5 Questions You Should Ask a Senior Living Community Before Committing

Once you’ve decided to consider a senior living community, it’s essential that you begin to visit many different communities. Each community has its own values and systems, and you’ll want to ensure that the community’s way of doing things aligns with how you or your loved one wants things done.

Asking the Right Questions

At each of these visits, you should feel comfortable asking a variety of questions to get a feel for the community’s values and systems. If you don’t feel comfortable asking your questions, or if they are received poorly, that will give you a good indication of how you or your loved one will be treated.

After you ask your questions, listen carefully to the answers. Many communities will gloss over questions with the “marketing material” they’ve learned to recite. A senior living community you can trust listens carefully to the questions you ask and provides specific answers to your questions. Even better, they’ll be able to provide you with examples.

The Answers You Want to Hear

However, it can feel overwhelming to know where to even start. Below, we’ve compiled a list of questions to ask that will help you think through what you want to learn. Before you go visit, take time to carefully consider each of these questions, how important it is to you, and other answers you’d like to hear in addition to the answer we suggest. We’ve also left a blank space for you to consider how you could ask a follow-up question based on what you know about yourself or your loved one.

The more you’re prepared before your visit, the more confident you will be at your visit—especially in asking questions that matter to you—and the more satisfied you’ll feel at the end of your visit that you used your time well and can make a wise decision about the community itself.

1. What’s your approach to senior care?

Why you want to ask this question:

A surprising number of senior living centers focus almost exclusively on a senior’s physical care. While caring for a senior’s physical health is absolutely essential, great senior living communities know that providing exceptional care to seniors is about more than the physical. They must care holistically for the senior’s overall well-being: their social, spiritual, mental, and emotional health in addition to their physical care.

The answer you want to hear:

While you definitely want to hear them say they go above and beyond in providing excellent physical health care, you also want to hear them talk about how they care for you or your loved one’s social, spiritual, mental, and emotional needs. Ideally, they’ll provide examples of programs they have in place or stories of how their residents have felt this holistic care.

Potential Follow Up Question:

Many seniors highly value access to spiritual care. If this is important to you, you could ask if the senior living community provides transportation to worship centers or allows for spiritual advisors to regularly visit. Do you have any other follow up questions you would like to ask? Be sure to write them out.

Your Turn:

Take time to consider what else you hope they say. How do you (or how does your loved one) feel well cared for? Was this “love language” included in the living community’s approach to senior care? How important is it to you that your or your loved one’s care is holistic?

2. How do you help your residents build and maintain a strong senior living community?

Why you want to ask this question:

According to studies, over 40% of seniors 65 and over report feeling lonely. Other studies show the serious side-effects loneliness can have, including the increased chance of depression, dementia, and even early death. It’s important for you or your loved one to be able to easily build and access a strong network of friends and family in order to live life to the fullest.

The answer you want to hear:

Exceptional living communities go out of their way to help seniors build strong community so they feel welcomed, included, and far from lonely. You want to hear the living community talk about how they help build community with specific examples: fun events, outings, and great dining areas, comfortable gathering areas, games rooms, libraries, and beautiful walkways are all potential options. You want to hear that the living community values making it easy for their residents to spend quality time enjoying life alongside people that are easy to enjoy.

Potential Follow Up Question:

Most seniors will have family who want to visit. What is the senior living community’s visitor policy? Do you have any other follow up questions you would like to ask? Be sure to write them out.

Your Turn:

Take time to consider what else you hope they say. What sorts of activities help you build and enjoy friendships? Are these offered at this senior living community? How important is building and maintaining community to you or your loved one?

3. What does life look like day-to-day for your residents?

Why you want to ask this question:

A brochure full of “activity lists” is one thing, but it doesn’t necessarily reflect the reality of day-to-day life of a real resident. It is possible for senior living communities to list activities they may only offer once or twice a year. Asking for a day-to-day schedule will allow you to get a more complete picture of what real life looks like for the residents.

