What to look for and ask when considering a move to senior housing
Thinking about moving to senior housing?
Here is a comprehensive checklist of questions to ask and things to consider when evaluating the options for you or a loved one:
- Are the grounds attractive? Is the building well kept? Are the common areas inviting?
- Is it handicap accessible? Are hallways and doors wide enough for walkers and wheelchairs?
- Are handrails in the hallways? Are there elevators as well as stairs?
- Is it well lit?
- Does it have a pleasant smell?
- Do you like its layout?
- Is it easy to find your way around?
- How close are amenities like the dining room and recreational areas to living quarters?
- Is security on the grounds 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
- How far is it from where loved ones live?
- Are staff present throughout the property?
- Is every staff member at every post – front desk, maintenance, housekeeping, healthcare, dining room – appropriately dressed, pleasant and attentive?
- Are the front-desk staff friendly on the phone and in person?
- Are your phone calls and emails responded to promptly?
- Is it easy to reach someone by phone and to leave a message?
- Do staff members know residents and address them appropriately?
- Are the common areas active?
- Do residents look well and happy and are they socializing?
- When you ask them, what do residents have to say about life in their community and their satisfaction with food, healthcare and other services?
- Does the property have a newsletter or monthly calendar of events in print and/or by email or online? If so, check out several months’ worth to see if the frequency of and types of activities offered are appealing to you.
- What dining options are available? Is there more than one dining room? Are complimentary coffee, tea, water and other beverages available throughout the day? Can you carry out meals to go or have them delivered, and if so, is there an extra charge?
- What meals does the dining room serve and how many are included in the monthly fee?
- Is the dining room full at dinner?
- What foods are available every day? Get sample monthly menus to review.
- Are meals for people with special dietary requirements available?
- Does the food taste good? Is it presented with pride? Are portions to your liking? Dine in the dining room at least once.
- Is there a private dining room if you wish to host a special event?
- Are special meals offered on holidays?
Services and Amenities
- What services are available? Laundry? Housekeeping? Transportation to and from shopping, medical and other appointments, and special events? Wi-Fi?
- If transportation is available, how often does it run, how far will they take you and is there an extra charge?
- Are there on-site recreational facilities for exercise, games and other activities?
- What activities are available daily? What special events are offered? Check out several months of events calendars.
- Is there an on-site hair salon or barber?
- Is there newspaper delivery, telephone, TV, cable and Internet availability?
- Are there accommodations for overnight guests?
- Is there assistance with WhatsApp, Skype or other video messaging platforms so relatives and friends can visit virtually?
- Are any religious services offered?
Costs and Contracts
- What exactly is included in the monthly fee?
- Which utilities and services are extra?
- When can fees be raised and by how much?
- What happens if your funds run out?
- Do you need renter’s insurance?
- What can result in termination of your lease or contract? Read your lease or contract and make sure you understand everything in it. If you don’t, consult an attorney.
- What are your rights as a resident? Is there a resident council? What is the grievance procedure?
Your Living Space
- What floor plans are available?
- Are pull cords in the residence rooms in case of accident or emergency? Is 24-hour emergency response available? How does this work?
- Is the bathroom walker and wheelchair accessible?
- Can you open your windows?
- Is there a common laundry room or on-site laundry service?
- Who has access to your room and under what conditions?
- Are pets allowed? If so, are there restrictions? Is there a place to walk dogs? Is a dog walker available? What is the cost of this service?
- Is medical staff on site? If so, what are their hours?
- Can you choose your own doctor?
- What healthcare services – such as medication management, care during illness and physical therapy – are offered onsite? What is the cost?
- Can you hire home care or home health care if needed and remain in the homestead?
- At what point does a resident need to move if more “skilled care” is needed and who makes that decision? What are your rights should you disagree?
For Assisted Living
- Is it a licensed assisted living facility or multi-unit assisted housing with services?
- What healthcare and daily-living support services are available?
- Are services all-inclusive or offered as levels of care?
- What is the staff-to-resident ratio and staff turnover rate?
- At what point of care does a resident need to move from assisted living to skilled nursing and who makes that decision? What are your rights should you disagree?
- Is there a dementia care unit? If so, how is staff trained and what special services are offered?
ASSISTED LIVING AND SKILLED CARE RATINGS AND REGULATION
Check on licensing, inspections, ratings, penalties and more for assisted living and skilled care facilities at Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare at medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html