What Should You Look For When Choosing An Assisted Living Facility?

Assisted living doesn't equal full-on nursing care. If your parent (or grandparent) is heading out of an independent living situation, exploring assisted living facilities is likely to be on your agenda. With that in mind, knowing what to look for is an essential part of the process. You're already on the hunt for a clean community that respects senior citizens and has well-trained staff. But what else should you add to your list of requirements? Check out these not-so-obvious points to put on your assisted care search checklist.

Fire Safety

The majority of assisted living facilities in the U.S. meet strict fire safety standards. Ninety-seven percent of those built after 1996 have sprinklers in both common area spaces and resident rooms, according to the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL). Each resident room (and shared area) should have a functional smoke detector. The facility should also have a posted evacuation plan.

Social Selections

Ask the facility staff what types of socialization opportunities they offer. Are there book clubs that meet once a week? Maybe there's an afternoon dance club? Spending time with other residents and staying social is important to your loved one. Make sure that mom or grandma has the chance to meet other people and get social every day.

Learning Opportunities

The learning process never ends. There's always a new fact, concept, or skill to pick up on – no matter what age you are. Find out if the facility offers classes, lectures, or activities that promote learning. This could include anything from a guest lecture on WWII to a painting class.

On-Site Extras

No one wants to go out in the middle of a mid-February snowstorm to get their hair done. Some assisted living facilities have on-site services such as hair stylists that come to the resident's rooms or even a full-service salon. Other services that the facility may have include an in-house medical office or even stores for some light shopping.

Exercise Activities

Staying fit and active is just as important for senior citizens as it is for you (maybe even more). That said, your 90-year-old grandmother probably isn't out running a marathon or bench pressing her own body weight. Even though rigorous exercise isn't on the activity menu, you still want to make sure that the facility offers physical activities that are appropriate for your loved one's fitness level. This could include a chair aerobics class, water aerobics, swimming, or yoga.

Picking the 'just right' assisted living facility takes time and careful questioning. As you visit residencies, dig deeper than just the surface questions. Go beyond, "How many nurses do you have at any given time?" and ask about the safety and program features that will keep your senior healthy, happy, and active.