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Eric Dewhirst Eric Dewhirst
February 9, 2018 ● Assisted Living 6 min read

Assisted living – 101 Questions you should be asking

Having gone through the process of finding the right place for my Father, I have compiled a list of questions that we asked as well some questions upon reflection that we should have asked. Here are some useful questions you should be asking before you make any decision about what senior living residence you or your loved one will move into.

NOTE: Some of these questions may address your concerns and some may not – please feel free to send me your suggestions as well.

Location

  1. Do you like the location?
  2. Is the neighbourhood safe?
  3. Is the location convenient for your family, friends, doctor appointments, etc.?
  4. Is the facility near a shopping and entertainment complex?
  5. Is public transportation available/accessible?
  6. Do you like the residence outside appearance?
  7. Are the grounds well maintained and offer space for outside activities (walking trails, gardening)?
  8. Can the resident access a medical complex easily?
  9. Is there parking for guests and residents?

Admission

  1. What is current occupancy rate?
  2. Is there a waiting list? If so, how long do they estimate it will take to be admitted?
  3. What’s involved with the admission/moving in process?

Security & Safety

  1. All entrances/exits are secured
  2. 24/7 front desk staff
  3. On-site security personnel
  4. Safety locks on windows and doors
  5. Residents have their own lockable doors?
  6. Are background checks performed on all staff? What kind?
  7. Which doors are locked and when?
  8. When doors are locked, how does one access the home? Are exit doors alarmed?
  9. What are safety measures at the facility to protect residents from wondering away?
  10. What measures are in place to prevent theft?
  11. Is there emergency call system in each room and bathroom? How often is it checked to ensure it is working properly?
  12. Smoke detectors in every unit
  13. Walk‐in showers
  14. Is there an emergency evacuation plan? Is it publicly displayed?
  15. Clearly marked exits throughout the residence
  16. Fire sprinkler system
  17. Non-skid flooring and firm carpets to ease walking
  18. Handrails in hallways to aid in walking
  19. Good lighting in hallways
  20. Doorways, hallways and common areas are easily navigated by those in wheel chairs or using walkers
  21. Floor plan is easy to follow
  22. Elevators are available for those unable to use stairways

Staff

  1. Are you welcomed with a warm greeting from the staff?
  2. Does the staff and residents interact well and know each other by name?
  3. Is the staff appropriately dressed, friendly and outgoing?
  4. Does the staff seem overworked, harried or unhappy?
  5. What is the training/certification of people who care for residents?
  6. How many residents are assigned to each direct care staff person? What other duties do direct care staff have during these hours?
  7. Does the direct care staff speak clear English (or your native language)?
  8. What if I don’t like the staff person assigned to me?
  9. What is the staff turnover?

Atmosphere

  1. Do you notice the residents socializing with each other and do they appear happy and comfortable?
  2. Can you talk with residents about how they like living there and about the staff?
  3. Are the residents of compatible age, agility level?
  4. Are visits with the residents encouraged and welcome at any time?
  5. Is the noise level comfortable in common areas?
  6. Is the community clean and have a pleasant odour?
  7. Are common areas comfortable and inviting?
  8. Are furnishings in good condition?

Apartment/Room Features

  1. What are the apartment/room type choices (check all that apply)?
    ___ Studio apartment
    ___ 1‐bedroom apt.
    ___ 2‐bedroom apt.
    ___ Bedroom with private bath
    ___ Bedroom with shared bath
    ___ Shared bedroom with bath
  2. Does the suite have good natural and artificial lighting?
  3. Is the suite clean, free of odours, and appropriately heated/cooled?
  4. Does residence have furnished/unfurnished rooms? What is provided or what can you bring?
  5. May residents decorate their own rooms?
  6. Is there adequate storage space?
  7. Is the kitchen/kitchenette adequate for the resident(s)? Can food be kept in their units?
  8. Are cupboards or shelves easy to reach?
  9. 24-hour personal emergency response system
  10. Is there individually controlled heating
  11. Is there individually controlled air-conditioning
  12. Are there grab bars in the bathroom?
  13. Patio or balcony
  14. Carpeting
  15. If shared rooms are available, can residents choose their roommates?
  16. Do all units have
    ___ Telephone ___ Cable TV access ___ Internet
  17. May residents smoke in their units or are there designated public areas?

Amenities

  1. Is there an outside courtyard or patio for residents and visitors, can they garden?
  2. Are there protected/enclosed walking areas for residents with dementia?
  3. Are linens/laundry provided?
  4. Air-conditioned building
  5. Barber/beauty salon
  6. Activity room
  7. Arts and crafts room
  8. Library
  9. Fitness/exercise equipment
  10. Therapeutic whirlpool
  11. Computer/Internet resources
  12. Massage therapy
  13. Tuck shop or convenience store
  14. Banking services on-premises
  15. Dedicated chapel
  16. Pets allowed
  17. Parking fee for residents
  18. Parking fee for visitors

Social & Recreational Activities

  1. How often are activities in the community scheduled? Is there a monthly activities calendar published and posted?
  2. Is there scheduled transportation to and from activities and shopping?
  3. Are there spiritual services on‐site?
  4. Is transportation to worship services provided?
  5. How do residents have input into activities offered?

