It’s important to prepare yourself with senior care information and tools you can use before taking a tour of a senior living community. Reading online reviews can give you an idea of what to expect, but the best way to get a clear picture of community life is to visit and experience it in person. Having a list of questions specific to your situation is also a good way to plan ahead.
Are the needs of your parent or family member growing faster than you anticipated? Are you stressed more than you’d care to admit? The earlier you look into communities and other senior care resources , the more confident you will feel about making decisions regarding your parent’s care.
Finding a new community to call home can be difficult at any age, but it’s especially challenging for an older adult who may be firmly rooted in a family home where many memories were made. The transition from home to community can stir feelings of excitement for some, and sadness for others.
Below, you’ll find questions to help initiate conversations and tips for finding the best fit for your parent’s needs.
6 questions and other important considerations when touring a senior living community
Prepare a checklist of questions for the assisted living or retirement community beforehand. If your parent is open to the idea, have them join the tour with you. If not, consider bringing them with you after weighing the pros and cons of each community.
- How does the community make residents feel at home?
- What training is required of staff members? Are any healthcare professionals on call?
- What are the safety and security protocols for diseases and natural disasters?
- What services are included in the rental rate?
- What levels of care services are offered?
- Are financial planning or other resources available?
How does the community make residents feel at home?
Take notice of the property around the senior living community. Look for easily accessible walking paths and common areas such as gardens, patios and courtyards. Upon entering the community, ask yourself these questions: Did I receive a friendly greeting? Are common areas tidy? Do residents look happy and engaged? Are the hallways and common areas well-lit, spacious and easy to navigate?
When touring apartments, inquire about privacy protocols and what residents are allowed to bring from home and what is prohibited. Is the senior living community pet-friendly? If so, what breeds or types of animals are accepted? If possible, request the floor plans of available options. If décor and customization to the apartment is important, ask what is allowed and if upgrades are available. Make sure to ask about accessible accommodations if your parent requires a wheelchair, walker or cane.
What training is required of staff members? Are any healthcare professionals on call?
It’s important to get a feel for the team that interacts with residents the most. After all, they are vital members of the community. Inquire about the training and various credentials required of staff members. Is the community fully staffed? What is the staff-to-resident ratio?
What about continuous training and education to keep employees informed on best practices and the latest research? Knowing these specifics can provide you with comfort and peace of mind.
How long is the average length of tenure for staff members? Loyal employees are indicators of a positive workplace. Observe staff and resident interactions. Do staff members call residents by their names? Do they seem warm and approachable?
Are there nurses or medical professionals on-site? If your parent requires specific assistance due to chronic illness, for conditions such as diabetes or Parkinson’s disease, ask if staff members have experience managing those needs or addressing their specific diagnosis.
What are the safety and security protocols for diseases and natural disasters?
Questions about safety and security are most likely at the top of your priority list. Is there round-the-clock security, seven days a week? In case of natural disasters – like fires, floods, earthquakes and power outages during extreme weather – what is the protocol? How are personal emergencies handled? A community that has invested in proper safety and security measures for the well-being of their residents is the hallmark of a residence that is dedicated to high-quality senior living care.
Add questions to your checklist about safety measures taken during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and how the community continues to mitigate the spread of contagious diseases like influenza, respiratory infections and the stomach flu.
Ask about safety equipment and devices such as easily accessible fire alarms, pull-cords in the bathrooms, handrails in hallways and emergency alert devices such as wristbands or pendants. If your parent needs memory care, ask about safety implementations that contribute to a secure neighborhood.
What services are included in the rental rate?
A major perk that draws older adults to a retirement community or senior living community is the services that enable a fuller, more flexible lifestyle. Is housekeeping available? Laundry service? If chef-prepared meals are an option, what selections are on the menu? Are there options for low-sodium and other specific diets? How many meals will your parent enjoy on a daily basis? How many dining venues are there? If possible, grab a bite to eat in one of the venues. After all, the best way to learn about the dining experience is to sample the cuisine yourself.
