Dear Donna:

After visiting my mother in Michigan for Christmas, I realized she’s no longer safe living alone. While she is a little reluctant to move, she agreed that she may be happier in an assisted living community.

We decided that I would do some research online and make phone calls to communities that seemed like a good match. Having never done this before, however, I’m not sure what to ask. It all seems a little overwhelming.

What questions do you suggest I put on my list beyond availability and price? I’d be grateful for any input you could offer.



Important Questions to Ask Assisted Living Communities

Dear Stephanie:

The initial phone call to an assisted living community is important. Like you, many family members aren’t sure what to say or ask. Price is understandably at the top of the list, but there are a number of equally essential questions you should add.

Here are a few suggestions I hope you will find helpful:

  • How does the community recruit and train caregivers?

Quality care depends on attracting experienced, compassionate caregivers and providing ongoing training. Be sure to ask each community how their team members are recruited and screened. Then ask what kind of initial training staff receives. Remember, training shouldn’t stop after orientation. Make sure staff development happens regularly.

  • What is the community’s turnover rate?

When the community’s staff turnover rate is low, residents, caregivers, and families are able to develop meaningful relationships with one another. It promotes better continuity of care and more engaged residents.

Caring for seniors can be difficult, however, in ways other types of employment aren’t. It is physically demanding and emotionally challenging. Befriending an older resident and then watching their health decline isn’t easy. Yet assisted living team members do it throughout their careers. Keep that in mind.

  • What is the staff to resident ratio?

Another factor that influences the quality of care at an assisted living community is the number of experienced caregivers compared to the number of residents. Having time to build relationships translates to better care. The bond between caregivers and residents makes it easier for staff to identify and intervene in potential problems early.

  • What happens when a resident’s needs change?

While no one wants to imagine the worst, it’s essential to look ahead and plan for changes. Ask what will happen if your loved one’s care needs change.

For example, how would they respond if your mother develops an illness like Alzheimer’s disease? Can they provide the help she needs or will she have to move to a nursing home?

  • How can you review the community’s state survey results?

Assisted living communities are regulated at the state level. The laws in each state are a little different. One common denominator, however, is that states conduct surveys to ensure communities are complying with regulations.

Survey results, including family complaints, are public for anyone to review. Most states make these available online. In Michigan, you can review the last two years of survey results here.

  • What safety measures are in place to guard against COVID-19?

Lastly, make sure you ask how the community is addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. As the number of cases ebbs and flows, a community’s approach might change. It’s important to understand what procedures are in place to lower the risk to residents and staff.

I hope this information helps you create your list, Stephanie! I’d also like to invite you to call the Heritage community nearest to your mother when you begin your search.

Kind regards,