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What to Consider when Choosing a Senior Living Community

by Nanci Levy | Jun 03, 2021

courtyard

Are you considering a move into a Senior Living Community, or helping a family member to make that decision? With the wide variety of communities to choose from these days, it can be quite overwhelming to know where and how to begin your search. And with the recent COVID pandemic, you may have additional concerns.

To help you get started, we have compiled this list of some questions to ask during your research of Senior Living Communities, as well as things to think about when considering your options.

How much is it going to cost? Affordability is one of the top concerns of those who are looking into Senior Living options. These are some questions you may want to ask about pricing and cost:

What plans are offered and what is the pricing structure? And do these fees increase annually?

What is included?

  • Routine home maintenance and repairs
  • Exterior maintenance and/or landscaping
  • Appliances
  • Utilities, such as gas, water, electric
  • Cable, phones and internet
  • Trash pick-up
  • Housekeeping and/or laundry
  • Furnishings
  • Transportation
  • Care needs

Is financial assistance available?

Do they accept long-term care insurance?

Is there an entrance fee or buy in? If so, what does that cover?

Are any of these costs tax deductible?

What is the difference in costs for changes in levels of care (i.e.: from independent living to assisted living, etc.?)

What Social and Wellness Activities are offered? Maintaining social connections and keeping physically and mentally active are critical to maintaining a sense of fulfillment at any stage of life. Check to see that the community offers the kinds of activities that appeal to you.

What does their schedule of activities look like? Get a copy. Does it change month to month?

Do they offer Art classes, lectures, movies, or other cultural activities that appeal to you?

What kinds of exercise or movement classes are offered?

Do they have a pool? Fitness or work out room?

Who leads exercise and other classes?

Do they plan trips outside the community?

Are there any clubs offered?

Do they provide access to religious services of any kind, on or off premises?

Do they offer events for residents? And if so, what kinds? And are guests permitted to attend?

What are the dining options? Meals are a very important part of any Senior Living Community, providing an opportunity for socializing, and should be an enjoyable experience. Some questions that you may want to ask about meals and dining options are:

How many meals are covered per day? Is there a meal plan?

Does the menu vary? Are there choices to order off the menu? Ask to see a menu.

Are snacks included?

What kinds of beverages are included?

Can family or friends join for meals? If so, what is the extra cost?

What are the meal times? Are reservations needed for meals?

Who will you be seated with at meals? Open seating or assigned?

Is there a dress code?

Are meals covered by a nutrition plan? Is there a nutritionist on staff?

What types of dining are available? Is there more than one to choose from? Formal, casual, to-go?

Do they offer private dining for special events, like birthdays or other occasions? Is there a rental fee?

Are there kosher/vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free or other dietary options?

If not offered, ask to join them for a meal so that you can sample their food.

What are the policies for visits from Family and Friends? If you are someone who has always enjoyed entertaining and welcoming guests into your home, it is a good idea to find out what the policies are for visits from guests.

Are there visiting time?

Are there limits to how many visitors are allowed at any time?

Can you have parties or entertain large groups? Is there a noise policy?

Can you bring friends and family to group activities?

Are there guest rooms available for guests to stay in?

Can you host guests in a public area of the community?

What are the levels of care offered? When you choose a community to live in, you may want to consider one that offers multiple levels of care so that you won’t need to leave the community as you age and your health care needs change.

What services do they offer? (Assisted Living? Skilled Nursing? Rehabilitation? Memory Care? Hospice?)

Can you continue to live in one level of care and access other services?

How far away is the nearest hospital?

Can you continue to use your health care provider?

Do they have an in-house physician?

Can staff administer medication?

What is their staffing ratio?

What advanced degrees are required of staff members?

Are staff available 24/7?

What is the care staff turnover like?

Is the community licensed and inspected regularly?

What are your COVID precautions? In this age of COVID, there are some questions that you may want to ask that pertain to precautions, policies and procedures. Bear in mind that COVID precautions will change as the Health Department guidance changes in response to the level of COVID in a local community.

Do residents have to be vaccinated against COVID? If not, what percentage has been?

What percentage of the staff has been vaccinated against COVID?

Are masks still required, and if so, where and when?

What COVID restrictions are in place on residents, activities, visitation or other, if any?

Does it feel like home? When visiting a facility, make sure to look around and try to get a feel for the community. And trust your gut.

Does it feel comfortable? Do you feel at home?

Are the people who live and work there friendly? Do they seem happy?

Is it clean?

Does it feel like a place that you would want to live?

Ask to speak with current residents and/or family members.

And, other general questions you may want to consider.

Are pets allowed?

What types of homes/apartments are available? (patio homes, townhomes, studio, one bedroom, two bedroom apartments?)

If they are still building homes, can you customize?

Is there additional storage?

Is there a garage, or other parking available?

What kind of security is there? Gates, security guard, alarm?

What is the average age of residents?

Are they a Continuing Care Retirement Community, offering a full continuum of care?

How many residents live in the community? In each level of care?

Does the owner of this property have additional locations/properties?

Ask to see a state survey or Department of Health evaluation

Making a move to a Senior Living Community is a very big decision, and a very personal one. Hopefully this list of questions will give you something to think about, and help guide you through this process, making it perhaps a little less overwhelming and maybe a little more exciting as you embark on the next chapter of your life!