How to Evaluate an Assisted Living Facility

Choosing an assisted living facility can be difficult. You want to make sure you are getting the place that best suits the needs of you or your loved one. There are a number of steps you can take to evaluate assisted living facilities and choose the one that is right for you.

  1. Assess your needs. Before you can choose the right facility, you need to determine your physical, monetary, and everyday life needs. What is going to be important to you in an assisted living home? Separate the "must haves" from "wants" and prioritize your list of requirements. Once you have established exactly what you are looking for, you can begin evaluating facilities.
  2. Know what questions to ask. Click here for a checklist of questions for choosing an assisted living facility.
  3. Take a tour of the facility. Check out the rooms to see whether they are clean and nicely decorated. Make sure residents can decorate their rooms. Observe the safety and security procedures; for example, look for sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers. Also, note if there are security measures for Alzheimer's and dementia patients. Don't forget to go outdoors and check the grounds to see if there is room to walk around.
  4. Study the fees and the contract. Make sure you understand what services are included in the monthly fee. Find out what is available for extra costs. Take the contract home to look at it thoroughly or to have an elder law attorney look at it.
  5. Find out about the staff. How many staff members are there? The lower the staff-to-patient ratio, the better. Find out how the staff is trained and how long they have been with the facility. Ask to see staff training manuals if you can. Find out how the facility hires staff. Do they do criminal background checks and check references?
  6. Look into the medical services. Some facilities may offer free transportation to the doctor. Others may have a doctor or other medical personnel on staff. Check to see if the facility offers or can arrange for delivery of prescriptions. In addition, at some facilities residents can purchase basic medical supplies (such as insulin) onsite. Find out what happens if a resident's health deteriorates. What type of assessments are done and how?
  7. Find out what types of activities are offered. Look at the upcoming activity schedule to see if they are activities you or your loved one would be interested in. Do they have offsite as well as onsite activities? Do they have activities for family members to participate in? If religious services are important, find out if the facility offers services onsite or at a nearby location.
  8. Observe the staff in action. Stay for mealtime or for an activity to see how the staff treats residents. Ask to stay overnight; some facilities allow prospective residents and/or their families to stay overnight to assess the facility.
  9. Look for accreditation or licensing reports. Some states license assisted living facilities. If you are in a state that licenses these facilities, ask to see the inspection reports. In addition, facilities can voluntarily get accredited through two organizations: The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. Unfortunately, not a lot of facilities have taken advantage of the accreditation programs, so the facility you are looking at may not be included.  

You can also get information about choosing an assisted living facility through the Assisted Living Consumer Alliance,  Consumer Consortium on Assisted Living, a consumer advocacy group, and Leading Age, a membership organization for non-profit assisted living facilities and other aging services providers.