When touring an assisted living facility, consider:
- What is your ideal retirement?
- What are your health and safety needs?
- What are your values?
- Do they have all their state licensing?
- Do they have references and referrals?
- What is your timeline for moving?
- Is the community’s location convenient?
- Which amenities does the community offer?
- What does your intuition tell you?
- What does your family think?
Assisted living isn’t what it used to be. The nursing homes of the past have been replaced by warm, inviting communities that preserve seniors’ independence while offering the support and help they deserve. For seniors who don’t need daily help, independent living offers a ready-made community, along with plenty of privacy and independence. Both options include access to daily activities and classes, friendship, and community outings.
Touring assisted living facilities can help you decide what matters most to you, while offering valuable insight into the community’s culture and approach to daily life. Here are 10 things to assess when you tour a community.
Your Ideal Retirement
What does your ideal retirement look like? Do you want to sit peacefully by the window and read a book? Do you plan to pick up a new hobby or skill? Are you hoping for lots of time with the grandkids? What about a second chance at romance? Every retirement is different. Consider how each assisted living community you tour can help you reach your goals. Active extroverts may want a wide range of classes, while those looking for love should make sure there’s a large community with plenty of activities.
Your Health and Safety Needs
What do you need right now to live a fuller life? Do you want help with daily activities such as bathing? Do you want someone to check in on you each day? Will you need help managing medications?
What about the future? What has your doctor said about your prognosis? Will you eventually need more or different help? The ideal assisted living community is one that can meet your needs now and in the future. Some assisted living communities are connected to larger communities that offer more intensive care, such as memory care for dementia. If your needs are likely to change with time, ask how the community can support you for the rest of your life.
Your values form the core of your identity. Whether it’s a religious faith that finds you at religious services each week, a commitment to animal welfare that’s led you to vegetarianism, or an activist spirit that inspires regular volunteering, the things that matter most to you should remain possible in retirement. So consider how the assisted living community you tour supports your values. Do they offer religious services or transportation to off-site services? Is volunteering possible? What about meal options?
Be direct about what’s most important to you, and continue to search until you find a community that can address those needs.
Every state establishes its own set of regulations for senior living communities. Ask the community about the status of its state license. Then contact your state’s licensing board to see if the community has ever lost its license or been disciplined for inappropriate care. The best communities will have a consistent record of positive state reviews.
References and Referrals
You wouldn’t hire an employee without a reference. So why live somewhere without talking to an independent third party? Ask the staff member who oversees your tour for a list of references. Then do your own investigation. Does the community have mostly positive online reviews? Does your doctor or physical therapist have previous experience with the community?
Don’t forget to talk to residents during your tour. They have the most insight, and will often be quite forthcoming about the best and worst aspects of the community.
The Timeline for Moving
How soon do you need to move? For many seniors, the move-in timeline becomes a dealbreaker. If you need immediate assistance, then you must ask about a waiting list. A long waiting list is actually a good sign, since it suggests that seniors are eager to move in. If the community of your choice has a long wait, consider making alternative arrangements, such as temporarily living with a loved one.
Location matters. Will loved ones easily be able to visit you? What about access to community resources such as your favorite grocery store, an excellent farmer’s market, or a performing arts center? Ask about transportation options, especially if the community is not in a convenient location with ready access to public transit.
Which Amenities the Community Offers
Do you want to spend your days walking around a well-landscaped garden? What about a spotless home? Do you hope to eat gourmet meals, or have food delivered to your home? Do you need help selecting healthy eating options? Every assisted living community offers a range of amenities—from meal preparation and nutritional consultations to lush landscaping and premium apartments. Make a list of what matters most to you. Which amenities could entice you away from your current home?
One of the most important reasons to tour an assisted living community is that it gives you a chance to see how the community makes you feel. Do you feel welcome? Did you meet people you can imagine befriending? Or did you leave feeling unsettled and anxious? Trust your intuition. Pay careful attention to how you feel talking to people and touring the community. You’re touring a potential future home, and everyone deserves to feel good in their home.
Input from Family
Your loved ones know you best, so take a friend or family member with you on your tour. They may notice things you don’t, or ask questions you might not have considered. At the end of the tour, compare notes. Combining your collective wisdom and insight is often the best way to find the perfect fit.
The right assisted living community can change your life by nurturing new relationships, removing the challenges of home maintenance, and helping you remain as independent as possible for as long as possible. The life you deserve may begin with a tour.
For the past 5 years, Chris Harper has been the Vice President of Communications at The Arbor Company. His dedication to fulfill Arbor’s mission of providing unparalleled care to seniors has made him a passionate advocate for senior health, memory care, and aging with dignity.