What Should You Look for in a Senior Living Community?

By Roxy FavrettoLast Updated June 24, 2020
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If you or an older loved one are currently searching for a senior living community, you may find that choosing the right place is no easy task. After all, it’s a big step to move from the home you’ve known for years into a whole new community. What’s more, there are so many residential options for seniors available that trying to narrow them down to just one can be overwhelming.

To make sure you or your loved one can live their best life in their new residence, there are a few things to keep in mind that will help ensure you choose the right retirement community. By looking out for these concerns as you tour senior living facilities, you’ll be able to make an informed decision.

Look Into the Staff

One of the first things you’ll want to take note of is the staff at the senior living community. Are they friendly, or do they barely look up when you walk by? Even more importantly, you should watch how they interact with other residents, especially when they think no one is paying attention.

You’ll also want to ask questions about the kinds of training staff members have, how many are assigned to each resident or activity and how many trained doctors and nurses may be on staff. Ultimately, these people will be responsible for you or your loved one’s needs, so you need to be sure that they’ll follow through on providing quality care and services after you move in.

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You can even do some research on the staff before even leaving your home. The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and other organizations can offer reviews and insights into not just the staff, but also other aspects of any facilities you might be considering.

Check for Cleanliness

Another important part of community life that you’ll want to investigate is how thoroughly the facility is cleaned, both in terms of visible grime and germs. Don’t just glance around; take a deeper look to see if there is dust on the furniture, a spill on the floor or soiled items sitting around. You should also see if staff follow basic cleanliness guidelines, such as properly washing their hands before handling food.

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You can also get a general feel for the cleanliness of a place by the way it smells. When you walk into a room, do you smell pleasant scents, like cleansers or baking food, or do you smell body odor, mold or potent air fresheners? You can also ask the staff how often residential rooms and common areas are cleaned and whether or not they provide extra services, like laundry.

Speak to Residents and Their Families

One of the best ways to get an idea of what it’s like to live in a particular senior community is to observe and talk to the other residents and their family members, as they’re likely to be more forthcoming with any problems than staff members. Try to visit during a meal or when other residents are participating in a group activity.

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Watch how they interact with the staff. If you feel comfortable, ask them what they like about the place. Is the food good? Are the activities fun? Ask about what they don’t like as well. Also, take notice of how long it takes for a staff member to tend to someone’s needs.

Safety and Security

The well-being of the residents should be the top priority at any senior living community, so you should ask what precautions are in place to keep yourself or your loved one safe. What happens if a resident has a medical emergency? What if there’s a fire or severe weather? Is there a plan in place to evacuate or head to a safe location? Can anyone walk into your loved one’s room or are people required to sign in when they visit?

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You’ll also want to check for safety features around the community. Are the bathrooms easy to access for people with wheelchairs and walkers? Are there rails along the walls for people with mobility issues? Is the place well-lit, and are certain doors locked or monitored throughout the day? How easy is it for your loved one to contact a staff member? If you or your loved one have special needs or a condition that’s likely to cause them in the next few years, you should keep them in mind while doing your search. Speaking of which...

Potential to Handle Special Needs

Many seniors move into an assisted living community because they have special needs that prevent them from living alone. They may have dementia, struggle with mobility or vision issues or need medication or treatments on a regular schedule. While you or your loved one may not have these problems now, they may occur in the future, so it’s important to determine if the community and its staff are equipped to handle them.

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Are staff members trained in working with patients who have dementia? If your loved one is in a wheelchair, is someone available to help him or her in and out of it as needed? How is medication administered? If your loved one is on oxygen, dialysis or requires some other type of regular medical intervention, how is this handled? A senior living community with robust medical facilities, either onsite or nearby, could make a big difference when it comes to quality of life.

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