What to Ask (and Look For) When It’s Time to Explore Senior Living Communities
When you or a loved one decide to make the move to a senior living community, the number of factors, changes, and needs to be met can be overwhelming. Take a deep breath and start by considering what you need the most. It is important to find out the community’s quality of life and ask essential questions before committing to your new home.
The first step is to schedule a visit and tour. To save yourself some time, start with a few important questions over the phone. Depending on your priorities, the phone call may focus more on living space or on medical assistance.
We recommend asking open-ended (not just “yes or no”) questions. “Yes” and “no” are quick answers, can easily be incorrect, and don’t give enough details for a good decision.
Example of a “yes or no” question: “Do you have laundry facilities in the building?”
Example of an open-ended question: “How many laundry facilities are in the building, and where are they located?”
If the answer is “10 washers and 10 dryers, and on each floor,” this will give you an immediate idea of laundry frequency, traffic, and availability.
The Initial Phone Call
How many residents are currently living there, and how many staff?
The staff-to-resident ratio may have changed since they last calculated, so find out each number, clarify how many of the staff number are actually providing care for the residents, and ask if that number changes during the day and evening.
The first concern is that when there are many residents and fewer staff, it may take much longer to get attention and care in an urgent situation. When this is the case in assisted living, both the level and quality of care may go down. Just as important, having more staff to spend a good amount of time with the residents strengthens that relationship and helps the resident feel seen. An example of a high staff-to resident ratio is 1:4, or one care staff member to every four residents. (If the community has 100 residents, this would mean a care staff of at least 25.)
How many medical experts are on staff 24/7?
Be sure to ask for the number of doctors, nurses, and physician assistants. Ask what times they are available.
What experience does your staff have with (medical diagnosis of the loved one/resident-to-be), and can they administer medications?
This is important to ask if you or your loved one have a diagnosis needing frequent and/or specific medical attention.
What services does the monthly rent not include?
We recommend first finding out what’s not covered. It’s likely a shorter list, and there may be something on there that will help narrow down your options much more quickly.
What are your security measures for the building and for resident rooms?
You may ask whether entry is by code or key fob and if there are security guards present. This will give you an idea of the building and personal safety, and may help you narrow down your list.
How much notice is required for moving out and are there penalties?
While this may not be a deal-breaker, this is important to note ahead of time for the possibility of an emergency relocation.
During a Visit: Observe Everything
When you arrive for your visit, keep a general quality of life in mind (along with your list of questions). As the new home for you or your loved one, it will be the new place of safety, comfort, and support, so it needs to provide all three. Consider the following:
Chat with the residents. How often, and how popular, are the location activities? Do the residents enjoy them? Do they enjoy spending time together, both at home and out in the world? Most importantly, do they feel connected to, and supported by, the staff?
Physical health and hygiene
Take time to include a meal as part of your tour. Are there healthy and well-made meal options? What kind of exercise facilities are on the property, and do they offer options for those with limited mobility? Are the residents generally groomed in appearance, and are there enough staff to help with bathing needs? How clean are the facilities? Are there any unpleasant or harsh smells?
Mental and emotional health
Are there gardens, ponds, or balconies on the property? Are the common areas also used by the staff for their breaks? How much natural light comes into the building? Is the artificial light gentle and warm? Are pets allowed?
Is the building in a safe area? Is it busy with traffic? How far away are grocery stores, pharmacies, parks, and churches? Is public transportation easily and quickly available?
Era Living is here to help
Since 1987, Era Living continues to be dedicated to fostering a healthy and engaging environment of holistic wellness, culture, warmth, and exciting social opportunities at each of our eight Seattle-area communities.
We’re here to answer all of your questions and help you or your loved one feel immediately at home and ready to thrive. Get in touch with us today.