Navigating Assisted Living Visits with Confidence

10 Essential Questions You Need to Ask

Visiting an assisted living facility is a crucial step when contemplating the best care solution for a loved one. It provides first-hand insight into the environment they’ll be living in and the quality of care they’ll receive. Each community has its own culture and personality, in addition to unique features and amenities. These visits go beyond brochures and websites; they allow you to see, feel, and experience the atmosphere, interact with staff and residents, and compare “apples to apples” when considering which community is the best choice for your loved one.

These visits, and the questions you ask during your time at each residence, will play a critical role in shaping the next chapter of your loved one’s life. By asking the right questions during these visits, you equip yourself with the knowledge needed to provide the best possible care and living environment.

Today we will provide you with a comprehensive list of 10 vital questions to pose during assisted living visits. With this toolkit in hand, you’ll approach this decision with confidence and clarity, ensuring a brighter and safer future for your cherished family member.

Question 1: What Services are Included?

From cable TV to care, it is crucial to inventory the array of services provided by an assisted living facility. This knowledge empowers you to tailor your choice to your loved one’s specific needs, interests and preferences. The right services can make a significant difference in their quality of life, ensuring they receive the care and assistance required to thrive in their new home.

Assisted living facilities typically offer a wide range of services designed to support residents in their daily lives. These support services are charged as a “Level of Care” or LOC fee which is charged monthly in addition to room and board, or perhaps offered as an all inclusive rate. Level of Care services include assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing, and grooming. Medication management is sometimes included in Level of Care but often is an additional charge, so that should be clarified. Housekeeping, meal preparation, laundry and most utilities are commonly provided as part of room and board. Moreover, most facilities offer social and recreational activities to promote engagement and well-being among residents. Understanding the breadth of services available, and how they are delivered and charged, will help you make an informed decision that aligns perfectly with your loved one’s needs and expectations. For example, do they offer daily housekeeping or weekly? Anytime dining or specific dining hours? How do they determine Level of Care and what happens when needs increase? What about social activities on the weekends? These subtle differences in service delivery can also help you understand price differences between different facilities.

Question 2: What is the Staff-to-Resident Ratio?

No assisted living facility provides one-on-one care 24/7, so the staff-to-resident ratio is a critical factor in determining the quality of care. Understanding this ratio helps gauge the level of attention and personalized care your loved one will receive. 

The number of staff members available for the residents directly impacts their well-being. A lower ratio allows staff to know the residents better and provide more one-on-one support, ensuring that individual needs are met promptly and comprehensively. In contrast, a high ratio can strain resources and stress out caregivers, potentially leading to delayed assistance and a diminished overall quality of care. Is there a nurse (RN or LPN) on site 24/7 or just during the daytime hours? Do caregivers escort residents on outings or medical appointments? What happens if a caregiver calls out?

Keep in mind that post-pandemic staffing shortages are still an issue at all senior living facilities, so be sure to also ask about differences in ratios from day to overnight and on weekends; and how often they use contract staff. The more often contract staff is used, the less those temporary caregivers know your loved one personally. 

Question 3: What are the Living Arrangements?

Assisted living facilities offer a variety of living arrangements to cater to different preferences and needs. These include private studios or 1- and 2-bedroom apartments of differing sizes and floor plans, or sometimes shared rooms. 

Private apartments are the norm in assisted living. Residents furnish them with their own furniture and knick-knacks and enjoy the privacy of their own living space, bathroom and kitchenette. Some communities offer shared rooms, which is often a lower price but can be less private. Assisted living residents benefit from the social interactions that happen in all the communal living spaces, which typically include dining rooms, living and activity spaces, game rooms, and often gardens and/or patio areas. Does the community encourage residents to congregate in common areas, or do they stay in their apartments most of the time? Evaluating the pros and cons of each arrangement allows you to match your loved one’s personality and requirements with the most suitable living environment, enhancing their comfort and satisfaction in their new home.

Question 4: How is Medication Management Handled?

Proper medication management is paramount in assisted living, and is often an additional charge. Communities typically work with 24/7 pharmacies to ensure that residents receive their medications accurately and on time, promoting their health and well-being.

Inquiring about the facility’s medication policies and procedures is crucial. You should seek clarity on how the community’s pharmacy works with families and physicians, and how medications (including over-the-counter pills and creams) are administered, stored, monitored and replenished. What happens if a resident refuses to take their medication? Who handles it if a refill is not delivered timely? How does the community manage over-the-counter items? Understanding these protocols ensures that you identify any potential red flags or concerns, allowing you to make an informed decision about the facility’s suitability for your loved one’s medication management needs.

Question 5: What are the Meal Options & Dietary Restrictions?

Nutrition plays a pivotal role in the health and well-being of seniors. It directly impacts their energy levels, immune system, and overall vitality. It also offers a social opportunity.

