5 Questions To Ask When Searching For Senior Care

Is it time to consider finding a retirement community for your loved one? Beginning the search for the right care provider can feel daunting at first, so we’ve gathered the top questions you’ll need to ask as you contact and tour your possible options.

1. What are your loved one’s care needs?

Devoted senior husband visits his wife with alzheimers disease in the nursing home.

  • Determine the type of care and housing option your loved one needs. Is your loved one fairly independent, but looking to thrive in an environment with other active peers their age, with access to community amenities and a doctor on call? Independent living may be for them. On the other hand, if your loved one needs assistance with some daily activities such as eating or grooming, they may require assisted living. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, consider memory care. Finally, if finances are a limitating factor, you may need to look into senior apartments (for more independent seniors) or skilled nursing facilities in your area.

  • Ask about the staff. Inquire into the training and licensing required for staff to be hired. Are there CNAs, doctors, nurses available or on call? What is the caregiver:resident ratio? How is medication distributed? How does staffing change at night?

  • Depending on your loved one’s age and health, consider how long they will reside in this community. It can be difficult for everyone when a move is required, so consider Aging in Place for a younger and healthier loved one. Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) that offer Aging in Place may be the best fit for an active loved one whose care needs may increase as they age.

2. Is the location and environment right for your loved one and your family?

Elderly Caucasian woman reading a book.

  • Location, location, location: Is the community too far for family and friends to visit? Depending on your loved one’s age upon moving in, consider how long he or she may plan to live there. During their more active years, they’ll go out and engage in the city or town in which the community is located – will your loved one be happy here?

  • Cleanliness and upkeep: What does it smell like? Besides the obvious places, do you see a lot of dust or dirt? How is the lighting? What about temperature? Observe the upkeep of the floors, ceilings, windows, and electrical fixtures – do they look clean and safe? Ask about housekeeping options.

  • Security and safety: How secure is the building? How and when are doors locked? How can your loved one let someone know when they need help? Will your loved one be able to navigate easily between their room and common dining and activity areas? Are there common indoor and outdoor spaces for residents to enjoy themselves? Are these areas safe and secure, and designed for elderly to get around without injury?

3. Will your loved one fit in with the resident culture and lifestyle?

Senior adults having morning tea together

  • Meet with the caregivers and staff that would be interacting with your loved one, not just the marketing or sales team giving the tour. How do they interact with the residents and with each other? Does your gut tell you that they would be kind and caring to your loved one while attending to their needs?

  • Assess the resident demographic. What is the average age of the residents? Are there mostly couples or single residents? If religion is important to your loved one, will they find like-minded individuals here? Are there enough men or women for your loved one to feel comfortable?

  • Get a feel for the resident culture. Take a look at the activities program to see if they cater to a more or less active lifestyle, and whether that lifestyle will work for your loved one. Ask if you can have a meal with some residents to see what the dining experience is like. Will your loved one “click” with the other residents?

  • Besides care needs, consider other factors that contribute to your loved one’s overall satisfaction and quality of life. Are residents well-groomed and happy? How do they interact with each other and with multiple levels of staff? Do you like the other residents? How about the staff? Are there clubs or activities that will interest your loved one?

4. Is your loved one eligible to live in this community?

Elderly Woman With Younger Woman and Dog

  • Make sure you understand how the pricing system works. Is it all-inclusive? Make sure you understand what is and isn’t included – for instance, therapy sessions, medication, transportation, meals, and more may or may not require additional fees. Determine what is covered by insurance, and what forms of payment the community can accept.

  • Move-out criteria: Find out what type of notice is required if your loved one leaves. Additionally, what actions could be cause for eviction of your loved one?

  • What are the rules on pets and grandkids? Are they allowed to visit? If so, are there limitations on visiting hours? Can they spend the night? If your loved one has pets, can they move in, too? Are there any size or breed restrictions?

  • Determine the aging and care restrictions that may affect your loved one’s eligibility. Is there a minimum age for accepted residents? Are your loved one’s specific medical needs adequately addressed here?

5. Does the community have a good reputation?

Online review of Senior Living Community

  • Get referrals from friends and family. What, if anything, have they heard about this community? Have they placed a loved on there before? Would they recommend it?

  • Check out the online reviews for this community on sites like SeniorAdvisor.com. Reading the online reviews for senior living communities allows you to see what others’ opinions and experiences have been like at any given community.

  • Check the community’s licensing status. A Place For Mom provides links to each state’s licensing website where you can check for current and past violations.

We hope this post eases the burden of getting started in your search for senior care. Let us know in the comments if these questions helped you during your search!

Based in Austin, TX, Amelia is the Content Marketing Manager for SeniorAdvisor.com. When she’s not writing about online reputation management, online reviews, and social media in the senior living space, she enjoys yoga and running with her dog Rockefeller. She graduated from Wellesley College cum laude with a dual degree in English and Medieval/Renaissance Studies.

8 Comments

  1. Deborah S. April 23, 2014 Reply

    As my parents age I often find myself thinking about how I will deal with the stress of caring for them and finding them the proper care. Thank you for posting this! Our health care systems can be very convoluted and it is hard for people to find the right plans and care for their parents or loved ones. I recently read a very helpful book called “Voice of Experience: Stories About Health Care and the Elderly” by a husband and wife who are well regarded in their respective medical fields. (http://www.voiceofexperiencebrody.com/)
    This book shares experiences and case studies of families and people going through situations that unfortunately arise as we and our loved ones age. I found it very comforting to see the stories of others faced with similar fears and decisions as the ones I have. More valuable was the advice offered. After reading this book I feel more prepared and confident in my ability to care for my parents when that time comes and I think anyone with similar circumstances should give this book a read.

  2. Cruz Hernandez January 4, 2015 Reply

    I need to know the Rates for these homes And how to go about getting in the nurseing home

    • Author
      Amelia Willson January 6, 2015 Reply

      Hi Cruz, thanks for your comment. If you’d like to speak with someone in your area for free, call 1-800-805-3621 and we’ll help you find nursing homes in your area based on your needs and budget.

  3. Ben Thomas April 28, 2016 Reply

    Great list of tips to use for searching for senior care. I think one of the most important is the resident culture and lifestyle. I believe this matters a lot to the person receiving care and how comfortable they will be in the new environment.

  4. Comfort Keepers June 25, 2016 Reply

    Helpful tips and sharing your article….I have bookmarked for my future reference..

  5. Jade Brunet August 18, 2016 Reply

    We are thinking about placing my grandmother in an assisted living center. Thank you for these questions that should be asked before making the decision. I especially appreciate what was said about the environment of the facility. Another thing to consider would be if children are welcome.

  6. Ashley Turns December 13, 2017 Reply

    I like your tip to find out if visiting is allowed and what hours you can visit. My husband and I are looking for a great senior care facility where my grandma can go and we are wondering how to go about it. We will definitely have to find a senior care facility that lets us visit often since we love to sit down and talk to her.

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