When searching for a senior living community, a key factor to making an informed decision is knowing which questions to ask. While some are more obvious than others—such as availability and costs—others aren’t. If you haven’t been through the process before, it can feel a bit overwhelming. That’s why we created this key list of questions to ask senior living communities during your search.
6 Key Questions to Ask a Senior Living Community
How are team members recruited, screened and trained?
The quality of the team is a key determinant in the quality of care a senior living community provides. Experience, trustworthiness, empathy and ongoing training are vital.
Some factors are easier to evaluate than others, such as team member experience and background. Be sure to ask how team members are recruited and screened, and if background checks are conducted. It’s also important to ask what kind of training the senior living community offers and if team member development is ongoing.
Then there are other traits that are more difficult to evaluate. Empathy and attentiveness are important characteristics of a good caregiver. Does the community recruit and hire for these traits? Ask how they do this.
At Five Star, we believe in behavioral-based interviews. We ask questions such as, “Can you tell me about a time that you saw the opportunity to make a positive impact?” These help us to select those with the spirit to serve.
- How do you keep residents active and engaged?
Support and care are very important—but equally important is the lifestyle that you'll experience. At Five Star, we believe that everyone needs a reason to get up in the morning. Does the community have a life engagement program with a full complement of choices so that there is something for every interest? Research shows that older adults who have opportunities to engage with the world around them and their peers are healthier and happier. Our Lifestyle360 program is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and features activities centered on the five dimensions of wellness; intellectual, physical, social, emotional and spiritual. Ask to see a calendar. Are the days (including weekends and evenings) scheduled with a variety of selections? When visiting, observe to see if the residents are engaged in the world around them.
- How long is the average team member’s tenure?
Just like the number of team members is important, so is the length of service at the senior living community. When staff turnover is low, residents, caregivers, and families get to know and trust one another. This allows for the continuity of care that is so vital in resident health and wellness.
But caregiving is a difficult role, physically and emotionally. Friendships often develop between residents and caregivers which may lead to difficult losses for team members to experience. The job is also physically demanding—requiring lifting, long hours of standing, and stress. That’s why turnover rates are often higher in senior living communities than in other types of service industries.
- What happens if my needs change?
While no one wants to think about it, the needs of older adults change as they age. It’s important to notice and monitor these changes when they happen. Make sure you ask how each senior living community handles these situations.
For example, suppose you develop a serious illness after moving in. Is the community able to provide more hands-on care when it is needed? From transportation to personal assistance, what services are available on campus? Will you be required to relocate to receive the care they need? Ask about how the community communicates with loved ones. Moving is a lot of work at any stage in life but is especially tough for a senior who isn’t feeling well.
- What is the monthly cost and what does it include?
Every senior living community prices its fees differently. Some are all-inclusive, and others have a base fee with care charges assessed separately. This can make things tough for older adults and families trying to compare costs across different communities. When you ask about a community’s rates, be certain to ask what is and isn’t included in that price.
Ask for a detailed list of what services and amenities are included in the monthly fee, and what additional charges you should expect to incur each month. In addition to separate care costs, added charges might include transportation, group outings, beauty/barber shop services, laundry and pet-related fees.
- Is there a contract that spells out terms?
Another area where things can vary greatly from one senior living community to another is the contract and terms. We think it is very important to understand the Residency Agreement and will explain it in detail.
Be sure the contract spells out how much notice your senior loved one is required to give before vacating, how deposits and entrance fees (if there are any) are handled, and the length of the contract. Ask for an estimate of the yearly rate increases.
The Five Star Difference: The Answers You Need, Communities You'll Love
We know how overwhelming the decision to move into a senior living community can be. It doesn't help that there are so many communities available to choose from. These six questions can help narrow it down, but we're sure you have many more you'd like to ask so you can find the community that best fits you and your interests. That’s why Five Star’s senior living experts are happy to help answer your questions from cost to care, activities to amenities and everything in between. Get started by downloading our FREE Guide to the Cost of Senior Living eBook and find out if there’s a Five Star community near you to get the answers you need to make the most informed decision.