How to choose a senior living community

For safe, quality care that fits your loved one’s unique needs

Choosing wisely begins with knowing what you need and want in a senior living community.

Son talking with his father about his senior care needs and priorities.

Take inventory of needs, wants and wishes. Priorities? Bucket list? Everything counts!

Moving into a senior living community is a BIG decision, and usually an emotional one. Even positive change can be very stressful. For peace of mind about making the right choice for you or your loved one, begin by discussing lifestyle priorities, health care needs, and financial considerations. Take good notes and listen carefully with an open heart and mind. 

Which type of senior living community fits best?

There are four basic options to consider for senior living based on level and amount of daily assistance needed. Once you determine the living option that seems best, it’s time for more questions.

  • You can get some answers by viewing facilities online.
  • Before you spend time touring,  call and ask more questions.
  • Once choices are narrowed, take all the time needed for a thorough tour.
Active senior couples and their pets may find everyday life easier in an independent senior care facility.

Independent/Continuing Care

Assisted Living facilities are the answer for seniors needing help with everyday care.

Assisted Living 

Memory Care facilities are uniquely equipped to care for dementia patients.

Memory Support  

Long-term care is also referred to as a skilled nursing facility or nursing home.

Long-Term Care

Determine your priorities for a senior living community

Good topics to cover and keep in mind when evaluating all residential living options.

Think like a match-maker!

Together with your loved one, create a summary of their unique needs, wants (and “don’t wants”) — everything from health care to favorite social activities and finances.

An elderly mother discusses with her daughter what she needs and wants in a senior care community.

Click on a topic below for a checklist of questions to help explore your loved one’s wants and “don’t wants” for a potiential move to a senior community.

Critical screening questions to cover in a phone “interview” with any potential senior residence

A woman phones prospective Senior Living Communities to screen them before touring.

Phone first!

Save yourself a lot of time: use our checklist of questions to identify the best prospects for an in-person tour later.

Click on a topic below for questions to cover in a phone call.

The answers will help you decide which communities are worth a tour.

Tour each prospective community with your loved one.

Illustration representing the five senses of sight, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling.

TOUR WITH YOUR FIVE  SENSES: Sights, sounds, smells — they all matter — providing important clues to the quality of care.

While you tour with your loved ones:

Make small talk with residents, their visitors, and any staff you may come across. Introduce yourself and your loved one, and ask questions (tailor them to your loved ones’ needs and interests):

  • How do you like living/working here?
  • How long have you lived/worked here?
  • How have things changed (for better or worse) during that time?
  • Are you happy with your decision to move in/take the job?
  • What do you like most?
  • What would you like to see improved?
  • How responsive is management to your concerns?

    Critical details to observe during your tours of senior living communities:

    More questions to ask residents:

    1. Do you feel staffing is adequate?
    2. Were you satisfied with management’s handling of COVID?
    3. Are you satisfied with the:
      • Food
      • Activities
      • Support
      • Maintenance
      • Atmosphere

      Helpful Resources

      Concerned husband with wife struggling to remember something.
      Memory Care communities who provide Teepa Snow training for their staff are better equipped to provide the special care your loved one needs of they have dementia.

      Does your loved one have dementia?

      There are many inaccurate beliefs about dementia. Teepa Snow, a renowned dementia-care education specialist, trains caregivers so that everyone one involved in support or care, as well as people living with dementia, understands the how and why behind changing behaviors, emotions, interactions, and reactions. 

      There are also Teepa Snow resources to help family and friends navigate the confusing, and often exhausting, role of care giver and advocate.

      Cover of report regarding common nursing home problems.

      Nervous about potential nursing home problems?

      Whether you are a family member or a supportive friend, this guide gives you the tools to identify and resolve common problems that nursing home residents most frequently face. Your caring advocacy can be the difference between average-to-poor nursing home care, and the high quality, person-centered care that residents are promised by federal law.

      Overwhelmed? Find a Patient Advocate.

      Woman studies the screen of her computer.

      If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reliable independent professional patient advocates are available to help you in your search for a senior linving community that best fits your needs. Independent means not paid by any senior community referral or “finder’s” fee. Senior Care Authority and Care Patrol are examples, not endorsements. Search in your area for these and similar consultants. 

      Logo for Society of Certified Senior Advisors
      Logo for Senior Care Authority, Senior Living and Care Solutions
      Logo for Care Patrol, your partner in senior care solutions

      Special thanks goes to our Senior Care Task Force for the vital information provided here!