Assisted living care, or residential care, is a long term care option that offers varying degrees of personal and medical care. Assisted living facilities come in all shapes and sizes. They can range from a private room or an apartment to a multi-unit facility specializing in Alzheimer’s care. The goal of assisted living care is to maintain maximum independence. Assisted living care provides individualized care and assistance in a home-like setting.

Step 1: Find Assisted Living Care Facilities

To find the right assisted living care facility, you’ll need to first determine your specific needs and preferences. Needs might include medical attention, personal care, social interaction or help with day-to-day tasks such as bathing, cooking or driving. For more help assessing needs, visit the Is Care Needed?

After determining care needs, you’re ready to research care facilities. Ask friends, neighbors, and health care providers for recommendations. You can also check with your state health or welfare departments, long term care ombudsman, or Area Office on Aging.

Step 2: Ask Questions and Observe

Make an initial list of facilities that meet your needs. Narrow your list by considering services offered, location and price range. When you have identified two or three facilities, call to schedule a tour and talk with administrators. Try to visit each residence more than once. Plan a visit during mealtime or arrange to have lunch with residents. This will give you a better feel for what life will be like in the residence.

To help you make the best choice, consider the following questions:

  • Location
    Is the location of the residence convenient to shopping, medical services and entertainment areas?
    Can family members and visitors easily locate the residence for visiting?
  • Service Planning
    Does the facility involve the resident and loved ones in the service planning process?
    How often are needs assessed, and who completes the assessment?
    Are there special programs and accommodations for memory-impaired residents and residents with dementia or disabilities?
    How are emergency situations managed?
    What is the protocol for such events?
    What happens if the health care needs of a resident change?
    Under what conditions are residents asked to move if there is a change in health status?
  • Services and Activities
    Does staff assist residents in administration of medication? If so, what kind of staff?
    Does the residence generally use a particular pharmacy?
    If applicable, does that pharmacy participate in the individual’s Medicare Part D prescription drug plan?
    Does the pharmacy provide a yearly review and consultation services?
    Are there professional nursing services on site?
    If not, does the staff assist residents and loved ones in making arrangements through a home health agency?
    Are the services of a physical, occupational or speech therapist available or arranged?
    Does the residence provide bed linens and towels?
    Does the facility offer laundry service?
    Are there beauty shop services available on site?
    What recreational and spiritual activities are available?
    Do you have a copy of the activities calendar?
    Can residents use activity supplies outside of scheduled programs?
    Is transportation provided for medical appointments and recreational purposes?
    What is the cost?
    Are there resident and family councils? If so, how often do they meet?
    What is the procedure for suggestions, complaints, or grievances?
    Is hospice care offered? If so, does the facility coordinate that care with the care provider and loved ones?
  • Staff
    What is the residence’s staffing patterns and philosophy about staffing?
    What training and qualifications are required for staff? Are ongoing training programs offered?
    Observe staff and resident interactions. Are they positive? Courteous?
    Does staff handle resident requests in a timely manner?
    Can private care providers be hired? If so, what is the procedure?
    Does the facility have a volunteer program? If yes, what types of activities do the volunteers perform?
    Does the director/administrator have an “open door” policy?
  • Moving In
    What does moving in entail? What are the paperwork requirements and the time frames involved?
    How is the initial assessment managed? Who completes the assessment?
    If acute or long term care is needed, is the residence affiliated with a hospital or nursing home?
    If so, is there a priority admission process?
    Does the facility hold a resident’s home if hospital or skilled nursing care is needed?
    What are the associated fees? Is there a discount for unused services such as meals?
    Does the residence subscribe to a set of resident rights and responsibilities? Are printed copies of these terms available?
  • Dining and Food Services
    Does the residence accommodate special diets?
    Does a dietician or nutritionist review the menus? Can you provide a copy of the menus?
    How often do the menus change? Are residents and loved ones involved in the menu planning?
    Are residents allowed to have guests for meals? Is there a separate guest dining area?
    What are the criteria for residents to eat meals in their rooms?
  • Living Space and Accommodations
    Are there adequate community areas for resident use?
    Are the resident rooms furnished or unfurnished?
    What is the policy about personal belongings?
    What is the policy for overnight guests? Are there guest rooms available? What are the guest fees?
    Is additional storage space available? Is there an extra fee?
    Does the residence meet the rules for people with disabilities?
    Can residents have automobiles? Is there assigned parking? Is there an extra fee?
    Are there patios and courtyards available for resident use? Is there an area for resident gardening?
    Does the residence provide security?
    Are pets allowed to live in the residence or visit? If so, are there additional fees or deposits?
  • Licensure and Certification
    Is the residence licensed? Ask to review the latest licensing or certification report.
    If the state requires the administrator to be licensed or certified, is it current?
    Does the staff actively participate in a professional association, such as a state long term care association affiliated with National Center For Assisted Living?
  • Safety
    Does the facility have a fire sprinkler system throughout the facility?
    Where are smoke detectors located?
    How often does the facility have fire drills?
    Does the facility have an emergency preparedness plan?
    How are emergency and evacuation plans reviewed with residents after admission to reinforce their memory?
    What systems are used to keep residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s from exiting the facility without supervision?

Step 3: Discuss Costs and Finances

Each resident has different needs, preferences, desires and financial resources that should be taken into account when choosing an appropriate residence. Some basic considerations include:

  • What is included in the basic monthly cost? Ask for a written copy.
  • Does the residence have a written schedule of fees for extra services? If so, request a copy.
  • Under what circumstances might the fees change? How much notice is given if there is a fee increase?
  • Is there a security deposit? What is the refund policy?
  • Can service agreements and or contracts be amended or modified?

The following worksheet can help you or your loved one estimate and compare monthly costs. Not all items may be applicable to your situation.

$_____ Entrance and/or initial assessment

$_____ Selected unit and basic service package

$_____ Meals

$_____ Housekeeping

$_____ Laundry service

$_____ Linen service

$_____ Medication management or assistance

$_____ Personal care assistance (e.g., bathing, dressing, eating, etc.)

$_____ Recreational activities or field trips

$_____ Transportation

$_____ Telephone service

$_____ Television

$_____ Beauty or barber shop services

$_____ Other ___________________________________________

$_____ Other ___________________________________________

$_____ Other ___________________________________________

$_____ Other ___________________________________________

$_____ Other ___________________________________________

$_____ Total Estimated Monthly Charges

Based on AHCA/NCAL’s “Choosing an Assisted Living Residence: A Consumer’s Guide”