Things to Think About When Looking for Assisted Living Near Me

15 Things to Think About When Looking for Assisted Living Near Me

Deciding to move into an assisted living community is a big change for you or for your loved one. This move often impacts all family members involved and is a major life transition that may occur amid other health-related adjustments.

However, this decision also represents an opportunity to improve a person’s quality of life. The best way to make this a positive and beneficial transition is to focus on choosing a community that will be the best fit for the person who’s going to live there. There may not be a one-size-fits-all choice when it’s time to decide where someone will spend their golden years, but a careful evaluation of the assisted living communities near you will help you make the best possible selection at that time.

To help you through this search process, we’ve provided prompts to encourage you to think about your preferred assisted living community and experience. This list may also be a helpful tool to use if you are helping a loved one with their own investigation. After all, the more information you gather, the more likely you will be to find the right fit.

1. Identify your needs and wants.

Identify Your Needs and Wants When Looking at Assisted Living Homes

Your needs, as the person looking for assisted living, are perhaps the most important thing to think about. The caregiver support resource, AgingCare, emphasizes the importance of assessing not only the current needs but also how those needs may change or expand in the future.

For clarification or a way to share key information with your loved ones, consider creating a wishlist of needs and wants. Divide a sheet of paper into two columns or set up a research document or spreadsheet online. On the “need” side, identify the things you absolutely must have, such as daily respiratory treatments or help with bathing. On the “want” side, put down things like “a private room,” “transportation to community events,” and other features specific to your interests and preferences.

Later, you may need to make some compromises to find the most affordable assisted living near you. However, when you’re first thinking about assisted living, make your list with your own needs as a potential resident in mind. It is also helpful to keep a running list of questions that you have about assisted living apartments, senior assisted living activities, and more.

2. Consider your location.

Often, people prefer to live by loved ones or in a familiar community. However, it’s important to realize that location may impact costs, inform the types of care that are available, etc.

Some states, for instance, limit the medical services that different facilities can offer. In such cases, individuals who need a greater level of care may not have their choice of long-term care facility. For some people, an assisted living community in a different state may make a greater level of independence available to them while still getting the necessary medical support. You can find specific information on assisted living communities and what they offer from state to state on the American Health Care Association’s Facts and Figures website.

Here are some other things to think about in terms of location:

  • Surroundings: Do you prefer a quieter environment or a more lively atmosphere? Do you want the surroundings to be comparable to your old ones?
  • Accessibility: Will friends and loved ones easily be able to visit?
  • Suitability: Is the location near places you often go, such as your doctor or your church?
  • Community: If you are able to do so, can you still continue with your independent and active lifestyle? Will you be able to attend similar social engagements, eat out at a favorite restaurant, or enjoy a round of golf?

3. The size of the community.

According to the caregiving resource, Seasons, the size of assisted living facilities may vary greatly in terms of square footage and the number of residents. When you’re researching possible locations, using these questions can help you get additional insight into a community:

  • How many rooms does the community have?
  • What other specialty spaces are available within the community, such as dining areas, exercise rooms, outdoor recreation locations, etc.?
  • What is the staff-to-resident ratio? When more staff members are on duty, residents typically receive more attention and better care. This advantage may be particularly important if you need mobility assistance or additional support for daily activities. Note that there are also minimum required staffing ratios, although these vary from state to state.

Typically, larger facilities have a smaller staff-to-resident ratio and offer a greater number of services and top-class amenities. Although this scenario isn’t always the case, it’s something to be aware of and ask about as you are conducting your search. In addition to live discussions and the available assisted living websites, having a comprehensive guide to the community’s senior living offerings can be helpful.

4. Find out what types of care are available and what the process is for increasing or decreasing care services.

All assisted living facilities offer some level of care and assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) like showering and walking, but the specific services offered may vary depending on the state you’re in and the community itself. You’ll want to find out a) if your current care needs can be met and b) what happens if your health or care needs change. Finally, check to see what kind of monitoring the staff provides. In this transition or as your health care needs evolve, knowing that someone is checking on symptoms or supporting your mental health can provide you and your loved ones with peace of mind.

Start by asking what services are available to residents on a day-to-day basis, such as assistance with bathing, dressing, and personal care, and whether or not these are included in the living cost or come with additional fees. You’ll also want to ask about the availability of medication management, appointment coordination with healthcare providers, and supplemental services, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, or memory care services. In some locations, there are on-site providers of these supplemental services, while others may use contract services or require off-site care.

If you’ve determined that your existing care needs can be met, transition your inquiries to future care services. For example, if greater mobility support or more frequent assistance with daily living activities becomes necessary, would you be able to stay in the assisted living community or be required to move? If moving is the only option, find out if the community helps with that transition and what they provide. In some cases, assisted living communities are part of larger continuing care retirement communities. If so, this existing relationship can make moving from assisted living to skilled nursing communities (if necessary) a little easier.

