What to Look for In an Assisted Living Facility* (Part 1)

Let’s say you or your adult children think it’s time to investigate an assisted living facility. Where do you begin your search and then, how do you choose the best one for you? There seem to be so many things to consider—the accommodations, the food, safety measures, the staff, social activities, the opinions of current residents, and more.

Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a few places you would really like to check out, what should you do next? In each facility, you will be given a tour. Here are some important features to look for.

In the residents’ apartments or units, are there walk-in showers with no raised lip, a bench or seat, and water you can access while seated? Is there a built-in health alert system, bathroom and kitchen sinks at wheelchair height, and doors you can lock to ensure privacy and security? How is the food? This is crucial. Ask to have a meal or two in the dining room. If you don’t like the food, that’s a deal-breaker.

Now take a walk around the community. Is there good lighting to prevent falls? Are the door and entrances ADA compliant so that wheelchairs and walkers can easily get through them? Are the floors, sidewalks, and curbs easy to navigate?

As you walk around be alert to whether the place is generally clean, well maintained, freshly painted, and welcoming. Here’s a tougher question: how do you feel? What is your gut reaction to the space, the atmosphere, and the people you may have talked to? Do you see yourself living here?

In other words, play detective. Ask questions. Observe and evaluate everything. And keep checking in with your gut reaction. Then, if possible, come back and do another tour. All of that effort is only for the first place on your list. Repeat the entire process with each of the assisted living communities you want to sample. Compare them to each other. The best way to narrow down the list is to eliminate the ones that don’t make the grade. Eventually, you’ll have the best of the bunch and can make a decision.

There is one more thing you can do to convince yourself that you have made the best possible choice: do a “test run.” Ask if you can become a temporary resident and live there for a while. That will convince you one way or another if this is the right place for you. If you do your homework, you will make the best possible choice.

*Based on suggestions from the California Department of Social Services