How to Start the Search for a Senior Living Community

Sunrise Senior Living  |  February 18, 2021
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Once you’ve decided to look for a senior living community, the next step is to begin your research. You’ll want to make sure you learn everything you can in order to make an informed decision. Finding a community that will meet your needs now and in the future is vital. It is also important to find a place that feels comfortable to you and your lifestyle.

If you’ve never been through this process before, and most people haven’t, it can be a bit intimidating. Knowing which questions to ask during your initial phone call, what to look for when you tour, and how to compare one community with another will help you feel more confident.

To make things easier, we’ve assembled a few of our best tips into a helpful checklist.

Senior Living Community Search Checklist

1. Set priorities: As you begin visiting or taking virtual tours of communities, it may be easy to become distracted by the interior design and various amenities you will see. Many senior living communities are beautifully decorated and impressively appointed. That’s why it’s important to think through what your priorities are before you make your first phone call. Do you have a four-legged companion moving with you? Are you looking for an indoor pool or onsite wellness program? Do you want to be close to an adult child? Give careful consideration to what your priorities are and write them down. Keep these in mind throughout your search.

2. Seek feedback and reviews: Depending on what type of care you are looking for, online inspection results may be available to you. For example, assisted living communities are licensed and regulated at the state level. Communities are routinely assessed for compliance with state regulations. If you can’t find this information online, ask the team member you talk with for a copy to review. It also helps to ask for feedback from people you know and trust Talk with friends, colleagues, and even your religious leader. People who have been through this process and have knowledge of local communities can provide suggestions from a resident or family member’s perspective.

3. Consider location: While it typically shouldn’t be your primary consideration, location does play an important role. Would you prefer to be closer to an old neighborhood and your friends there? Or would you rather move closer to an adult child or grandchild? It’s also important to consider other factors, such as how easy it is to access health care services or retail shopping centers.

4. Compare communities: Senior living communities can vary greatly in terms of services, amenities, and pricing. It’s important to recognize that not every community offers the things that are important to you. Asking these questions can help you decide:

  • Do they have any apartments or suites available in your desired time frame? If not, when do they expect an opening? Inquire about a wait list. Some communities offer a waiting list that requires no commitment.
  • Ask what services, care, and amenities are included in the base monthly price. This is another place where you’ll find wide variance from one community to another. Make sure you factor this into your decision and anticipated monthly fee.
  • Review your original priority list. How does each community stack up to your list? Would you be forced to make some compromises if you chose a particular community?

5.    5. Pay attention: An important step in making an informed decision is to visit each senior community several times. If the COVID-19 pandemic makes that impossible, arrange for a virtual tour. Remember to have a list of questions to ask and to take very detailed notes. Once you have visited a few communities, it may be difficult to keep them straight. Here are a couple of items to consider and a few questions to ask during your personal or virtual tour:

  • Does the surrounding neighborhood look clean and safe?
  • Do staff members and residents seem engaged with one another?
  • Is the community clean and in good condition?
  • Are formal or informal life enrichment activities taking place? (This may be challenging due to coronavirus concerns.)
  • Does the apartment or suite look like the right size?
  • How are potential team members hired and screened?
  • What is the average length of staff tenure?
  • Are you required to sign a long-term contract?

6.    6. Return again: Now it’s time to review your notes and narrow down your list of potential communities. It’s likely you’ll have some unanswered questions that merit a few follow up phone calls. Once you’ve arrived at a decision, plan to visit one final time. Maybe during an evening or weekend. This can provide a glimpse into what goes on when management isn’t present.

If you aren’t sure what type of care you need, we can help. The Sunrise Care Questionnaire is a quick series of questions you can answer to help you find answers.