5 Most Important Questions to Ask an Assisted Living Facility

  1. How is my loved ones health monitored, and how do you know if something is wrong with them?

Most facilities will tell you things like they check on the residents often, and they have a nurse on staff or on duty, etc. These aren’t the answers that you are looking for. In a facility that focuses on quality, you want answers the explain their documentation process, and their communication process. When it comes to issues in a facility, the majority of things that happen could have been prevented (or been less serious) if the communication was better from shift to shift, and from staff to management. Most facilities are still doing shift notes on paper (if they are doing them at all). This leaves open the possibility that important notes will be lost, go unnoticed, or be completely ignored, and that puts your loved ones health in jeopardy. The other things that you want to hear are that the staff actually gets to know the residents, and because of that, they are generally able to tell when someone is not being themselves. It’s hard to play “catch up” with a senior. Being proactive is far more effective, and in order to do that, you need staff who cares, monitors, and reports any changes in health, attitude, mood, etc. These are the important things to look for (plus many more that we share with our members).

2. How many staff do you have on duty for each shift, and how many residents are they responsible for? 

The better the ratio is of staff to residents, the more likely staff is to be able to tell when one of the residents they care for every day isn’t looking right or acting right. When staff is overwhelmed, they have less time to focus on each residents individual needs, and that creates the potential for errors. It’s not necessarily the fault of the staff. It’s more the fault of management and ownership for watching costs more than focusing on quality. Make sure that you know how many are on duty at all times, including the midnight shift. We have a worksheet for our members that we send them out on their tours with, and it’s unlike any of the worksheets you will find online…

3. If your loved one has memory issues, make sure that you ask if they have cared for others with the same

You would be surprised how often we run into facilities who have no idea how to care for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Also, facilities may say that they can handle that type of care, but clarify with them why they feel that way. Do they train their staff specifically for that type of care? How do they handle combative episodes? How about wandering? How about refusing to eat? Ask specific questions. Again, this is on our worksheet, and we review the answers given with our members and explain to them which answers are acceptable and which aren’t. If your loved one has dementia, you need an expert facility to handle their care.

4. How do the costs work? Is it an all-inclusive price, or do we get charged extras? 

These days almost every facility it seems has a multi-tiered pricing structure. You’ll pay one price for rent, and then another price for care, based on the level of care they think your loved one will fall into. A structure like this is fine as long as you understand specifically what causes a raise in level, and then how increases are handled. Personally, I’m a believer in all-inclusive pricing. That way you know exactly how much you will pay every single month. Watch out for facilities who charge extras for things like brief changes, showers, helping them eat, companionship, etc. Most of the time this is done in an independent living facility who is attempting to keep the resident in their apartment, and will nickel and dime the person for “care”. But even true assisted living facilities at times will charge a lot of extras for simple things. The more information that you have about pricing, the easier it is to plan for today and the future. Ask a lot of questions and make sure that you find out every potential charge that may come into play. You will also want to know the cost specifically for the day of move-in. Make sure that they aren’t just giving you a care price for one month to get you in the door, and then they will raise it in the second month. This happens all the time as well. Just be diligent, and careful.

5. What are the reasons that my loved one would have to move out?

This question is designed to find out how much care this facility can handle. It should be your goal to find a place that will allow your loved one to (safely) age in place. But you need to make sure that is possible by specifically looking at the discharge policy for the facility. What are the reasons they could be asked to leave? What kind of notice would you be given? How does that work? Make sure you know these answers before you commit. Stability is everything to a senior!