The Arbor Company Senior Living Blog

Eight Things You Need to Know When Evaluating a Senior Living Community

Nov 14, 2015 12:30:00 PM / Wanda Moen Wanda Moen


Choosing the right senior living community is a major life decision that should never be taken lightly if you want to be safe, comfortable and engaged in your later years. To help you make a wise and informed decision, we’ve put together a list of things to consider when evaluating a senior living community.  

How Will You or Your Loved One Be Cared For?

Because senior living encompasses a broad range of options first it’s important to know what type of support you need. Independent living is the best choice for a senior who needs little to no assistance with activities daily living but are looking for a safe, engaging community of peers. Assisted living communities offer a long-term care community that includes not just a place to live but a place to receive support and care such as medication management, transportation, cooking, and even needs like bathing and dressing. If dementia is a concern, the best choice is a memory care community, where specialized care is offered that addresses the unique needs associated with memory loss.

When looking for assisted living or memory care, check that a community has a written plan of care for each resident and check to see how often it is it reviewed. Find out exactly what type of assistance (dressing, eating, mobility, grooming, bathing, toileting) is provided, as well as the policies regarding storing and assisting with medications. Ask if the residence includes a 24-hour emergency response system and whether it offers different levels of care. As time goes on, your needs may change. Can the community you are visiting grow and adapt with those needs?

Are the Staff Competent and Caring?

If you need assisted living or memory care, ask if a doctor or nurse will be on staff at all times. Arrange a tour and observe how staff members relate to residents. Are they friendly and supportive? Kind? Focused on making sure that the residents in their care are happy and engaged? Be cautious of communities where staff seem dismissive or impatient. Inquire about the staff-to-resident ratio. Many states require a minimum ratio of trained nursing staff to residents; does the community meet the bare minimum requirements, or does it go above and beyond?

What Type of Social and Recreational Opportunities are Offered?

In a senior living community it’s vital to feel connected socially as well as to be intellectually and emotionally stimulated. When you tour the community, try to get a sense whether you (or your parent) would fit in with other residents. Find out whether there is a full-time recreation or engagement coordinator on staff (don’t be afraid to give her a call and ask for a posted schedule of activities). Make sure the community delivers fitness programs as well as recreational activities and find out what type of outings they offer. Are there activities for all levels of ability and mobility? Do you believe that you (or your parent) would enjoy participating?

What About Meals?

Food is a central part of everyone’s day, and a source of community and comfort in every culture.  Be sure to look at a monthly menu and ask the following questions:

  • How many options are residents offered at meals?
  • Is food service cafeteria style or fine dining?
  • How are residents with special diets accommodated?
  • What type of snacks are available?
  • Are mealtimes fixed and time-limited, or is there flexibility to eat when you are hungry?
  • Is there a specialized food program for residents who have trouble swallowing, chewing, or using cutlery?
  • Are menus designed by a nutritionist? Do they appear to pay attention to important non-nutritional needs like flavor and presentation?

What Are the Physical Surroundings Like?

Environment can play a huge role in mood. As you tour the building and its surroundings, ask yourself whether it seems clean, bright and inviting. Are the carpets and furniture in the communal spaces in good shape? Are individual suites spacious and, if desired, do they contain a kitchenette? Can residents bring their own furnishings? How’s the view? Being able to view a wooded backdrop or well-kept garden rather than a parking lot can make a big difference in anyone’s day.

Is the Building Accessible?

Make sure that the senior living community has appropriately installed handrails and elevators as well as doorways and hallways that can accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. Also, check that the bathroom has grab bars and rails and senior-friendly toilets. Even if you or your parent are able-bodied now, accessibility may become an issue in later years.  A lack of oversight for these common needs can be a red flag that other needs may be overlooked as well.

What Other Services Are Included?

Does the community provide housekeeping or laundry services? Is there on-site access to a barber or beauty salon, a pharmacy, or massage therapy or other spa services? Is transportation offered for appointments or shopping for residents who no longer drive? Senior living does not mean retreating from life; be sure that you or your parent will have access to familiar amenities and activities.

What Can You Afford?

Of course, one of the key considerations will be the price tag. What is the monthly cost of the community? Are there any additional charges such as cable TV and telephone that need to be factored in? Examine your finances and put things in perspective by first assessing what your current overall cost of living is. Remember, the cost of a senior living community typically includes not only rent but catering and valet services, regular entertainment, and even medical care. Does the bill seem high enough to pay for these? Does it seem higher than the quality of the community and its amenities appear to justify? Monthly fees that are suspiciously low or suspiciously high may indicate hidden issues with quality.

Is This The Right Decision?

The real question that we all ask when assessing any senior living option is “am I making the right decision?” Whether you are looking for yourself, your parent, or another loved one, it’s important to make sure that you find a community where you feel safe and comfortable, where high standards are upheld, and where you can feel confident that every resident’s needs are met with care and compassion.

Interested in learning more about independent and assisted senior living in your area? Contact us now to request more information about our premium senior living communities. 

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Topics: Senior living, Tips

Wanda Moen

Wanda Moen

Wanda is the Vice President of Sales for The Arbor Company.

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