How to Tour a Senior Living Facility

Unless you’re in a remote geographic area where there are limited choices, see as many facilities as you can at the care level you or your loved one needs. Explore every practical option.

When you come for the “guided tour,” things tend to be polished. What you want to know is what the facility is like at its most vulnerable times — after hours, when staff are less plentiful and emergencies seem to occur.

A facility may tout the five-star chef, the master yoga instructor, or any number of impressive amenities, but those are not the people doing the “heavy lifting” in long-term care. Even if you don’t need help with day-to-day care needs, it’s the frontline staff who will have the most impact on your experience, and you should meet some of them.

In home care settings, these are home health attendants; in long-term care facilities, these are typically certified nursing assistants (CNAs). Nearly every medical service field has a category of paramedical assistants, like physical therapy aids (PTAs) or occupational therapy aids (OTAs).

A good question to ask is, “How long have you worked here?” High turnover among frontline staff is a sign something may be amiss.

Ask about the relationship of the facility to medical services (if any). Important questions are:

→ Does the facility have a physician and/or a nurse on site? If so, during what hours?
→ If there is a physician, do you still have the option of seeing your own doctor? Can they visit the facility?
→ What if you need to be hospitalized? Is there an existing relationship with a local hospital, and if so, are you free to use any hospital, or just that one?

Whether it’s something as simple as coming to the facility to share a meal with existing residents, or even spending a few nights there to see how it feels, getting as much experience as possible with the facility in making your decision is a good thing. Many programs offer respite services and other short stays that could be used to test drive or acclimate to a facility before committing.

In the case of nursing home care, patients and families who have previously used a facility for subacute rehabilitation have a bird’s eye view of how the facility operates and feels. Other services offered by nursing homes such as adult day care also provide a view into the facility.

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