Checklist When Touring an Independent Living Community
As you enter your search for an independent living community, you may be surprised how many choices there are. It may be difficult to compare apples to apples. We recommend touring with a prepared list of questions and jotting down notes to help you remember each community and clarify your final decisions. We also recommend touring your favorite communities at least twice, at different times of the day.
HEALTH CARE NEEDS
Take time to consider and convey your health needs now and in the future. Ask the following:
- What if I need more care than what is provided in independent living?
- Is there a registered nurse or other medical professional on staff?
- What do I do to let staff know there is a health emergency?
- Is your staff trained to deal with medical emergencies?
- Can you offer me transportation to doctors’ appointments and medical centers?
- What will happen to my residence if I have a long-term stay in a hospital or rehabilitation center?
WHAT ARE THE DINING OPTIONS?
Many independent living communities provide one or two meals a day, with kitchens available in residences for those who choose to cook for themselves. You should expect to be offered a meal or taste samples during your senior living community tour. Dining with residents is a great way to meet your neighbors, develop friendships, get the inside community scoop and share camaraderie. As you tour, ask:
- Are meals served buffet- or restaurant-style?
- Do you have meal hours, and what’s available outside of meal hours?
- How do you accommodate allergies and dietary restrictions?
- Are meals freshly prepared on the premises?
- Do the chefs use local, seasonal ingredients?
- How often are your menus changed?
- May I bring guests to dine with me?
- What meals are included in monthly rent?
- Is room service provided if I’m unable to come down for a meal?
- What about complimentary transportation to grocery stores?
ASK ABOUT COSTS AND EXPECTED EXPENSES
Fee policies and procedures should be well-documented. Ask for copies to examine after your tour. Questions to ask:
- May I have a copy of your lease contract with details of all fees, rules and regulations?
- What community services are considered extra? How are they billed?
- What kind of fees do you charge?
- If a resident is either late or unable to pay, how is that handled?
- What circumstances would force a resident to move out?
- May I bring my pet(s)? Is there a fee?
MEET PROFESSIONAL STAFF
Ask to be introduced to the team members you see. Feel free to ask any staff member questions about what their roles are:
- How much experience does the executive director have in senior living?
- What training and background checks are required of staff before they are hired?
- How do you accommodate absences of staff members?
- Who do I call if I need maintenance assistance in my residence?
- What are my options if I need help from a health aide?
CHECK OUT AMENITIES, EVENTS AND PROGRAMS
Make sure your community tour is thorough and complete. Be aware of the various details inside the residences and surrounding common spaces. How do you feel about the overall look? Examine the outside features such as gardens, patios and courtyards. Do they seem well maintained? Do you see anything that is marked “out of order”? Does the community have a calendar of activities and list of amenities to examine? Ask the following:
- Do apartments come furnished, or can I bring my own furniture?
- When was the last time the building was renovated, or what are future renovation plans?
- Is there maintenance staff on-site at all times?
- What are the parking options?
- May I have a list of all amenities and services?
- How are residents educated about daily activities?
- What kind of input do the residents have on the type of programs and entertainment offered?
- What activities do you offer that fit my particular interests and hobbies?
- Does the community have any established, ongoing clubs?
HOW IS THE SECURITY?
When you move to a retirement community, you’ll appreciate the safety features that may have been lacking in your own home. Make time as you tour to look for details that will keep you safe. Are there locks on the windows and doors? Are the emergency exits clearly marked? What about overhead sprinklers and smoke detectors? Here are a few security questions:
- Is someone at the front desk 24 hours a day?
- How can visitors enter after hours?
- Are the outdoor courtyard areas secured and locked?
- May I have a copy of your documented emergency procedures?
TALK TO RESIDENTS
Some of the most knowledgeable people to speak to during your retirement community search are the residents themselves. You can even ask your community guide to include a few residents in a luncheon for you as you visit. Be prepared, and don’t hesitate to ask:
- What do they like best about living here?
- Are there any improvements they would like to see?
- How did they adjust to senior living?
- How responsive is the management to residents’ requests?
The best communities listen to the feedback of their residents. If you don’t already know about the background of the community’s owner and management team, now’s the time to inquire about their expertise. Here are questions to ask about how involved the residents are within the community:
- Does your community have an onboarding process for new residents?
- Is there a resident council?
- How does the community resolve disputes?
- How much input do residents have about programs, activities and menus?
As you can see, there are plenty of questions to ask and decisions to be made in your search. Consider taking several trips to the retirement communities to get all of your questions answered. If you can, ask a family member or friend to go with you to help take notes and evaluate communities.
At Mission Chateau, we’re here with answers to any of your questions, and we always welcome your visit.