Aug 21, 2023

How to choose an assisted living facility

Manny Cominsky

As our loved ones age, there may come a time when living at home is no longer a feasible option. When health and daily living tasks become challenging, an assisted living facility can provide the necessary support and care. However, not all assisted living facilities are created equal, and finding the right one for your parent or senior loved one requires careful consideration. In this comprehensive guide, we will provide an overview of assisted living facilities, discuss the services they offer, delve into the factors to consider when choosing a facility, and provide step-by-step guidance on finding the perfect assisted living community.

Understanding Assisted Living Facilities

Assisted living facilities are residential communities that cater to seniors who require assistance with daily living tasks but do not need the level of care provided in a nursing home. These facilities offer a range of services and amenities to help residents maintain their independence while receiving the support they need. From medication management to help with personal care, assisted living facilities aim to create a safe and comfortable environment for seniors to thrive.

Services Provided by Assisted Living Facilities

The services and amenities offered by assisted living facilities can vary, but there are common features that most communities provide. Here are some of the services you can expect:

Assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs): Assisted living facilities offer support with Activities of Daily Living such as bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, and mobility. Trained staff members are available to ensure residents' needs are met, and help monitor senior’s ability to complete these activities in order to ensure that they are staying healthy and active.

Medication Management: Many assisted living facilities have trained staff members who can assist residents with medication administration and monitoring. This ensures that medication is taken correctly and on time.

Meals and Dietary Support: Assisted living facilities typically provide three nutritious meals a day, along with snacks. Special dietary requirements can often be accommodated, ensuring that residents receive meals tailored to their needs.

Housekeeping and Laundry Services: Residents can enjoy the convenience of housekeeping and laundry services, which alleviate the burden of daily chores. This allows seniors to focus on enjoying their time and engaging in activities they love.

Social and Recreational Activities: Assisted living communities offer a range of social and recreational activities to promote engagement and well-being. These activities may include exercise classes, arts and crafts, outings, and entertainment options. Social interaction has been found to have incredible positive effects on seniors’ wellbeing. 

24/7 Staff Availability: Assisted living facilities have staff members available around the clock to address residents' needs and ensure their safety. This provides peace of mind for both residents and their families.

Transportation Services: Many assisted living facilities offer transportation services for medical appointments, shopping trips, and social outings. This ensures that residents can maintain their independence and stay connected with the community.

The Cost of Assisted Living Facilities

One important factor to consider when choosing an assisted living facility is the cost. The expenses associated with assisted living can vary depending on factors such as location, facility size, amenities, and the level of care required. It is essential to have a clear understanding of the costs involved to ensure that they align with your budget.

On average, monthly costs for assisted living facilities range from $3,000 to $6,000 or more. This cost typically covers accommodation, meals, utilities, housekeeping, and some level of care services. However, it's important to note that Medicare does not cover the cost of assisted living, and most residents pay out of pocket using their personal funds or long-term care insurance policies. Medicaid waiver programs and VA Aid and Attendance benefits may be available to those with limited financial resources or veterans, respectively. Exploring these options can help alleviate the financial burden of assisted living.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Assisted Living Facility

Selecting the right assisted living facility for your loved one requires careful evaluation of various factors. By considering these key aspects, you can make an informed decision that meets the unique needs and preferences of your parent or senior loved one.

Location and Accessibility

When choosing an assisted living facility, it's important to consider the location and accessibility. Determine whether you prefer a facility in the current community where your loved one resides or if proximity to supportive relatives or friends is a priority. Additionally, consider the availability of healthcare providers and other essential amenities in the vicinity. Being close to medical facilities and resources can be advantageous in case of emergencies or specialized care needs.

Facility Size and Environment

The size and environment of an assisted living facility play a significant role in the overall experience for residents. Some individuals may prefer a smaller, more intimate community, while others may thrive in a larger setting with more amenities and activities. Consider the atmosphere and ambiance of the facility during your visit. Is it warm, inviting, and conducive to social interaction? Assessing the community's culture and ensuring it aligns with your loved one's preferences is crucial for their comfort and happiness.

Services and Level of Care

Evaluate the range of services and level of care provided by each assisted living facility you are considering. Determine if the facility can meet your loved one's current needs and has the flexibility to accommodate changing needs in the future. Discuss any specific health concerns or conditions your loved one may have and inquire about specialized care options offered by the facility. It's essential to ensure that the services provided align with your loved one's requirements to promote their overall well-being.

Staff Qualifications and Caregiver Ratio

The qualifications and expertise of the staff are critical factors in choosing an assisted living facility. Inquire about the training and certifications of the caregiving staff, as well as the staff-to-resident ratio. A low staff turnover rate and a sufficient number of caregivers indicate a stable and supportive environment for residents. Engage with the staff during your visit to assess their friendliness, attentiveness, and overall demeanor. Remember, these individuals will be responsible for the day-to-day care and well-being of your loved one.

