What to look for in an assisted living facility

Making the transition to long-term care can be difficult for any family.  This checklist can help you ask the right questions to find the best possible option for your loved one.

Atmosphere/Comfort Level

  • What are the admission requirements?
  • How big is the facility?  (Larger facilities may have more organized activities, socialization opportunities, and transportation.)
  • How clean is the facility in reference to appearance and odor?
  • What is the general attitude and appearance of the residents?
  • What is the general attitude of the staff?  Is the staff friendly and courteous to residents and to each other?
  • How often and in what manner does the staff interact with the residents?  Does the staff recognize all of the residents?
  • How often are each resident’s needs reassessed?
  • What types of meals are offered by the facility?  (Consider nutrition, choice, appearance, variety, and taste.)  Are special meals available for dietary restrictions?  Does a dietician approve resident meal plans?
  • What is the resident’s and family’s involvement in the development of the service plan?
  • What is the participation level of residents in activities and outings?
  • What are the facility’s visiting hours?  What types of accommodations are available for visitors?  Are there any restrictions on having guests?
  • Can residents bring their own vehicles?
  • Are pets allowed?

Read more lists of things to look for when making visits to assisted living communities:

Services and Activities

  • Is the facility licensed by the state?
  • Is the facilities administrator licensed by the state?
  • What is the extent, range, and frequency of planned activities?
  • Is socialization encouraged and promoted?  Is it easy to socialize with other residents?  Do lounge areas and a common dining room exist?
  • How flexible is a resident’s daily schedule?  How much independence is allowed?
  • Do opportunities for involvement with the surrounding community exist?
  • Are there a lot of opportunities for transportation?  How flexible is the transportation?


  • What types of amenities are available to residents?
  • Is the facility equipped to support any special needs of the patient?
  • Are religious facilities available?
  • Are exercise facilities available to the residents?  What kind of opportunities do residents have to exercise?
  • Is the facility located close to shopping centers and/or entertainment?
  • Do the units have a telephone & television?  How is billing handled?
  • Is there a kitchen with a sink and refrigerator in the unit?
  • Is extra storage space available?

Financial Considerations

  • What is the monthly cost of the facility?  Is a deposit required?  Is it refundable?
  • What services and utilities are included in the monthly cost?
  • What kinds of opportunities are available for a resident to receive further care as a condition or problem requires?
  • Is the facility connected with a nursing home or other kind of facility?
  • What types of housing are available (private/shared, apartment, suite)?
  • Is the housing furnished/unfurnished?  What types/amounts of personal belongings are residents allowed to bring?
  • What circumstances might force a resident to leave a facility?
  • What are the payment, billing, and credit policies?

Safety Considerations

  • How close is the nearest hospital?  Is there a doctor or pharmacy on-site?
  • Is there a 24-hour emergency response system accessible from each unit?
  • How long does it take for staff to respond to a resident’s call for assistance?
  • How many staff members are on duty for each shift in the facility?
  • Does the facility have handicapped access and accommodations?
  • Is there proper lighting?  Are there handrails, emergency pull cords and door alarms?  How extensive is the fire system?
  • Are exits clearly marked and easily accessible?
  • Does the facility have air conditioning and adequate ventilation and heating?
  • Is the security adequate (lockable doors for each unit)?

Visit the facilities you are considering, talk to the staff and residents, and read through any brochures and information offered.  Make several visits at varying times of the day and week in order to get a complete impression of the facility.  Find out which state and federal regulations apply, and make sure that the facility properly complies with them.  Most importantly, involve loved ones in making your decision.

You can also visit the website of the Long Term Care Ombudsman to view the Quality Reporting System Reports for the Department of Aging and Disability Services to compare local long-term care facilities.

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