5. Review other available services.

Refer back to your list of “Things I Am Looking for in an Assisted Living Community Near Me.” With that list in hand, explore the additional services that each assisted living community offers. Keep in mind that more services may mean a higher cost, so it’s important to prioritize which offerings are most important to you.

Common services and amenities that may be available include:

  • Dining services
  • Housekeeping
  • Laundry
  • Local transportation
  • Hair styling, manicures and massage therapy
  • Computer, arts and entertainment spaces
  • 24-Hour Emergency Services

Compare what each community offers in support of your needs as well as your wants, like continuing to pursue your hobbies. These services can mean the difference between feeling happy and engaged or suffering from isolation and loneliness.

6. Determine your budget.

Most assisted living residents pay out-of-pocket, so it’s important to be sure that you can afford the place you like. In some cases, long-term care insurance, home equity financing, veterans’ benefits, or other resources can be used to help offset the costs, so explore all of the factors that impact assisted living costs before making your final decision.

Assisted living communities vary greatly in terms of their payment structure. Some include everything in a monthly cost, while others start with a foundational price for room and board to which specialty services with designated fees are added. Still, other communities may offer a tiered system wherein each level includes more services but with higher price points.

When you first do an online search for “assisted living near me,” try not to disregard any options immediately based on price information. Instead, after you’ve narrowed it down to three communities or so, schedule visits and come armed with key cost questions. Questions about these financial matters can help you avoid being surprised down the road by unexpected expenses.

Some good questions to ask include:

  • What are your billing and payment policies?
  • What is the base price per month or year?
  • Are all services included in the monthly fee? If not, how is that broken down?
  • Do you have a document that lists all of the applicable costs?
  • What is your policy for refunds and transfers?
  • Do you have any recommendations for government, private, or corporate programs that may help cover the costs?

7. Whether the place feels like home.

No matter how good a community may look during the virtual tour, there’s no substitute for a personal visit. Looking at these locations online or reading through pamphlet descriptions may help you narrow your list of possibilities, but scheduling a tour will give you a more realistic understanding of the day-to-day experience in that assisted living community.

Each community has its own “culture.” There’s a feel to the place that may or may not work for you. The location, buildings, accommodations, staff, decorations, and more can all play a role in whether the environment seems warm and welcoming or doesn’t feel like quite the right fit.

Prioritize visiting one of the potential assisted living communities near you at least once (if not 2-3 times), before deciding to move in. Remember: you want to do everything that you can to choose a place that you’ll be happy to call home.

8. Check out the view.

You can tell a lot about a community by just driving by. How are the grounds maintained? Is the lawn tended to? Are there flower planters or garden beds? Does it feel bright and cheery? If you are passing by in the winter, are the sidewalks properly cleared and salted? Has any snow or ice been removed from parking lots and drop-off areas?

Your first impression matters, so you might even park the car and take a closer look. Discovering that beautiful outdoor fountain, those landscaped paths or the welcoming courtyard with outdoor seating and BBQ grill may be the very features that can help you feel at home.

9. Assess their safety considerations.

For many people, one reason to move into an assisted living community is to support fall prevention or reduce the likelihood of other home-related injuries. During your visit, keep an eye out for details that indicate that the owners, managers, and staff care about residents’ safety.

Features to look for include:

  • Handrails, grab bars, and zero-threshold showers
  • Cleanliness and upkeep in areas like the dining facilities and activity rooms
  • Adequate lighting everywhere, including in hallways and bathrooms
  • Alert buttons for emergency assistance
  • Monitoring services (are there systems in place to ensure residents are present and accounted for?)
  • Generators for backup power
  • Routine safety checks

10. Ask about their staffing requirements.

The staff at any assisted living community can make a huge difference in your comfort in that community and your enjoyment of it.

While the building may be beautiful and the service list may be extensive, the care and professionalism of the staff are essential to the overall experience. During your visits to the location, make a point to observe and talk with the staff. Are they friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive?

It also helps to linger in common areas and see how the staff members treat the other residents. Observe one-on-one interactions, which may give you a better idea of the compassion and patience with which they approach their service.

Next, come ready to ask questions about staffing like those listed below.

  • How many staff members are working overnight and during the day?
  • Do you perform background checks on staff members? If so, what kind?
  • What qualifications must staff members have to be hired?
  • What kind of training does your staff receive on a regular basis?
  • Do you have a registered nurse, licensed vocational nurse, or certified nursing assistant on staff 24/7?
  • Are staff members available to administer medications? If so, when?

