The decision to move to a senior living community can be daunting, but finding the right community for your needs can imbue you with a new sense of hope and a plan for the next stage of your life. You have many good choices, but the key lies in choosing the right community for you. It’s not enough to just read marketing materials and tour communities. After all, this information is designed to present senior living communities in the best light possible. That’s why it’s so important to dig a little deeper to learn about the experience in the community and what you can expect to increase the likelihood that you’ll find the perfect fit. Asking these questions can help.
1. What are the accommodations like?
This involves more than the types of accommodations a senior living community offers. Also, ask much privacy you can expect, what personal items you can bring, as well as any restrictions, and how much you can personalize your living space.
Most senior living communities offer a wide range of living arrangements in various sizes, layouts, and locations, from apartments located in the hub of community action to quieter homes on upper floors or ends of hallways. Consider where you’ll be happiest, then ask to see an apartment similar to that. Also, ask for a floor plan with measurements so you have an idea of what can fit.
2. What activities are available?
Seniors often choose to move because they feel increasingly isolated in their own homes, whereas senior living communities offer new opportunities to learn, socialize, and play. Ask what activities are available (ideally, you want a range of types like fitness, wellness, enrichment, and social), how often activities take place, and whether there are any eligibility requirements. Also, find out if there is a mix of onsite and offsite activities. Lastly, ask how the community determines what activities are available- do residents provide input?
3. What safety and security measures are in place?
For most seniors, feeling safe and secure in their environment is paramount, and often a deciding factor in the decision to move from home. As such, you’ll want to know how the senior living communities you’re considering handle safety with questions such as:
- Do residents have access to alert buttons for emergency assistance?
- Do these buttons provide the resident’s location so staff can easily locate them?
- In the bathroom, are there rails or easy-entry bathtubs? Are there grab bars and non-slip surfaces installed?
- How does the community handle medical emergencies? What about at night? Is staff available 24/7
- What system is in place to ensure residents are present and accounted for?
- Is there an emergency response plan? Does the community perform fire or other safety drills?
- Is there a generator for backup power?
- What background checks are done on staff?
- Can residents request nightly safety checks or other regular visits?
4. What amenities are provided?
One of the biggest draws for senior living communities is the amenities. From convenience to a luxury lifestyle, some senior living communities feel like a resort, some are more homelike, and others are somewhere in between. So, it’s important to consider the environment where you’ll feel most comfortable as well as the options in which you’d like to treat yourself, like multiple dining venues, a hair salon/barbershop, concierge services, pool, library, dog park, and walking trails on beautiful grounds. Then ask what amenities the community offers to see how well you match.
5. Is transportation available?
It’s important to remain connected to the world around your community. As such, ask about the community’s transportation options. Most senior living communities offer transportation within a defined radius, often via a regular shuttle service. They may also have predetermined transportation days for doctor’s visits, religious services, and other necessities. Consider the places you want to visit and ask whether they’re part of the transportation route. There may also be transportation to scheduled outings, such as restaurants, museums, theaters, and more. Be sure to ask whether or not you can request additional transportation as needed and any associated fees.
6. What training and qualifications do staff members have?
Excellent staff is the heart of an excellent community. Ask about the specific training and qualifications of staff members at every level. What medical providers are available? What experience and training do they have? Who will be interacting with and caring for you daily? How many hours of training do staff receive, and what sort of continuing education must they complete? Are there monthly or other regular meetings to strengthen skills and address concerns?
7. How’s the food?
Seniors are more interested in delicious and healthy food than ever before. A generation ago, senior living communities offered meals at set times. Everyone ate the same food together, often in assigned seats. That has changed significantly. Many senior living communities now offer all-day dining services at multiple venues, including formal dining centers, pubs, and cafes. The more meal options that are available, the more likely it is you’ll find something delicious and healthy that you enjoy.
Good nutrition is a key ingredient in healthy aging, so you’ll want to ask the community to see the menu, and ideally sample the food if you’re on a tour. Also ask if they accommodate special dietary needs or requests, such as vegetarian or low sodium menu options. Lastly, ask how they decide on the menu; the food preparation team should regularly consult with a nutritionist and should be prepared to work with your doctor to meet your nutritional goals.
8. What medical care is available?
In many cases, a move to a senior living community is prompted by a need for medical care on an ongoing basis. If that’s the case for you make sure to ask questions specific to your medical needs. But even if that’s not the case right now, another benefit of senior living communities is the peace of mind they offer for the future should your health needs evolve. So, it’s good to ask how the community supports residents’ physical, cognitive and emotional needs and what types of therapy and services are available. Specific questions include:
- What conditions can this community manage? Are there any it is not equipped to manage?
- Will I need to move to another location in the community if my needs change?
- Can you help with medication management?
- What daily needs can you help me with?
- Will you be monitoring for changes in the condition of residents?
- Can I keep my prescription and over-the-counter medications in my room, or must someone else administer them?
- How frequently can I anticipate being checked on?
9. How does your senior living community handle complaints?
No community is perfect; however excellent senior living communities are committed to great care and continual service improvements. They have an open-door policy, actively soliciting and addressing feedback from families, residents, and staff. Ask how the community manages concerns- specifically- their policies and feedback loop. Quality communities are transparent and should be happy to provide this information.
10. Can you talk to references?
All good senior living communities have a long list of glowing reviews. Ask if you can talk to some residents or their families to get a feel for what life in the community is really like. If they say no, consider it a red flag.
11. How much will it cost?
Many seniors prefer to avoid talking about money. But with a decision this big, you shouldn’t feel like you’re being stingy or cheap by asking specific, direct financial questions. The reality is that finances are a major factor in choosing a senior living community. Some questions to ask include:
- What is the base price per month or year?
- How are costs paid, and will they change over time?
- What is the cost for the amenities and living arrangements I saw on my tour?
- What specific amenities are included in the base price? Regular visits with staff? Laundry? Meals? What add-ons do I have to pay for, and at what cost?
- Which utilities—cable, internet, emergency call systems, etc.—are included in the rent?
12. How do you collaborate and communicate with families and residents?
Ideally, the senior living community you choose should feel like an extension of your family. Particularly for seniors who have evolving or complex medical needs, fostering communication between the senior, their family, and their medical team is vital. Ask what they do to ensure regular updates on care and the happenings in the community. How are official communications provided, and does the community take into account resident feedback? Is there a resident leadership or advisory board? It’s a big red flag if communication runs only one way, with residents learning about changes only after they have happened.
In addition, ask about the transition to the community. Is there a welcoming committee? What about a resident orientation?
For more information, download our Complete Guide to Choosing Between Senior Living Options. Or, contact us today to schedule your virtual tour!