Questions to Ask When Researching Assisted Living Facilities

November 16, 2016

Like most major decisions, selecting an assisted living facility begins with research. Recommendations from family, friends, medical practitioners, and current assisted living residents can be invaluable. Once you’ve determined one or (preferably) more assisted living communities to visit, don’t go unprepared. In other words, don’t leave home without a checklist, be it mental or on paper.

Inquire About the Environment

The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) recommends that you carefully survey the community and ask the following questions about the environment:

  • Do you like its location and outward appearance?
  • As you enter the lobby and tour the community, do you receive a warm greeting from staff welcoming you to the community?
  • Does the executive director call residents by name and interact warmly with them as you tour the community?
  • Do residents socialize with each other and appear happy and comfortable?
  • Are you able to talk with residents about how they like the community and staff?
  • Do the residents seem to be appropriate housemates for you or your loved one?
  • Are staff members appropriately dressed, personable and outgoing?
  • Do the staff members treat each other in a professional manner?
  • Are the staff members that you pass during your tour friendly to you?
  • Are visits with the resident welcome at any time?

Community Questions

In terms of the community’s physical features, ALFA advises you to ponder:

  • Is the community well-designed for your needs?
  • Is the floor plan easy to follow?
  • Are elevators available for those unable to use stairways?
  • Are handrails available to aid in walking?
  • Are floors of a non-skid material and carpets firm?
  • Does the community have good natural and artificial lighting?
  • Is the community clean, free of odors and appropriately heated/cooled?
  • Does the community have sprinklers, smoke detectors and clearly marked exits?

About the Apartments

Many assisted-living communities are in apartment-style settings. When visiting these types of properties, AFLA encourages you to ask yourself the following:

  • Are different sizes and types of apartments available
  • Are apartments for single and double occupancy available?
  • Do residents have their own lockable doors?
  • Do all apartments have a telephone, cable or satellite TV and Internet access? How is billing handled?
  • Is a 24-hour emergency response system accessible from the apartment?
  • Is a kitchen area provided with a refrigerator and sink?
  • May residents decorate their own apartments?
  • Are residents able to bring their own furnishings for their apartment? What may they bring? What is provided?

Specialized Training Considerations strongly recommends that prospective residents carefully vet the staff at any potential community. Be sure to ask administrators if their staff is skilled in areas including:

Resident Care Training

  • Assisting with Activities of Daily Living
  • Bloodborne Pathogens and Precautions
  • Caring for Bedridden Residents
  • Caring for People With Lung Diseases
  • Effects of Medications
  • Emergency Procedures
  • Fall Precautions
  • Feeding Assistance
  • Food Safety
  • Infection Control
  • Medication Management
  • Monitor Residents for Changes in Condition
  • Special Care Needs: Oxygen, Ostomy, Catheter and Skin Breakdown
  • Vital Signs
  • Wheelchairs and Other Ambulatory Aides

Dementia Care Training

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Effects of Medication on People With Dementia
  • Health Complications
  • Hydration

As you narrow down your choices for assisted living facilities, look closely into the community or facility’s standing with the state. Contact your state’s long-term-care ombudsman, who is an independent resident advocate with access to any complaints lodged against a facility and their outcome. Contact information is available from the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center online at or by calling (202) 332-2275. Illinois residents can also get a list of licensed communities from the Illinois Department of Public Health at or (217) 782-4977.

This post was excerpted from our Assisted Living Guide, which is available here for download.


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