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Are you just starting your search for an assisted living community? Once you have narrowed your choices down to the best 2 or 3 assisted living communities, it is time to put on your comfortable shoes and take a tour of each of them. Make sure you have pen, paper and your checklist of questions. You might want to use our Comparison Chart to help ensure you are comparing pricing on an equal basis.

Here are a few basics to review and consider on your visits:

The Cleanliness Factor
This starts from the time you pull in to the parking lot. Is it clean and free of debris? Is the exterior of the community well maintained? Is the interior clean and free of odors? Pay attention to the cleanliness of the areas your loved one will spend most of their time in like the activity rooms and dining room. Make sure you ask to see a few resident apartments. Are they clean? Residents may have alot of belongings in their apartment, but you should still be able to separate cleanliness from clutter. The cleanliness factor also extends to residents. Do they look clean and well groomed? Are they wearing clothing appropriate for the time and day and for the season? (i.e. are they still in their pajamas at 3:00 in the afternoon or wearing shorts in the winter?)

A Friendly and Engaged Community.
Do you get a warm feeling when you watch staff and resident interactions? That is probably one of the most important issues to consider on your search. Do staff members make eye contact with you as you tour the community? Are they greeting residents in a warm and respectful manner? Do staff and residents seem to know each other’s names? Are residents engaged or slumped over in wheelchairs ringed around a television? Every assisted living community has a personality. Paying attention to these details will help you find one that is the best fit for your aging loved one.

Personal Care & Services.
Is staff available around the clock? Are they onsite or on call? Or both? Are caregivers given background checks? What kind of orientation and on-going training does the staff receive? Is there a physician or medical director who visits residents or do they have to visit an off-site physician? How long has the average caregiver been with them? Your goal is to make sure care is available when your loved one needs it.

Unfortunately, older adults can seem like easy targets to criminals. You want to make sure each community you visit is safety conscious. Are exterior doors and windows kept locked in the evenings? How are emergencies handled? What about within the community. Have there been any problems with theft or security in the assisted living community itself?

Monthly Fees.
This can be a very confusing area for families. Some communities are all-inclusive and others have a la carte pricing. That makes it more difficult to compare apples to apples. You can download our Comparison Chart (pdf) to make it easier to evaluate. Plan to ask very specific questions at each community to make sure you understand their payment structure. Are all care charges and services included in the monthly fees? If not, get a detailed breakdown of what is included. Ask what additional charges you should anticipate and budget for each month. Finally, ask what will happen when your loved one needs more care? Will they be required to move to a different apartment or a nursing home? If they stay, how much will increased care cost and how much notice will you be given of the increase?

Dining Services.
The monthly fee may include all three meals. But there are still several questions you need to ask regarding dining. How do they accommodate special dietary needs? Will there be any additional fees for that? Does someone remind and/or escort residents down to the dining room? Are snacks and beverages available throughout the day? Is there a registered dietician who oversees menu planning? You want to be sure meals are nutritionally balanced AND tasty!

Life Enrichment.
Are meaningful activities and events planned each day? What about evenings and weekends? Are there any opportunities for community outings such as shopping or a movie? How do they accommodate the physical limitations your loved one has? Are there any additional fees for activities?

Talk with Staff, Residents and Visitors.
As you visit communities, a good way to gain insight is to introduce yourself to other family members you see there and to residents. Ask them how long they or their loved one has lived there. What do they like about the community? What would they like to see improved? This feedback will probably give you an honest look at the community.

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