Personal Care Services

  1. What criteria does the community use to determine whether this facility is appropriate for your needs?
  2. How does the facility help residents maintain their abilities to care for themselves (toileting, dressing, eating)
  3. If residents display difficult or aggressive behaviour, how is it handled?
  4. How often is housekeeping done?
  5. Assisted Daily Living Services (i.e. grooming, dressing, bathing)
  6. Linens / towel laundry
  7. How often does a staff member check on a resident’s whereabouts and well-being?

Health Care Services & Medication

  1. How is the initial needs assessment done?
  2. What are qualifications of the person conducting the assessment?
  3. Is there a written plan for the care of each resident? How often is it reviewed?
  4. What if I do not agree with the facility’s plan of care?
  5. What happens if your needs change?
  6. Is the facility affiliated with a hospital or with a nursing home?
  7. How quickly and to what extent will you receive medical attention if you don’t feel well?
  8. Under what circumstances and when does the facility call the family? The doctor?
  9. Does the residence have programs for Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other special needs?
  10. How often does the nurse or health care provider see the residents?
  11. Health services available on-site:
    ___ 24-hr RN / RPN on staff
    ___ Private duty nursing
    ___ Medication supervision
    ___ Medication administration
    ___ Lab work
    ___ Physical therapy
    ___ Podiatrist
    ___ Wound care
    ___ Hospice
    ___ Social work
    ___ Visiting or on-call physician
    ___ Visiting professional services (i.e. dental, lab, podiatrist, physiotherapist)
  12. What safeguards are in place to ensure that you get the appropriate medication and in the correct dosage?
  13. How are prescriptions filled?

Food Services

  1. Central dining room
  2. Does dining room environment encourage residents to relax, socialize, and enjoy their food?
  3. Private dining room / area
  4. Special diets accommodated
  5. Tray service to suites
  6. Does the menu vary from meal to meal?
  7. Are residents involved in menu planning and may they request special foods?
  8. Are meals provided only at set times or is there some flexibility?
  9. Are snacks available at any time? What are the choices?
  10. What happens if you miss a meal, are late or refuse to eat? Is the answer different if resident is confused?
  11. If you don’t like a meal, what are the alternatives?
  12. Can residents have guests dine with them for an additional fee?
  13. Is there a private dining room for special events and occasions, if desired?

Transportation

  1. Does the residence provide transportation to doctors’ offices, the hairdresser, shopping and other activities desired by residents and can it be arranged on short notice? Are there any limitations?
  2. Is transportation available if I want to go to an event by myself or with a friend?
  3. What are fees associated with using the facility’s transportation?
  4. Is transportation wheelchair accessible?

Licensing & Certification

  1. If local regulations require the residence to be licensed and/or certified, does it have a current license/certification and is it displayed?
  2. If the province requires the administrator to be licensed/certified, does she/he have a current license/certification?
  3. If local regulations require the residence to be audited, what was the result of last audit? How often is the residence audited?
  4. What reputation does the facility have in the community? How long has it been in business? Is it in good financial health?
  5. Is the facility a member of a trade or professional association?
  6. Is there a resident council or organization through which residents/family have a means of voicing their views on the management of the community?

Contracts/Legal

  1. Is a contractual agreement available upon your visit?
  2. Is the contract easy to read? Do you understand everything in it?
  3. Does it disclose healthcare and supportive services?
  4. Does it disclose all fees?
  5. Does it disclose admission and discharge provisions?
  6. Does it disclose when a contract may be terminated?
  7. Does it disclose refund policies?
  8. May a resident handle their own finances if able?
  9. Is there an appeals process for dissatisfied residents?

Costs/Finances

  1. What are the entrance fees?
  2. What is the baseline fee?
  3. What services are included in this fee?
  4. What are additional charges for services/products?
  5. Are there any government, private or corporate subsidies available? If yes, what are the amounts and conditions?
  6. What is the security deposit?
  7. Are deposits refundable?
  8. Utilities that are included
    ___ Heat ___ Electricity ___ Gas ___ Telephone ___ Long Distance calls
  9. How are long-term leaves handled? E.g. you are away from the facility for an extended period of time (admitted to a hospital or temporarily in a nursing home) what fees continue to apply?
  10. Are residents required to purchase renters insurance?
  11. How are rate increases handled? How often do they occur and how much advanced notice is given?
  12. How are late payments handled?
  13. How are long-term leaves handled? E.g. you are away from the facility for an extended period of time (admitted to a hospital or temporarily in a nursing home) what fees continue to apply?
  14. What happens if resident’s funds run out? Is there any financial assistance?

As you can tell there are more than 101 questions, but we had to say that or else you would get overwhelmed with the idea of asking 193 questions (joke). Take your time and allocate at least an hour when you go and visit a residence and ask as many questions as you want. The sales representative or patient liaison is there to answer your questions or concerns.

You can do this!