Safety and Security Measures

The safety and security measures implemented by the assisted living facility are paramount. Inquire about the safety features in place, such as handrails, grab bars, emergency call systems, and secure entrances and exits. Additionally, ask about the facility's protocols for emergency situations and the staff's training in handling emergencies. A secure and well-prepared environment will provide peace of mind for both residents and their families.

Social and Recreational Activities

Engagement and socialization are crucial components of a fulfilling assisted living experience. Assess the range of social and recreational activities offered by the facility. Look for a diverse calendar of events, outings, hobbies, and clubs that align with your loved one's interests and preferences. Inquire about the ability for residents to suggest new activities and the level of resident participation in planning and organizing events. An active and vibrant social community contributes to the overall quality of life for residents.

Dining Options and Nutritional Support

Food plays a vital role in the well-being of seniors, and the dining options provided by the assisted living facility are essential considerations. Inquire about the quality and variety of meals offered, as well as any special dietary accommodations available. Look for dining spaces that are inviting and conducive to social interaction. Consider whether residents have the flexibility to choose their meal times and the option to invite guests for shared meals. Nutritional support is crucial, and ensuring that the facility meets your loved one's dietary needs is essential for their health and satisfaction.

Reviews and Recommendations

Seek out reviews and recommendations from current or past residents and their families. Online platforms, such as review websites and social media groups, can provide valuable insights into the experiences of others. Pay attention to both positive and negative feedback, and consider any recurring themes or concerns raised. Additionally, ask the assisted living facility for references or the opportunity to speak with current residents or their families. Hearing firsthand experiences can offer valuable perspectives and help you make an informed decision.

Financial Considerations

Understanding the financial aspects of assisted living is crucial for selecting a facility that aligns with your budget. Inquire about the cost structure, including monthly fees, additional charges for specific services, and any potential rate increases in the future. Ask for a copy of the contract and review it carefully to ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of the costs involved. If financial constraints are a concern, explore options such as Medicaid waiver programs or VA Aid and Attendance benefits, if applicable.

Trust your Instincts

Ultimately, trust your instincts when choosing an assisted living facility. Pay attention to how you feel during your visit and interactions with staff and residents. Consider the overall atmosphere, cleanliness, and general maintenance of the facility. Are residents engaged and content? Does the community feel like a place where your loved one could thrive? It's essential to choose a facility that aligns with your intuition and provides a sense of comfort and security.

Steps to Finding the Perfect Assisted Living Facility

Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of the factors to consider when choosing an assisted living facility, let's explore the step-by-step process to help you find the perfect community for your loved one.

Step 1: Research and Referrals

Begin your search by conducting thorough research and seeking referrals from various sources. Consult your parent's doctor, hospital discharge planners, friends, neighbors, and trusted professionals in the senior care industry. These individuals can provide valuable insights and recommendations based on their experiences or expertise.

Step 2: Create a Shortlist

Compile a shortlist of assisted living facilities that align with your loved one's needs, preferences, and location criteria. Consider the factors discussed earlier, such as services provided, staff qualifications, and the overall environment. This shortlist will serve as the foundation for further evaluation and comparison.

Step 3: Conduct Initial Phone Inquiries

Contact each facility on your shortlist to gather initial information. Inquire about availability, pricing, services, and any specific questions you may have. Request brochures or information packets to review in detail.

Step 4: Schedule Facility Visits

Schedule visits to the top facilities on your shortlist. Take the time to tour the community, meet the staff, and observe the overall atmosphere. Ask for a copy of the admissions contract and residence rules to review later.

Step 5: Ask Detailed Questions

During your facility visits, ask detailed questions to gain a comprehensive understanding of each community. Inquire about staff qualifications, caregiver-to-resident ratio, safety measures, social and recreational activities, dining options, and any other concerns specific to your loved one's needs. Take notes to aid in the decision-making process.

Step 6: Engage with Staff and Residents

Interact with the staff and residents during your facility visits. Observe the interactions between staff and residents, and inquire about resident satisfaction and involvement in decision-making processes. Engaging with current residents and their families can provide valuable insights into the day-to-day experiences within the community.

Step 7: Assess Contracts and Financial Considerations

Carefully review the admissions contract and residence rules of each facility you are considering. Pay close attention to fees, services included, potential rate increases, and any clauses related to eviction or changes in care needs. Evaluate the financial implications and ensure that the costs align with your budget and expectations.

Step 8: Seek References and Conduct Background Checks

Request references from the assisted living facilities and reach out to current or past residents and their families. Inquire about their experiences and any challenges they may have encountered. Additionally, conduct background checks on the facilities to ensure they have a positive track record and comply with state regulations.

Step 9: Trust your Instincts and Make a Decision

After completing thorough research, facility visits, and assessments, trust your instincts and make a decision based on what feels right for your loved one. Consider all the information you have gathered and weigh the pros and cons of each facility. Remember, choosing an assisted living facility is a significant decision, and it's important to select a community that provides the care, support, and environment your loved one deserves.

To learn more about how Sunbound can help make senior care more affordable for you or your loved one, send us an email at or request more information on Sunbound. Sunbound is the best way to pay for senior living and senior care and is on a mission to make senior living affordable for everyone.

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