Choosing the right assisted living community can be daunting. One facility isn’t the same as another. The differences can be small, but in many cases they can be major. Whatever the case, keep one thing in mind—you can tell a lot about a place from the people who live and work there.
“Be thorough,” says Sherri McInnis, director of sales at Kirkwood Redding. “Determine what it is that you want, or if you’re deciding for a loved one, look through their eyes and see what it is they would want.”
Here are a few questions to ask in choosing a community for yourself or a loved one:
What makes you comfortable? In many ways, choosing an assisted living community comes down to personal preferences. With that in mind, you should take a stroll through the entire community during a visit, and not just look at the available apartments. Are the residents and staff friendly and welcoming? Is the community a size in which you’d be comfortable? When considering living space, think of the common areas, dining room and other shared spaces as part of “your space,” not just the apartment you’re considering. Ultimately, the place that makes you feel at home is the right place for you.
Does a community have enough activities to keep you busy? Review the activities calendar. If you’re a social type, then a community with little happening probably isn’t the place for you. But if you prefer to keep social engagements to a minimum, you may appreciate the relative quiet. Also, check the amenities—are there fitness facilities, a library, chapel, transportation—but don’t get caught up with features you probably wouldn’t use anyway. What’s important, are those amenities that serve your needs?
What’s on the menu? “How goes the food, so goes the attitude,” says McInnis. Take a look at the daily menus of any community and you will get a taste of what to expect. It only makes sense that good food helps keep people happy. Be sure to dine at the communities you’re considering.
How would you rate the level of care? Safety and quality of care are critically important issues at any assisted living community. Every state has its own regulatory agencies and standards for licensed communities. In California it’s the Department of Social Services’ Community Care Licensing Division.
One last suggestion … while it’s usually good to make an appointment for a tour, you should also drop in unannounced as part of your review process. “You’ll get an immediate feel for a community as soon as you walk in the door,” says McInnis.
*This post is excerpted from an original interview first published in November 2011.