Assisted Living Overview

What to Look for When You're Choosing Assisted Living

Can't bear to leave your dog behind? Some assisted-living facilities allow pets.
Can't bear to leave your dog behind? Some assisted-living facilities allow pets.

­When choosing an assisted-living facility for yourself or a loved one, it's important to know what to look for and what questions to ask when visiting different homes. As we've learned, assisted living comes in many different forms, and, like about everything else in life, some are better than others.

Some questions to ask yourself or your guide when visiting:

  • Do the residents seem happy? The faces of the residents will be the best advertisement for a good, attentive and well-run facility. If residents seem withdrawn, forlorn or antisocial (or too social, depending on your personality), that facility may not be the one for you.
  • Is the residence clean, neat, secure and well designed? Again, it will only take a cursory examination to learn a lot about the maintenance and professionalism of the home. Are hallways and stairways easy to navigate and well lit? Are there handrails in the bathrooms? All of these factors will affect safety and comfort, especially considering your stay may last many years.
  • Are pets allowed? Some homes may allow residents in private rooms to keep fish, birds, cats or dogs.
  • How many common areas are there? If there are few places to mingle, there may be few chances to form new relationships.
  • Is transportation available to residents? Make sure you know whether the home has a shuttle or is near a bus line. Some assisted living homes charge parking fees for residents and visitors. Others provide (sometimes at a charge) transportation to and from religious services.
  • What is the facility's policy on what personal belongings the resident can bring? In some cases, residents may be able to bring household furniture such as chairs, sofas or bookshelves, while in other cases the living quarters may be furnished or too small for bulky items. Many times, on-site storage is available for any items that won't fit in the room.

If you're considering a roommate so that you can cut costs (or simply for the camaraderie), check the size of the rooms and the design of the living arrangements. It'll be harder to get off on the right foot with your new roommate if you're constantly stepping on his or her toes.

Think about these matters before you start your search, and you'll be more likely to know you've found the right facility when you see it.