The following is a consumer checklist of important services, amenities and accommodations in assisted living communities and personal care homes. Every home and community is unique. We recommend making several visits, at various times of the day to each residence you are considering.
Ask for written material. We recommend that all communities have a written statement or copies of their resident agreement outlining, at a minimum, services, prices, extra charges, admission and discharge criteria, staffing and house rules.
As you start your search, it is important to assess your needs as they are now and ask representatives of each community how they will accommodate any changes over time. It is also important to examine your finances and ask about costs. Monthly rates and fee structures vary.
Most of all, if you are seeking assisted living or a personal care home for someone who cannot visit the residence personally, it is important to respect the prospective resident’s needs and wishes by including him or her as much in the process as possible. The result will be greater satisfaction. To help, many communities now offer videos or virtual tours.
Consider the following as you visit and assess an assisted living community or personal care home:
• As you arrive at the residence, do you like its location and outward appearance?
• As you enter the lobby and tour the residence, is the décor attractive and homelike?
• Did you receive a warm greeting from staff welcoming you to the residence?
• Does the administrator or staff call residents by name and interact warmly with them as you tour the home or community?
• Do residents socialize with each other and appear happy and comfortable?
• Are you able to talk to residents about how well they like the community and staff?
• Do the residents seem to be appropriate housemates for you or your loved one?
• Are the staff members appropriately dressed, personable and outgoing?Do staff members treat each other in a professional manner?
• Are the staff members that you pass during your tour friendly to you?
• Are visits with the resident welcome at any time?
• Is the community or home well designed for the residents’ needs?
• Is the floor plan easy to follow?
• Are doorways, hallways and rooms accommodating to wheelchairs and walkers?
• Are elevators available for those unable to use stairways?
• Are handrails available to aid walking?
• Does the home or community have good natural and artificial lighting?
• Is the community clean, free of odors and appropriately heated/cooled?
• Does the home or community meet local and/or state requirements?
• Does the home or community have sprinklers and clearly marked exits?
• Does the home or community have a means of security if a resident wanders?
Needs Assessments, Contracts, Costs & Finances
• Is a contracted agreement available that discloses healthcare and supportive services, all fees, as well as admission and discharge provisions?
• Is there a written plan for the care of each resident?
• Does the home or community have a process for assessing a potential resident's need for services, and are those needs addressed periodically?
• Does this process include the resident, the resident’s family and community staff, plus the prospective resident's physician?
• When can a contract be terminated? What are the policies for refunds and transfers?
• Are there any government, private or corporate programs available to help cover the cost of services to the resident?
• Are additional services available if the resident's needs change?
• Is there a procedure to pay for additional services like nursing care when those services are needed on a temporary basis?
• Are there different costs for various levels or categories of services?
• Do billing, payment and credit policies seem fair and reasonable?
• Can residents handle their own finances, or should a family member or outside party be designated to do so?
• Are residents required to purchase renter's insurance for personal property in their units?
• Is staff available to meet scheduled and unscheduled needs?
• Is there an appeals process for dissatisfied residents?
Medication & Health Care
• Does the home or community have specific policies regarding the storage of medication, assistance with medications, training and supervision of staff and record keeping?
• Is self-administration of medication allowed?
• Is there a staff person to coordinate home care visits from a nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, etc. if needed?
• Are staff members available to assist residents who experience memory, orientation, or judgment loss?
• Is a physician available for outpatient visits?
• Does the home or community have a clearly stated procedure for responding to a resident's medical emergency?
• To what extent are medical services available, and how are these services provided?
• Can the home or community provide a list of services available?
• Is staff available to provide 24-hour assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) if needed? ADLs include:
• Hygiene and grooming
• Bathing, toileting and incontinence
• Using the telephone
• Does the home or community provide housekeeping services in residents' units?
• Does the home or community provide transportation to doctors' offices, the hairdresser, shopping and other activities desired by the residents?
• Can residents arrange for transportation on fairly short notice?
• Are pharmacy services offered on site?
• Are barber or beautician services offered on site?
• Are physical therapy services offered on site?
Individual Unit Features
• Do dining room menus vary from day to day and meal to meal?
• Are different sizes and types of units available?
• Are units for single or double occupancy available?
• Do residents have their own lockable doors?
• Is a 24-hour emergency response system available to each unit?
• Are bathrooms private with handicapped accommodations for wheelchairs and walkers if needed?
• Are residents able to bring their own furnishings for their units? What is provided?
• Is a kitchen unit provided with a refrigerator, sink, and cooking element?
• Can residents smoke in their units? In public spaces?
• Can residents decorate their own units?
Social & Recreational Activities
• Is there evidence of an organized activities program, such as posted daily schedules, events in progress, reading materials, visitors, etc.?
• Do residents participate in activities outside the home or community in the neighboring community?
• Do volunteers, including family members, come into the home or community to help with or conduct programs?
• Does the home or assisted living community create a sense of community by encouraging residents to participate in certain activities or perform simple chores for the group as a whole?
• Are residents' pets allowed? Who is responsible for their care?
• Does the home or community have its own pets?
• Does the home or community provide three nutritionally balanced meals a day, seven days a week?
• Are snacks available?
• May a resident request special foods?
• Are common dining areas available?
• Can residents eat meals in their units?
• Can meals be provided at a time residents would like or are there set times for meals?