Is transportation offered? If so, how often? The more day-to-day tasks that are handled by a dedicated staff, the more time and energy your parent can put toward things they love.
While you want to make sure your parent is supported with all they need, don’t forget to inquire about the services that foster connection, curiosity and growth.
Are there events planned for residents? Ask to see a calendar. Is there anything your parent may find interesting and engaging? Are there group outings? Any social events? Are classes offered to enrich the mind? Are there groups that get together based on common interests? How are events kept fresh and engaging for residents?
Ask if you can attend an event, class or workshop. Are there programs designed with cognitive and/or physical health in mind? These fine details will elevate your parent’s experience and encourage them to stay engaged and active – both which are keys to aging successfully.
What levels of care services does this community offer?
If your parent needs additional care services, be prepared with questions to ask assisted living caregivers as well as information about your parent’s specific needs. Whether they are relatively independent but need help with medication management or they have limited mobility and find activities of daily living difficult to manage on their own, it’s important to be clear about the support that is needed – to make sure the community can accommodate your parent’s needs. Inquire about what kind of assistance and services are available. Does someone accompany residents to each meal? Can a staff member help them get dressed or assist with grooming?
If your parent has been diagnosed with a degenerative disease or a condition that you anticipate worsening over time, like multiple sclerosis, lupus or Parkinson’s, ask if the staff has experience managing that condition and if the assisted living community offers progressive care services.
Is care customizable? Are personal check-ins offered? How is medication managed? Do staff members administer medication? Is there a licensed physician or nurse on staff? What about certified nursing assistants? Ask if an assessment is required and what it entails. How many caregivers are there overnight?
Are financial planning or other resources available?
The person conducting the initial tour will probably wait to discuss fees, rates and other costs until the end, but it’s always helpful to be prepared with questions before you walk through the door. Research senior living communities beforehand to acquire some understanding of pricing to avoid sticker shock.
What is the pricing model of the senior living or assisted living community you’re touring? What services are included in the rental rate? For example, are housekeeping, utilities, dining and transportation included? What about amenities such as a spa, fitness center and other communal benefits?
Don’t assume all care services are offered at a flat rate in an assisted living community. Ask specific questions about expenses, especially if your parent has specific needs. Is assisted living pricing tiered based on the level of care needed? Are services offered à la carte or are there additional fees? Ask about any move-in fees or other introductory costs associated with being a new resident. Also, ask about refund policies and billing and payment policies.
After you receive pricing information, ask about financial planning assistance. While the administrative staff at an assisted living community or retirement community aren’t substitutes for financial advisors, they may be able to introduce you to helpful contacts and resources, which can help you determine the smartest way to pay for senior living.
Here’s a helpful tip for creating the most purposeful checklist of questions: Discuss the idea of transitioning into a senior living community with your parent. You may be initially met with resistance – making you hesitant to broach the conversation again in the future. Your parent may feel they would be sacrificing their freedom, or they may not understand the full benefits of senior living. When the timing feels right and they seem receptive, gently revisit the conversation to see what their wishes and desires may be.
Maybe the size of the living space is a deal-breaker or your parent wants to stay close to their place of worship. Do they prefer an idyllic country setting over a bustling urban one or vice versa? Let their input guide you. You may want to search online for options or ask your inner circle – after all, nothing beats a word-of-mouth recommendation. Eventually, you’ll want to schedule a time to visit a senior living community. Consider only touring a few of your top choices with your parent to avoid making the experience overwhelming.
Interested in visiting an Atria community? Both in-person and virtual tours are available at most communities.
We’ll ask a few questions to find out what you’re looking for in a senior living community. Then, we’ll create an experience that focuses on the aspects that are most important to you. Bring a comprehensive list of questions or concerns you have. We’d be delighted to show you everything Atria has to offer.
Our Checklist for What to Ask a Senior Living Community (PDF)