When evaluating assisted living facilities, it’s crucial to inquire about meal options and dietary accommodations. Explore the availability of meal plans tailored to residents’ preferences and dietary restrictions such as kosher, vegetarian, low-sodium, finger foods or mechanically soft. Will they pre-cut items or offer daily alternatives that are easier to eat or digest? Do they assist residents with eating in the same dining room or in a different area? How do they monitor if a resident attends a meal, doesn’t eat, or is still in their room? Is there assigned seating or can residents sit wherever they’d like? How do they handle room service or late meals? By understanding the meal offerings and flexibility, you can help guarantee that your loved one receives nutritious and satisfying meals that support their health and happiness.

Question 6: How are Emergencies Handled?

A clear and effective emergency plan is vital in assisted living facilities. It ensures the safety and well-being of residents during unexpected situations, offering peace of mind to both residents and their families.

When assessing assisted living options, inquire about the facility’s emergency protocols and staff training. What is their average call response time and how is it monitored? How do they communicate with families if the phones are down, or the lights or internet go out? Understand how they handle various emergencies, from medical crises to natural disasters, especially snow storms or black ice that can impact caregivers coming to work. Knowing that the facility is well-prepared and that staff are trained to respond swiftly and efficiently can make all the difference in ensuring your loved one’s safety and security in their new living environment.

Question 7: What Activities & Programs Are Offered?

Social engagement is the linchpin for all assisted living communities and is paramount for seniors’ mental and emotional well-being. It combats isolation, fosters a sense of belonging, and promotes overall happiness and cognitive health.

When considering assisted living options, it’s essential to inquire about the facility’s social programs and recreational activities. Learn about the range of activities offered, from group outings to arts and crafts. Do they visit local attractions and shopping centers? Does the bus take residents to medical appointments or other personal errands? Are there classes and clubs that provide physical exercise and/or learning opportunities? Is there a dedicated Activity Director and a Resident Council that provides recommendations? Understanding these offerings ensures your loved one can continue to enjoy a fulfilling and vibrant social life. It’s a key factor in their quality of life, making their transition to assisted living more enriching and enjoyable.

Question 8: Are there Additional Costs?

When exploring assisted living options, it’s crucial to be aware of potential hidden costs that can impact your budget and financial planning. These costs can include additional services such as incontinence and/or medication management, security deposit, community fees, or charges related to outings (tickets or restaurant tabs) or beauty shop visits. Additionally nearly all communities have an annual cost-of-living increase of typically 3-10%.

Be sure to inquire about any fees or charges beyond the basic monthly rate and Level of Care fees. Seek transparency in how charges are assessed and what happens when there is a change in condition such as a fall or if dementia symptoms increase. What happens if you begin to run out of funds? Understanding the full cost structure of assisted living ensures that you can plan effectively and select a facility that aligns with your loved one’s needs and your financial expectations, providing peace of mind throughout their stay.

Question 9: Can You Speak with Current Residents or Families?

Gathering feedback from current residents and their families can provide invaluable insights into the assisted living facility’s quality of care and overall atmosphere. Their experiences offer a real-world perspective that can help you make an informed decision.

During your visit, ask to speak with current residents or families. Engaging in conversations with them can offer you a deeper understanding of life within the facility, the level of satisfaction among residents, and the support and care provided. This first hand feedback can be a vital factor in determining whether the facility is the right fit for your loved one’s needs and expectations. Also take a minute to consider the staff. Do they smile and say hello? How do they treat the residents? If you can engage residents or staff in conversation, ask how long they have worked/lived in the community. Longevity of staff or residents speaks volumes about the quality of management.

Question 10: What is the Admissions Process?

The admission process involves a series of steps, from initial assessments to move-in arrangements, and being well-informed about all that is required ensures a smoother transition.

During your evaluation, inquire about the paperwork and requirements for admission. Clarify the documentation, medical assessments, and financial arrangements needed. You will be asked about advance directives, medical diagnoses, medications, social habits, and much more. Knowing what’s expected can help you prepare effectively and streamline the admission process, ensuring that your loved one receives the care they need promptly and without unnecessary delays.

Empowering Informed Decision

In the journey of finding the right assisted living facility for your loved one, asking these 10 questions during your visit will help you compare different communities, help you find the one that meets your loved one’s needs and has the “vibe” that will help them feel at home and engaged.  

Making an informed decision is the greatest gift you can give yourself and your loved one. It guarantees their safety, happiness, and quality of life, while giving you the peace of mind that they will be cared for in a way that honors who they are. 

Should your loved one require care, we invite you to tour Berman Commons Assisted Living & Memory Care located in Dunwoody, GA. Our friendly professionals are available to answer all of your questions and provide a comprehensive on-site tour of our all-inclusive community.