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Assisted Living Checklists to Help You Choose the Right One

When you’re looking for an assisted living facility for someone you love, it can be really difficult. You want to choose one that’s good for them and you also want to make sure it’s well-run, clean, and affordable. You’ll also have to make sure you’re getting a good idea of what the community is like, not simply what their advertising is saying it’s like.

This process won’t have to be overwhelming or intimidating. Below are some simple steps to help with narrowing down your choices and finding the one that is best for your needs.

We’ve included some checklists and questions that you want to ask yourself.

Research Checklist

Do Research Online

Start out with doing online research so that you can find the facilities that are close to your family member or you. These questions below can help you with narrowing down your options.

  • Is it near important places such as doctor’s offices, shops, and the pharmacy? Google Maps is a great way to look and see what is around.
  • Are the places convenient so that friends and family will be able to visit? This is another good job for Google Maps.
  • If it’s not close to you, are there nearby hotels that you can stay in when you are visiting? Trip Advisor is a good way to find hotels in the area.
  • Is it a generally safe neighborhood or is the crime rate high? Sites like Neighborhood Scout, Trulia, and Crime Reports are great sites for helping you with evaluating neighborhood crime rate and safety.
  • What do other people say about the community?
  • Is there any information about them on the BBB website?

Research by Phone

When you speak with someone by telephone, find out if they have spots open right now. If they don’t, ask about the waiting list. You want to remember that families will often put their name on a waiting list of different facilities. Therefore, that list might be as long as it seems. Don’t be afraid to put your name down because it’s a long list. You also want to ask some questions about the price. The price is going to vary based on the needs of the person, so you don’t want to get into specifics. It’s a good idea to ask some general questions to get a good idea of their price range, though.

  • What payment types do they accept and are there programs in place to help people with affording care?
  • If there are negative reviews online about the facility, what’s their explanation or response?
  • When are tours offered and what’s the length of the tour?
  • What will be shown when you’re on the tour? Can you try the food? Can you meet with some residents?

Tour Facility Checklist

According to experts, when choosing an assisted living facility you should go with your gut. Even when a facility has advertising and looks beautiful it can be a dreary cold place. On the other hand, older facilities can be happy and cheerful. When you go for a visit or even a few, it can help you with determining if that’s the right community to choose.

Deciding on how to tour the facility is going to be a bit harder, particularly if you’re coming from far away or your family member isn’t really mobile. It might be a good idea to tour a few facilities before you bring them to see the ones that you like the best. Or ask a family member or friend to come with you and take some photos and notes.

Before the visit, review the checklist, circle or underline those questions that are most important. Cross off those that aren’t relevant.at

On your Way In:

  • Neighborhood: Is it pleasant and quiet?
  • Parking: Is the parking outside easy, along with handicapped spots?
  • Parking: If they’ll be bringing a car, is there assigned parking?
  • Building: Is its outside attractive and clean?
  • Grounds: Are they attractive with trees and plants?
  • Lobby: Are there enclosed and safe areas where the residents can socialize and walk?

The greeting

The majority of tours will begin in their lobby or in somebody’s office. The marketing director or another member of staff is going to spend some time talking with you about their general community. They should ask some questions about what you’d like to see and your needs, so they can tailor your tour to you.

  • Is your tour guide likable?
  • Do they seem to be listening and addressing your questions and needs?
  • Are you feeling pressured at all, like they’re trying to sell you?
  • Are they only speaking with you or are they also trying to include your family member, who will be living there?
  • Is it possible for you to speak with other members of the staff besides your tour guide, either informally after or during your tour or formally?

Your Walking Tour

When you are walking around, you shouldn’t be concerned about crossing things off the checklist. You should pay attention to the things you’re hearing, feeling, smelling, and seeing in each area of the facility. Try talking to staff members and residents, just not their marketing director. This is going to help with you getting a more complete idea of what it’s really like to live there.

Common spaces:

  • Atmosphere: Are they appealing and pleasant?
  • Number of Spaces: What’s the number of rooms where residents are able to spend time with one another, along with their friends and family members who are visiting? Is it easy to imagine the person using them?
  • Hallways: Are they easily navigated and well-lit? Do they have a lot of room so that wheelchairs can go down them and safety handrails?
  • Pets: Are they allowed? If not, does the community have shared pets, like cats, dogs, birds, fish or miniature horses?
  • Plants: Do you see any? If there are, are they taken care of and free from dust?

Living Spaces:

  • Are they private rooms or will the person have a roommate?
  • Can you view all of the various kinds of rooms they offer?
  • Does every room come with its own handicapped accessible, private bathroom or is the bathroom shared?
  • Can the resident bring in personal possessions such as mementos and photos?
  • Is there enough storage and closet space?
  • Does each room have an attractive room and good lighting?


