Tips for Finding the Right Assisted Living Community


Published: 03/22/2012

by Michelle Seitzer


If you have decided that your loved one needs assisted living care, and she has agreed that the transition would be best for everyone, you’re halfway there. Getting this far may have been a difficult road, and the transition itself may not be easy, but making a decision about care is the first major step.


Now, it’s time to find the right place.


When you bought a house, you probably didn’t open the real estate section of your local newspaper, closed your eyes, spun around three times, and pointed your finger at a listing on the page, shouting “That’s where we’ll live!”


Instead, you probably first discussed it with your spouse/family, set a budget, outlined your preferences on location, size, and style, connected with a real estate professional, reviewed countless listings, and narrowed down your favorites before making an appointment to see the homes live. Most likely, you didn’t put a down payment or make a bid on a house you hadn’t seen for yourself.


Finding the right assisted living community for your loved one should follow a similar pattern. First things first: sit down with your Dad and ask him what kind of place he prefers: small and cozy in the countryside? a sprawling complex in the suburbs with a busy social calendar and friendly atmosphere? an urban high-rise apartment where he can be as independent as possible, accessing services only as needed?


Then, it’s time to talk about money. What can he afford? How much will be covered by long-term care insurance or his veterans’ benefits? Will he have to sell his home first to pay the entrance fee or monthly rent?


Next, explore the local options. You can search online with our Nursing Home Finder, flip through the phonebook, ask your family physician or friends whose loved ones that have already made the transition, ask for feedback from your social media networks, or get information from the Area Agency on Aging.


Even though some communities now offer virtual tours, pictures and website testimonials are not enough. The absolute best way to find the right assisted living community is to visit in person, and several times if possible. Why visit more than once? You should tour the community during different shifts so you can get a sense of how well-staffed and well-run the assisted living home is during “off-peak” hours (i.e. weekends and evenings), when managers and marketing directors aren’t around to talk up the place. Have a meal in the dining room -- not only to evaluate the quality of the food but to “size up” the atmosphere. Do residents interact with one another? How is the service from the dining staff?


When you visit, talk to the staff and residents. Tread carefully here, being certain to ask appropriate questions and taking the answers with a grain of salt. Though you may get biased answers, garnering perspective from the people who live and work there is a great way to determine if the community is a good fit.


Finally, ask lots of questions. What care services are offered? How are residents charged for additional services? What is covered in the monthly “rent”? If there were regulatory/code violations, what were they and how were they resolved? What’s the staff to resident ratio? It is your right as the consumer to obtain this information, and a good way to highlight -- or strikethrough -- the options on your list.