Taking Stock of Assisted Living Resources

If you are like most caregivers, you are so focused on meeting your loved one's daily needs that it's hard even to think about the future, much less prepare for it. Yet planning for eventualities is critical if you are to make sound decisions about your loved one's care.

One option that you should explore is assisted living. An assisted living community may be the ideal place for your loved one to recover from a serious illness or an operation, since many assisted living communities offer short-term stays. You might also consider assisted living if you find that you can no longer provide the standard of care that you would like for your loved one, because either your circumstances or your loved one's needs have changed.

There are many different organizations offering assisted living across the United States, and each approaches assisted living from a slightly different perspective. In addition, every assisted living community has its own distinct character and culture. So it only makes sense to take an afternoon and visit assisted living communities in your area. A call a few days ahead of time is usually all it takes to set up a tour. Here are a few tips on questions you should ask to make the most of your visit:

The Fundamentals

  • Does the organization have a statement of values that guide its actions?
  • Is the assisted living license posted in a prominent place?
  • Is there a residency agreement governing accommodations, personal care, health care, and supportive services?
  • Is there an initial entrance fee, application fee, or deposit required?
  • Do billing and credit policies seem fair and reasonable?
  • Are there different costs for different levels of care?
  • Is there a procedure to pay for additional services if they are needed on a temporary basis?

Assisted Living Services

  • Is there a written care plan for each resident?
  • Is there a process for reassessing the needs of each resident regularly?
  • What additional services are available if a resident's needs change?
  • Does the community provide transportation to doctors' offices, shopping, religious services, and other destinations?


  • Does the community have a careful selection process for all personnel?
  • What are the qualifications of senior staff?
  • What sort of training do staff members receive? Is it ongoing?


  • Are activities scheduled daily?
  • Do residents play a role in planning community activities?
  • Is there a residents' council?
  • Do residents have the opportunity to participate in activities outside the community?
  • Are visits from family members and friends welcomed at any time?
  • Are there support groups for families?


  • Does the community provide three nutritionally balanced meals a day, seven days a week, for assisted living residents?
  • How is the menu prepared? How often is it repeated?
  • Can residents ask for substitutions?
  • Can residents sit wherever they like or is seating assigned?
  • Are snacks readily available between meals?
  • Are all meals covered in the monthly rate?

Once you have made a first visit to the assisted living communities in your area, consult with your loved one and pick the top communities for a return visit. Ask if you can have a meal in the dining room, visit resident suites, and talk to residents. If you feel it is appropriate, bring your loved one with you. The more information you have, the more confident you will feel about your decision to have your loved one join an assisted living community if the time comes.