Questions You Should Ask About Assisted Living Facilities

by C. Giles

Moving into an assisted living facility is a big life transition, but it can be extremely positive, if you choose correctly. A good facility will provide you with a fully personalized plan, meeting your care needs while supporting your independence and privacy. The most important topics to cover when asking questions about the facility are practical services, staff, recreational activities and health issues.

Practical Services

Specific licensing requirements for assisted living facilities vary among states, so make sure you ask what is provided. A facility should typically provide three meals per day in a communal dining room, assistance with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, eating and using the bathroom, housekeeping and transportation, according to the "Guide to Choosing an Assisted Living Facility" from the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA). Safety should be a top priority, so check if the facility has 24-hour security. If you have particular needs, ask if these can be met by staff.


The staff at an assisted living facility can turn it from somewhere you live into somewhere you love to live. You will learn a lot about the caliber of staff simply by observing them with the residents. Pay attention to how they interact with you when you visit the facility. You want them to take time to speak with you and make you feel welcome, no matter how busy they are. They should treat current residents with compassion and respect. In the event of an emergency, they should act calmly and responsibly. ALFA recommends asking for details of staff qualifications and training. The facility should carry out criminal background checks on all employees, and have a clear, written policy on elder abuse and neglect.

Social and Recreational Activities

Moving into an assisted living facility shouldn't mean the end of your social life. In fact, it should offer many new opportunities to learn new skills and keep your mind and body active. Ask what recreational activities the facility offers, and how these are run. They may take place on site, or transportation may be available to take residents to outside venues. Check if the facility has the amenities on site that appeal to you — for example a gym, library or chapel. Ask to see the facility's current social calendar. Ideally, there should be regular social events for residents, such as game nights, quizzes, clubs and parties. If you have a pet — or would like one — make sure this is allowed.

Health Issues

An assisted living facility should be able to meet your specific health requirements, by providing physical, occupational or speech therapy services, advises the "Assisted Living Facility Checklist" on CarePathways. Ask for details on how they handle health problems, both in emergency and non-emergency situations. Find out if you would be able to stay at the facility if you develop a medical condition, and at what stage you would have to go elsewhere for medical care. Check whether the staff at the facility manage and supervise residents' medication.

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About the Author

C. Giles is a writer with an MA (Hons) in English literature and a post-graduate diploma in law. Her work has been published in several publications, both online and offline, including "The Herald," "The Big Issue" and "Daily Record."

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