The answer you want to hear:

Ideally, the senior living community will have real weekly schedules from the past few months and/or the upcoming months so you can see what is offered each day. Additionally, they may have a few residents you could talk to who could give you an accurate picture of what their lives look like each day. You’ll also want to hear that they do have a robust activity list that is offered on a very regular basis—daily or weekly. Excellent senior living communities also provide activities that hit a variety of interests and senior needs: from game nights to off-property excursions, beauty parlors and walking paths, you’ll want a senior living community that provides exceptional programming.

Potential Follow Up Question:

Do you offer off-site transportation? (Some senior living communities do; others don’t. Also, this is very important to some seniors and irrelevant to others.) Do you have any other follow up questions you would like to ask? Be sure to write them out.

Your Turn:

Take time to consider what else you hope they say. How do you like to fill your day at home? Can you or your loved one continue to do the things you love at this senior living community? How important is a robust activity schedule to you or your loved one?

4. What is the food like?

Why you want to ask this question:

How a senior living community does food is an excellent microcosm of the larger center as a whole. Some communities have very set dining hours, while others have a more relaxed approach. Some communities always serve the same thing on a set schedule; others have a more varied approach or even provide a few options each day so the cafeteria feels more like a restaurant. Some communities always allow guests; others provide stricter schedules.

The answer you want to hear:

There is no one right answer for the above questions, but it is especially important for you to consider what is essential for you or your loved one when it comes to food. Regardless, you’ll want to hear a clear answer. Ideally, the living community will allow you to view previous and upcoming menus, and invite you to try dining at one of their meals so you can taste the quality of the food yourself. They should also address how they handle snacks and seniors who are either hungry between meals or who choose not to eat at all at meals.

Additionally, it’s important to note that some living arrangements at senior living communities provide kitchenettes or even full kitchens, which may appeal to you or your loved one.

Potential Follow Up Question:

If you have special dietary needs, be sure to ask about these, and how much special dietary needs food options vary from day to day! Do you have any other follow up questions you would like to ask? Be sure to write them out.

Your Turn:

Take time to consider what else you hope they say. How do you like to do meals? Will you be able to eat the food you enjoy at this senior living community? How important is food variety and choice to you?

5. What are my living arrangement options?

Why you want to ask this question:

Many seniors choose to move to senior living communities because living at home has become untenable in one way or another. However, what activities of daily living seniors are still able to safely and independently do can vary greatly, even between married couples. It’s important to know what options you or your loved one will have.

The answer you want to hear:

Senior living communities should always offer resident assessments and service plans in order to ensure you or your loved one will receive the appropriate care. When you ask this question, the living community should discuss their assessments and plans as well as the different living options. Moreover, most senior living centers have tiered options that provide an increasing level of assisted care and support so you or your loved one can age in place without continual major living disruptions. You’ll want to hear how they make these decisions and what continued support they offer as you or your loved one ages.

Potential Follow Up Question:

What is your policy for spouses or roommates? (Some senior living communities always provide private rooms; others don’t. Rules for requesting or rejecting certain roommates can vary from center to center.) Do you have any other follow up questions you would like to ask? Be sure to write them out.

Your Turn:

Take time to consider what else you hope they say. What type of room or apartment are you hoping to live in? What type of care and services do you or your loved one need? Will you be able to live as closely as possible to how you want at this senior living community? How important are living arrangement options to you?

After your visit, don’t feel like you need to commit on the spot, especially if you are feeling pressure to make a decision. It’s wise to take time to reflect on your visit. Can you visualize yourself or your loved one enjoying life in this senior living community? Did you feel respected and safe—physically and emotionally—while at the center? Could you be happy there? If not, continue to visit other senior living communities. For a place that will make you happy, move forward with your plan!

If you’re ready to get started with a visit, schedule a tour now at Morningside. We can’t wait to show you around!

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