11. Explore the available living accommodations.

look at the available living accommodations when researching assisted living communities near you

Moving out of a home you’ve lived in for a long time can be difficult. Since this transition is often accompanied by the need to downsize, it may come with a sense of sadness or loss when selling, donating or otherwise choosing between beloved possessions. It can be helpful to consider which pieces of furniture, art or other items most provide you with a sense of comfort and familiarity.

You may already be familiar with the room types that are available from looking at existing virtual tours or floor plans. When you are visiting a room in person, make sure you know which layout you are seeing and ask to see additional room options as needed. Then, inquire about what furnishings, appliances or decorations are provided or if there are any restrictions as to what can be brought with you. If you see a location that you like, it may be helpful to ask about any additional costs associated with particular views or room types, as well as what rooms are currently available. This information will help you gauge how the room offerings factor into your overall budget.

Other questions to consider include:

  • Does each room or apartment have a private bathroom, or are these shared?
  • Are there refrigerators or cooking appliances available (if needed)?
  • Does each room have a 24-hour emergency response system?
  • Is housecleaning included or is there an extra fee?

12. Whether the community allows pets.

According to, seniors can experience many health benefits from having pets. Pets can help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, and they can also help people stay more active. Fortunately, if you have a cherished pet in your life, there may be a pet-friendly assisted living community near you!

During your in-person visit or a phone conversation with a staff member, ask these questions:

  • What types of pets are allowed? (For example, places may allow cats but not birds.)
  • Are there any breed or weight restrictions? (e.g. no pit bulls or animals over 20 pounds)
  • What are the vaccination requirements?
  • Is there an additional pet fee?
  • How many pets are allowed per resident?
  • Do you offer pet care services? (Dog walking, grooming, feeding, etc.)
  • What happens if the resident can no longer care for the pet?
  • If the pet falls ill, do you have anyone who can assist with the animal’s care?

Finding an assisted living community that will take larger pets can be difficult, as these pets are often less suited for long-term indoor living. Ensuring your safety as well as that of the other residents will also be a significant factor. Consequently, re-homing pets may ultimately be the most compassionate choice.

13. Get the dish on the dining opportunities.

Taste the Food as You Evaluate Assisted Living Options Near You

When visiting a community, be sure to incorporate a meal into your time there. Good nutrition is a must for everyone, but it is also important that you like the food and are aware of your dining options.

As you are enjoying today’s meal, check the menu to see what else is offered throughout the week or the month. Talk to the other residents. Ask them what they think of the food. As reinforced at A Place for Mom, it’s also important to ask the staff about their ability to accommodate and support special dietary requirements.

The questions below can help you learn more about your dining experience.

  • How many meals are provided per day? Are there set times for them?
  • How long is the cafeteria (or dining hall) open each day?
  • If someone gets hungry after hours, what are the options for meals?
  • Can residents keep food in their apartments? Can they cook their own food?
  • If I want a meal prepared for a special occasion, such as a birthday, do you accommodate such requests?

14. Research the visitor guidelines.

Ideally, the assisted living community will allow you to welcome visitors, whether they are stopping by for a spontaneous meal or activity or planning an overnight stay. Still, there may be sign-in requirements or set hours that visits can take place, so it is important to know and share any visitor guidelines with family and friends.

Additionally, policies originating during the COVID-19 pandemic may still be in place to some degree. Be sure to ask about any changes that may occur should the community experience a spike in cases so you know what to expect.

You should also ask what management thinks about the role that family plays in your life as a resident. The answer can give you key insights into how family visits and family involvement are received. More specifically, you might ask whether families can meet with various departments to discuss matters concerning their loved ones or to see how they can volunteer or participate in community events.

15. How the community measures resident satisfaction.

One thing that can make a difference when choosing an assisted living community is how interested the staff members are in truly making their residents happy. Do they, for instance, regularly offer surveys to residents to see how they’re doing? Do they have a feedback box available so that residents can share requests or recommendations? Is there a protocol for how any feedback is addressed and implemented?

If the community has a feedback system in place, ask about some of the recent results. Maybe you can see examples of how the staff has made changes to programming or view the results of this month’s surveys. If not, take note. While not having a formal feedback and outcome reporting system may not be a deal-breaker, it may signal that the management is not as concerned or invested in their residents or their experiences.

Choosing an assisted living community isn’t an easy decision. Carefully considering the points described above can help you make the best decision for yourself or your loved one. Continuing care retirement communities like Arbors of Hop Brook offer several levels of care on the same campus, so residents can create a home and continue to live there, even if their care needs change or increase. Schedule a visit to tour our community today and explore all that life has to offer at Arbors of Hop Brook!