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Shopping Around: When and How to Choose an Assisted Living Community

Shopping for Assisted Living: When to Start and What to Look For

If you or someone in your family has reached the point that you’re considering alternative living arrangements — an assisted living apartment or assisted living facility — it’s best to start early, before the need becomes too great. Why? For one thing, the clock is ticking on preserving personal independence. Typically, the best assisted living communities have a waiting list for their assisted living homes and apartments. A CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities found that 29% of senior housing communities have an admissions wait list. In fact, the average length of time a prospective resident waits for admittance is typically over 180 days. There’s no reason to let precious time slip away without making progress on your search. 

An elderly couple look at a computer together

It Takes Time to Compare

Choosing the assisted living community that’s right for your specific situation will likely take time for legwork and homework. Assisted living apartments, assisted living contracts and assisted living facilities in general can vary broadly. Some are home to just a small number of people, and others may have hundreds of residents. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to assisted living communities. They vary in size, appearance and the types of services they offer. There are also differences in the levels of assistance and care they offer and their associated costs.

Checking with your state or local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) or visiting the websites of LeadingAge and Argentum (formerly the Assisted Living Federation of America), can help you develop a short list of assisted living communities in your area to compare. Once you have specific communities in mind, you’ll need to gather relevant information about each of them.

An elderly woman makes a phone call

First Comes Research

Gathering information starts by calling to begin learning about the community’s location, size, types of service and more. You can request brochures, a price list, a site map and floor plans. You may also request copies of all documents that will need to be signed before admittance, including the residency contract. You should review everything carefully, bearing in mind that marketing literature and a residency contract are different in nature. The contract is legally binding.

When you’re ready, you should visit the community — in person or virtually. In fact, you should have several visits over the course of time. Some of these visits should be unannounced on a weekend or in the evening.

These visits, in addition to having your financial advisor and attorney review the occupancy contract, will provide vital information on which to base your comparisons. Then, of course, there are the costs of assisted living to consider. Medicare doesn’t cover assisted living. Most people pay for these services out of pocket. And though some states cover certain services under Medicaid, for the majority of people, assisted living costs must be paid through private resources.

Questions In Need of Answers

When evaluating options for assisted living, there are questions that most people will have concerning the physical accommodations, amenities, and the level of service and care available. Then there are questions that probe a little deeper about the staff, their training and level of experience, the availability of clinical professionals on-site and more. Finally, there are questions germane to your personal situation. You should spend time considering all this with your family to develop a checklist to keep in a notebook and refer to during an on-site visit or virtual visit.

These 20 questions will get you started:

1. What is the staff-to-resident ratio?

2. What type of training does your care staff complete?

3. Are staff members trained to care for residents with Alzheimer’s or other forms of memory loss?

4. Are staff members on-site 24/7?

5. Can staff administer medications?

6. Do you have nurses on staff?

7. Do you have an in-house physician?

8. What types of security and safety measures do you have in place?

9. Do you have experience with Alzheimer’s? Parkinson’s? Diabetes? (or the specific diagnosis of the person who will be moving to assisted living)

10. Do you complete an assessment prior to moving in?

11. What types of residences are available?

12. What is the monthly cost per residence? What are the differences in price?

13. What is your wait list policy?

14. Can I meet another family with a loved one in the community?

15. Do you have transportation for doctor appointments?

16. Do you have an activities calendar? 

17. What additional services are available if the care or personal needs change while living here?

18. What is your billing policy?

19. Are there additional fees for services or activities?

20. Do you offer hospice and end-of-life care?

Here is an even more detailed and printable checklist from AARP on what to ask when comparing assisted living communities.

The Ridge Senior Living lobby

Luxury Assisted Living at The Ridge Pinehurst

If you feel that you or a loved one could benefit from the environment and assisted living services at a Ridge Senior Living community, fill out the form below arrange a personal virtual appointment. Watch the video below to learn about luxury senior living at one of our communities, The Ridge Pinehurst:

The Ridge communities in Holladay and Salt Lake City, Utah and Lakewood, Colorado empower each assisted living resident on their own terms to expand opportunities and maximize independence. Discover how our communities are different, and how our approach shatters the outdated assisted living myths some people still hold.