How to Evaluate Senior Living Communities

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man sitting on ledge

If you or a family elder are searching for a senior living community, you might be wondering how to make an informed choice. It can be easy to let attractive interiors play a role in your decision. While a clean, well-cared-for community is essential, other factors are even more important while evaluating senior living.

Quality of support services, team member experience, and a dedication to resident happiness and safety are just a few. Let’s take a more in-depth look at how to assess senior living communities.

6 Tips to Objectively Evaluate Senior Living Communities

  1. Start your search online.

Most senior living communities have both a website and a presence on social media channels. You can start online to get a basic understanding of what levels of care they offer, as well as their services and amenities. The photos and posts on social media channels, especially Facebook, can also provide a glimpse into the daily life of a community. Read the online reviews to get a feel for the community. Analyze the negative reviews as well as the positive ones. Was there a response? Did the response demonstrate an open, collaborative mindset?

  1. Ask friends and professional advisors for referrals.

Word of mouth is a great way to add (or subtract) a senior living community from your potential list. Ask those you know and trust if they have been through this search for a loved one. People who have done this understand how important this decision is and are generally willing to share their experiences. Do you have friends who have lived in the community? Do you have friends or colleagues who have loved ones who have lived there?

Don’t forget to ask your professional advisors. Your physicians, clergy, legal and financial advisors, realtors, and other trusted resources that are part of your circle of influence are often a wealth of knowledge for you. At Five Star, we suggest that you ask these individuals, “If it was your Mom, would you choose that community?”

  1. Make phone calls to narrow the search

Once you have a preliminary list of senior living communities to evaluate, create a list of questions to ask when you call. Block out some uninterrupted time to contact each community. Make sure to take detailed notes during your phone calls. You may think you’ll be able to remember what you talked about, but speaking with multiple communities can make that tough to do.

Pay attention not only to the information that you gather. Observe the community representative in you and your story. Did they listen with interest? Did they ask you questions to determine your needs and wants

Common Questions About Senior Living is a good article to review when you are developing your list of questions. From costs to pets, it contains helpful information.

  1. Review state survey results for communities

Each state has different regulations for senior living communities. The licensed service lines including Assisted Living, Memory Care and Healthcare (skilled and rehab) will be surveyed by the state regularly to determine if they are complying with state regulations.

Most states publish their survey results online. This makes it easy for older adults and their families to review them. For those states that don’t publish results online, ask to see a copy during your visit.

For communities that have skilled nursing and rehab, and take Medicare and/or Medicaid – the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) publishes a star rating that can be found at www.cms.gov

  1. Schedule an in-person or virtual tour

A tour, whether in person or virtual is an important component of your selection process. Often, at Five Star, we find that families want to make multiple visits. 

While we know that an in-person visit is generally best, some communities are restricting outside visitors due to COVID-19 concerns. Fortunately, many senior living communities can accommodate virtual tours. These are the next best thing to being inside the community. Again, take good notes whether your tour is in person or through a video chat platform.

When you tour, pay close attention to resident and team member interactions, how clean and tidy the community looks, and whether residents appear engaged. Does the environment seem positive and friendly? Does it look and feel like a place your family member could call home? Did team members greet you, were you introduced to associates and residents? In this era of COVID, did you observe safety precautions such as mask-wearing and social distancing? We think that either an in-person visit or a virtual tour should give you a feeling for the "vibe" of the community.

  1. Weigh the pros and cons

Finally, sit down and carefully review your notes. Think about what you liked and didn’t like, as well as how well each community met your needs and your wants Some communities will be easier than others to eliminate. If you are able, it’s typically a good idea to visit any senior living community that is a serious contender more than once.

Another option, if available, is to take advantage of a community’s respite program. Through this program, a potential resident can enjoy a short stay and experience the community first hand. This gives both the prospective resident and the family to make a more comprehensive evaluation. Keep in mind, these stays may be limited due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Transitioning to a Senior Living Community

We know lingering coronavirus concerns may leave families wondering if this is the right time to consider making a move. That’s why we created a helpful resource to aid you in making that determination. Transitioning to Senior Living During the Pandemic answers some of the most commonly asked questions older adults and their loved ones have right now. You can download this resource at no cost.

At Five Star Senior Living, we intend to be the educator and to help you make wise senior living choices. We are here to be your Trusted Resource.

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