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What to Look for When Comparing Assisted Living Centers

Whether you are evaluating assisted living centers for yourself or your loved one, it can help to know what questions to ask. After you look at the websites and visit several facilities, the details can get overwhelming. If you prepare a checklist, you can organize your thoughts and have more confidence in your decision.

The issues you need to address will depend on the needs of the person who will receive the services at the facility.

To get you started, here are some suggestions of what to look for when comparing assisted living centers.

  1. The floorplan options of the apartments. Some people will be happier in a smaller space, like a studio apartment, that requires little upkeep. Another person might want a big kitchen because he loves to cook, or an extra bedroom for friends and relatives to come to visit. Make sure that the floorplan you select has enough space for the furniture, clothes and other items your loved one wants to have on hand. Think about hobbies, socializing and other activities and be sure there will be adequate space for these things.

  2. The costs. You should receive a written statement of how much each type of apartment costs per month, as well as exactly what services the facility includes in that price. Get details about the cost of included meals, housekeeping services, electricity and other utilities, cable television, internet, phone and activity fees. You should also get a list of everything the facility does not provide for the base price, and the additional costs of those items and services. You need to know the expense of the different levels of care available, if the resident’s needs change.

  3. Medical issues. Find out if the facility has other residents with similar medical needs. Ask about the medical services and treatment the facility provides, and the hours of availability. Some facilities only offer certain medical services during the week, and not during evenings or weekends. Ask whether the staff administers medications and if there is a nurse onsite 24/7.

  4. Get information about the staff-to-resident ratio, and exactly what that means. Including the people who mow the grass or do other non-patient care duties is a way some facilities inflate their staff to resident ratios. Ask about the experience, training and credentials of the people who provide the hands-on resident care.

  5. Common areas. Go look at the facility and explore the common areas. Some facilities only have one big room as the common area. The residents take all their meals in that room, engage in activities there and spend time watching television or socializing with other residents. Find out whether there are attractive and comfortable outdoor spaces. You should also see if there are smaller rooms available to the residents to visit with guests or have some quiet time by themselves. The resident should have more options than only his room and a crowded multi-purpose dining room.

Be sure to tour at least three or four facilities with the person who will be moving into assisted living, if possible, and if not, with people who know the person. Trust your instincts and first impressions of the centers. Talk with people who live at the facilities and find out what they like and do not like about the places. Finally, find out about the policy for return of the deposit, in the event that your loved one moves in and does not mesh well with the facility, or is unhappy.

If mental function is in check, it’s wise to update or create new estate planning documents and review beneficiary designations, etc, at this time as well, or at least shortly thereafter, to be sure that things are still set up effectively.


A Place for Mom. “Assisted Living Residence Checklist.” (accessed August 7, 2019)



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