are there for each shift? What are their responsibilities?
10. What is the training and certification of the people who care for residents? What are the trainer’s qualifications?
11. Is there a nurse on staff? What are the nurse’s hours and responsibilities?
12. Who is responsible when the nurse is not on duty?
13. If a nurse is not on staff, are there regularly scheduled visits by a nurse or other health provider?
14. Does the nurse or provider see residents regularly?
15. How many residents are assigned to each direct care staff person? What other duties do direct care staff have during these hours?
16. Is there special training for staff about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? How long is the training?
17. Are staff trained to deal with sundowning and wandering?
18. What if my loved one doesn’t like the staff person assigned to them?
19. What is the staff turnover rate?
2 Questions to Ask about Care Emergencies During an Assisted Living Tour
Most assisted living communities have fall prevention and reduction programs in place as well as services designed to enhance the overall health and well-being of residents, but emergencies can still happen.
20. Who decides whether to call 911? Are there written policies about how that decision is made?
21. What kind of emergencies are staff expected to handle, and how are they trained for them?
11 Questions to Ask about Health Care During an Assisted Living Tour
Assisted living communities aren’t designed to provide medical care — those are nursing homes — but the community should be able to meet the medical needs of your loved one, especially if the community has an aging in place philosophy. It’s important to evaluate the community’s capacity to manage your loved one’s health care needs, even if they are healthy now, because they may need more help in the future.
22. Does the community prepare a written plan describing how it will care for my loved one? How often is it revised?
23. What professionals are involved in the development of this plan?
24. How will my family and I be involved?
25. What involvement does a confused resident have?
26. What if I don’t agree with the community’s plan of care?
27. To what extent will the community monitor my loved one’s health?
28. If my loved one doesn’t feel well, how quickly and to what extent will they receive medical attention?
29. What health services are available on-site (e.g., lab work physical therapy, wound care, hospice, social work, podiatrist, etc.)? What does the community provide, and what can outside agencies provide? What are the costs?
30. Under what circumstances and when does the community call the family? What about the doctor?
31. Is transportation to a health appointment available? Are there any limitations?
32. Is transportation wheelchair accessible?
4 Questions to Ask about Medications During an Assisted Living Tour
Although your loved one might be healthy now, they may take a variety of medications and, one day, require assistance or supervision.
33. What safeguards are in place to ensure that my loved one gets the appropriate medications on time and in the correct dosage?
34. How are prescriptions filled? Must my loved one use the community pharmacy? What are the costs?
35. Who gives out medications? If not a nurse, how are staff trained and supervised?
36. Who reviews medication procedures and how frequently? What are their qualifications?
9 Questions to Ask about Memory Care During an Assisted Living Tour
If your loved one is just starting to struggle with memory loss, they probably don’t need to move into a specialized memory care environment just yet. But it’s better to choose an assisted living community that also offers a memory care community.
“Make sure you see it all,” says Carrie Wilson, Director of the Reflections Memory Program at The Ivy at Ellington. “You may never need it, but if you do, you want that memory care to be the best!”
37. Is there a separate area specifically for people with memory loss?
38. How do services in the special care unit differ from services in the rest of the community?
39. What is the difference in staff training? The staff-to-resident ratio?
40. Do residents go outdoors regularly? How often? Where do they go?
41. How do you ensure that the resident is getting proper nutrition? Are finger foods available? Do you offer drinks throughout the day?
42. Is the calendar of activities appropriate for the residents?
43. What is the community’s policy on restraints, both chemical and physical?
44. Is there space to walk around in the memory care community?
45. When rooms are shared, what does the community do if problems arise?
It might seem like a lot of questions, but this is an important decision. You’re entitled to ask as many questions until you feel satisfied that the assisted living community meets your loved one’s wants and needs.
For more tips to help you feel confident in your final selection, download our How to Choose the Right Assisted Living Community eBook.