Choosing an assisted living facility is a big decision, and it leaves many seniors feeling overwhelmed. To help you narrow down your options, we’ve assembled a list of 13 factors to look for as you research and tour facilities. Here are factors to consider as you compare your nursing home options, in no particular order:
Most people recommend choosing a facility close to family members or other loved ones so they can check in on you regularly. You’ll also need to decide if you want a more urban or suburban location. Urban locations have more access to services and entertainment, but they tend to be more expensive and space is at a premium, too. Suburban locations are further out, but they usually have more room for your extensive collection of gifts for the elderly in nursing homes.
Nursing home facilities may only have room for a few residents, or they may have over 100 beds. Smaller facilities mean more facetime with staff and less risk of slipping through the cracks, but less opportunities for social connections with fellow residents. Most residents prefer facilities with a couple dozen beds, which hits the Goldilocks zone of being neither too big nor too small.
Speaking of staffing, definitely check to make sure that the nursing home is adequately staffed and doesn’t have a very high turnover. There should also be at least one person who is certified to give nursing assistance on staff 24/7 in case an emergency arises in the middle of the night.
Some facilities provide more services on-site than others, but depending on how mobile you are, you might not need all of them just yet. Ask about basic housekeeping and laundry services, such as how often rooms are cleaned and how much they charge to wash a load of senior clothing. You should also inquire about haircuts and other essential services to see if they are offered on site or not.
Transportation And Parking
Driving can be dangerous for older people, which is why many facilities offer chauffeured transportation for social outings and errands. If your loved one is still able to safely drive themselves and wants to keep their car, you should check with the facility to see if they offer permanent parking for residents. Generally speaking, parking is easier to find at suburban locations than urban ones.
Safety and Security
Just as you would for an apartment or home, assess the safety and security of the building. Are there safety locks on the doors and windows and clear emergency exits? Are the security and fire safety systems functional? Are the stairs and hallways well lit and well marked? Do rooms and bathrooms have handrails and call buttons? And the list goes on.
If you or your loved one needs complex medical care, that could actually narrow your options quite a bit. Some facilities don’t even let their staff members administer medication, much less help with injections, wound care or other medical tests. If you need help with these medical duties, seek out facilities that hire staff who are certified to provide them.
Exercise and Fitness
Exercise is key to staying fit and healthy in old age, which is why almost all nursing homes offer exercise classes and facilities for seniors. However, some go the extra mile with a pool for water aerobics, personalized training instructors and more to help residents stay healthy no matter their abilities.
Most facilities offer some kind of social events for residents, but some really go above and beyond expectations by bringing in teachers and entertainers for classes, concerts and more. Check to see if the facility offers social events and classes that would personally be of interest to you, and ask if they are open to event suggestions from residents as well.
Meals and Dietary Needs
Everyone has their own culinary preferences, and many older adults have dietary restrictions as well due to health reasons. During your visit, examine the quality and quantity of food that residents are served. Ask about how often the menus change and what accommodations are made for religious or dietary restrictions.
Not all standard assisted living facilities are equipped to safely and comfortably care for dementia patients. If you or your loved one requires special memory care, you may want to look into a dedicated memory care facility, especially if they have later stage dementia. These facilities are specifically designed to care for people who exhibit wandering, outbursts and other potentially troublesome behaviors associated with dementia.
Levels of Care
You or your loved one might not need assistance putting on their extra wide slippers for swollen feet right now… but that could change in the future. Continuing care facilities are designed to help seniors age in place, and provide various levels of medical care and assistance with daily activities. If you never want to move again, this could be a good fit for your needs, but it often translates to higher costs.
Unfortunately, cost is often a huge factor in choosing an assisted living facility. Ask your top nursing homes to provide sample contracts and fee sheets. Any reputable facility will be happy to oblige. Also, understand your health insurance and what kind of care it will cover (if any). Above all, be realistic about your finances and what you can afford to pay.
Have you recently chosen a nursing home to live in, or are you just beginning your search process? What other factors are you considering that we didn’t include on the list? Let us know in the comments below so we can all learn from each other.