  • Is the dining room attractive and clean?
  • What meals are provided? How many?
  • Does the facility provide snacks and when and how do the residents get them?
  • Is the community able to cater to special requests and particular dietary needs?
  • Is it permitted for them to bring food to the room or/and does the room come with a kitchen?
  • Is it possible for visitors to join their loved ones for meals?
  • Does it seem like the residents enjoy the food?
  • Is it possible for you to have a taste of the food, or perhaps even try it for yourself at mealtime?
  • Do they provide private rooms for family dinners or celebrations?


  • Do you see a varied, posted activity schedule and do you see anything on it that your family member might participate in or enjoy?
  • Is there any interaction scheduled with the outside community, such as regular outings or volunteers coming in?

The pitch

Chances are that your tour’s going to end in one of the common spaces or an office. This is when the tour guide’s likely going to ask some questions and answer yours. This is also when you’re going to get their pitch – when they are going to promote the community as the choice you should make. If it’s possible, you want to request a minute to review the checklist right before or following the conversation. Check off the items that had been addressed and the ones you’ve had answered. If at this point you are still interested, ask any questions that you have remaining that you want to be answered, or make a note to ask them during a follow-up visit or phone call.

Follow-Up Checklist

If you have had a positive initial visit, here are some tips on following up:

Surprise visit

Within 1 or 2 weeks after your first visit, go in unannounced. The best time to go is on the weekend or at night. If you are still happy with it and it is like the way that it looks during your daytime tour, this is a good sign. If it’s a completely different atmosphere, chances are that you might want to look into other facilities. If you’re not allowed in unless you’ve had a tour, chances are that you want to look elsewhere because they might have something to hide.

Documents You Should Request

One thing you should do is to get copies of these documents we’ve listed below. They’re going to help you with comparing the facilities.

  • Admission contract sample
  • Resident Bill of Rights
  • State regulatory inspector survey results – most recent
  • Weekly events and activities list – most recent
  • A menu of snacks and meals – most recent

Follow-up discussions

Schedule another phone call or visit so that you can ask the following questions that are more detailed about care, services, and costs.

  • What will be the cost for the person? This answer is going to be different based on their needs, so you want to give plenty of time to have this conversation.
  • Make sure that the staff’s understanding the person’s needs and they’re clearly communicating their answers?
  • Does this cost include any service fees, such as fees for laundry or for moving in?
  • Do they charge extra for transportation costs for outings or doctor appointments?
  • What might make costs to go up?
  • How’s facility funded? Is its funding stable?
  • Will the community offer help with paperwork that involved with getting Medicaid, V.A.? Medicare, and the other sources that can help with getting care paid for?


  • How many patients to each staff member?
  • What’s the rate of turnover for staff?
  • Does the facility do background checks on staff before they’re hired? If they do them, how and when are they done?
  • What’s the amount of training that staff members get?
  • How does it avoid burnout among staff and keep them happy and productive?
  • Do they have an LVN, CAN or RN employed?

Care plan:

  • Will they assess the needs of your loved one and develop a written plan of care? Who helps with creating this care plan? When will they reassess the needs?
  • What type of particular care’s available from occupational therapists, doctors, physical therapists, nurses and others?
  • How is medication management handled, and is the person trained well?
  • Does the facility have a nursing home or hospital if there’s more care required?
  • What procedures are there for medical emergencies?

Other questions:

  • Is it required that the residents carry renter’s insurance?
  • Do they provide housekeeping for each unit, and is that included?
  • Are beauty and barber services provided, and is that included?
  • Do they allow pets?
  • Do they provide religious services or are there options nearby?
  • Can you visit anytime or are there visiting hours that you have to adhere to?
  • Are overnight guests allowed, like when someone is visiting from far away?
  • How is couple private time accommodated if only one of them is living in the facility?
  • What’s the policy of the facility of resident sexual interaction? If they are a good one, they’ll have a policy in writing?
  • What’s the preparedness strategy for the facility in case of an emergency? Is there an evacuation plan or backup generator?
  • Do they have day programs for adults? There are a lot of people who are going to feel better about moving there if they’ve already made some friends in the facility.

Temporary stay

Have you found a place that you really like but you’re still not convinced? Talk to the facility and see if temporary stays are possible for 3 to 7 days. A lot of these facilities offer these temporary stays with their respite program. Therefore, short trials are often possible. This type of short stay’s going to be the most accurate and best way to find out what it’s going to be like to live there.

It’s hard to think about making this decision for someone that we love. But when you find the right assisted care facility, you and your loved one are both going to be comfortable and enjoy life.

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