Questions to Ask Assisted Living

Beautiful living spaces, access to individualized care, a convenient location for visiting family members and friends—these are just a few of the many advantages you or your loved one can enjoy at an assisted living community. Sometimes, it’s obvious what to look for as you search for senior care, but sometimes in the hustle and bustle of touring communities, you may forget to ask some very important questions.

In this guide, we’re highlighting must-ask questions when researching or touring assisted living facilities—as well as a few tips to help you or your parent(s) make a smooth transition into the right community. Keep on reading to discover questions that will help you evaluate all of the senior living locations ahead of you…

Questions to Ask at the Beginning

From the very beginning of the process, always keep the future in mind. Even if you or your parent(s) don’t need much assistance now, that could change down the line. The last thing you want is to suddenly need extra care and have to do this process all over again. These should be some of the first questions you ask upon stepping through the doors of a community.

Example Questions:

  • What levels of care does the community have
  • Can residents smoothly transition to a higher level of care if needs change?
  • Can residents receive medical services (such as physical, occupational, or speech therapy) without having to leave the community?
  • How much help can a resident get with activities of daily living?
  • Is memory care available if a resident develops Alzheimer’s disease?
  • Are there services in place if short-term rehabilitation is needed?
  • What is the average age of the typical resident?
  • What is the community’s reputation/rating?

Questions About the Rooms

A new home cannot really feel like home if a person doesn’t like the space they’re living in. As the place that the senior will spend almost half of their time, the questions asked about the rooms may be some of the most important when choosing an assisted living community. Of course, questions may come about when actually inside the room, but here are a few to think about before the tour.

Example questions:

  • What are the room types available?
  • Are the rooms mostly shared or private?
  • If shared, how are roommates selected?
  • What are the bathroom facilities like? Are they up to date?
  • Are bathrooms equipped with safety features such as grab bars and step-in showers?
  • Are there multiple lighting options for each room?
  • Are there emergency pull cords or other types of safety systems used to alert nursing staff when a resident falls or experiences another emergency?
  • Do the rooms have refrigerators or microwaves?
  • Can a resident customize their room?
  • Do all the rooms have windows with a pleasant view?

Questions About Social Activities and Lifestyle

All senior living communities have activities. Your job is to evaluate the quality of the activities that a community provides and how they will engage a senior socially, emotionally, and cognitively. Ask questions to see if the community goes beyond bingo games, like providing opportunities for visiting guest speakers, live music, movie nights, and events outside the facility.

Example questions:

  • What is the schedule for all activities in the community?
  • Is the schedule of activities varied enough from week to week?
  • Who oversees the activities and services provided for residents’ well-being?
  • Does the community allow residents to live as independently as possible?
  • Do the residents have opportunities to interact with people from nearby communities?
  • Are there any limitations on visitors?
  • If able, can a resident go on independent outings?
  • Can visitors take residents out on independent outings?
  • How do transportation services work? Is driving still possible?
  • Can residents arrange for transportation to places like shopping malls, grocery stores, and doctor’s appointments?

Questions About Dining

Most assisted living communities provide three nutritious meals a day, but there are many other things to consider that may make one place more accommodating than the other. For example, some places may be better equipped to help people with high blood pressure or heart disease by offering low-fat, low-sodium meals. Moreover, it may be important to some people that a community prioritizes home-cooked food using fresh and natural ingredients.

Example questions:

  • What is a typical menu?
  • When are meals and snacks served?
  • What is the condition of the community’s kitchen? Is it well-stocked and sanitary?
  • Is the dining room clean and orderly?
  • Are kitchen staff members trained to accurately manage dietary restrictions?
  • Are residents allowed to keep food or snacks in their rooms?
  • Can family members share a meal with residents?
  • Do facilities exist for families to host private parties?

Questions About Amenities

Residents in assisted living communities can expect the facilities to be well-kept, with services designed to engage them and help them stay healthy. If there aren’t common areas or opportunities where a person can gather with other residents, then a resident may be forced to spend a lot of time in their apartment leading to a lower quality of life.

Example questions:

  • Is there a library, theater, billiard room, pool, etc.?
  • Is there a private dining room?
  • What are the policies related to pets? Is there a fee?
  • Does the community provide housekeeping services in personal living spaces? What about laundry services?
  • Is there access to telephone, cable TV, and internet?

Questions About the Outside/Structure

Getting outside for some exercise or a breath of fresh air is important regardless of age. As you look for assisted living, you’ll want to ask what kind of outdoor spaces and recreation areas are available in addition to taking a look at the physical condition and location of the campus.

Example questions:

  • What is the overall presentation of the campus? Is it clean?
  • Does the community have beautiful outdoor recreation areas?
  • Are there walking paths?
  • Is there a courtyard to enjoy nature or gather with friends?
  • Is it in a good location close to many senior-friendly conveniences?
  • How are the buildings and facilities maintained?
  • Are there ample parking spaces for residents and visitors?
  • How secure is the community?
  • Are hallways easy to access, with plenty of lighting, handrails, and space for wheelchairs?
  • Are there clearly marked emergency exits, fire detectors, and sprinkler systems installed?

Questions About the Staff Members

Finding staff members with a great attitude is critical—but so is finding team members who know how to engage with residents so that their retirement years are enriching and fulfilling. Try to look for a team of professionals who truly care about residents and want to interact with and be a part of their lives. Discern if the community leaders communicate energy and enthusiasm about their role, because their attitudes will have a significant impact on a person’s care. If you’re on an assisted living tour, see if team members know residents’ names and try to listen to conversations to get a feel for their friendliness.

Example questions:

  • Does the community have a highly engaged team?
  • Do staff members appear at all times to treat residents with care and respect?
  • How do staff members behave toward not just residents, but also visiting guests? Is there a warm greeting from staff inviting them into the community?
  • Are staff members appropriately dressed and professional?

Questions About the Caregivers

The most caring team of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and personal support workers can’t always ensure quality caregiving. The reality is, the entire senior living experience depends on how many caregivers the community has hired compared to the number of residents. The community’s staff-to-resident ratio is an important factor for the quality of care a resident will receive.

Example questions:

  • What is the average number of caregivers available?
  • How many residents are currently living in the community?
  • What happens if a resident needs care beyond the skill level of the community’s staff members?
  • How many staffers work at any given time, including overnights?
  • What is the caregivers’ training in such areas as safety, emergency care, first aid, mental health, residents’ rights and medication administration?
  • Who is in charge of medication management and other health care plans?
  • Does the facility provide mental health care services?

Questions about Finances

When an older adult moves into an assisted living facility, he or she is making a big financial decision. So consider if a care community provides the financial guidance needed to ensure a good investment for the future. Observe how a community answers questions about rent rates, costs, and other details, because all financial information should be transparent and straightforward.

Example questions:

  • What financial guidance does the community offer?
  • What is the specific pricing, and does that change over time or based on the services used?
  • What is the discharge policy?
  • Is the facility financially stable?
  • What happens if a resident outlives their resources?
  • What does the monthly fee cover?
  • What additional services are not included in standard fees?
  • What are the policies related to transitioning to another unit or level of care? How might that impact someone financially?
  • What are the policies related to refunds?
  • What are the payment options?

Need help? Browse Assisted Living Communities at Caring Advisor

Determining whether a community has cultivated an environment where you or your loved one can thrive will depend on the answer to each of the previous questions. It’s about evaluating a community as a whole. Dig deep, and ask, “Can I see myself or my parent living here? Is this a place that’s full of life and promotes health, happiness, and wellness?” For help answering this question and finding the right place, search our database for the best assisted living near you.