When Choosing an Assisted Living Community

We understand that making the decision to move yourself, your spouse, or other loved ones to an Assisted Living or Memory Care Community is an emotional, stressful and confusing one. We are here to help. Please find below five considerations you should prioritize when choosing the appropriate community

Disclaimer: Discovery Senior Living does not own the copyright to this material and has compiled the following from a number of research white-papers and e-books.


A number of experts believe that the location of a facility is the single most important factor to consider in deciding where to place a loved one. Do not underestimate the significance of the distance between the facility and the homes of those who will be most likely to visit. A 45-minute drive may not seem so difficult at first, especially to those who live in urbanized areas and routinely spend a good deal of time in the car. However, over time, having to travel such a distance on a regular basis may make family members resentful about visiting and may result in fewer visits to the resident

One of the best ways to ensure that the senior has a satisfactory experience residing in an assisted living or a skilled care facility is to be active in his or her life and be present at the facility on a regular basis. Family participation in resident care conferences, family councils, and speciallyplanned social events for families is extremely important to overseeing the senior’s care. It may also help to prevent some of the unfortunate situations that sometimes occur in institutional settings, such as neglect of a resident or theft of property. Unless there is an unavoidable reason why the senior cannot be moved closer to the rest of the family, consider locating a facility in your geographical area rather than the senior’s. The distance from the facility to local services and amenities should be considered as well, particularly if it falls on the family to transport the resident to doctor’s appointments, on shopping trips, and so on.

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To get the most accurate answers when posing preliminary questions about the facility, be sure to speak with the community administrator or admissions director


Regular visiting hours for family members should be liberal, should extend from morning until evening, and should be available seven days a week. While there should be an end to regular visiting hours each day, so as not to disturb other residents during nighttime hours, family members should be allowed to enter the facility even during off-hours for extenuating circumstances. In the case of a late evening visit, there should be a policy requiring the visit to take place in such a location as to avoid intruding on the peace or privacy of other residents.



In the case of assisted living facilities, the point is to determine exactly what level of assistance can be expected. If staff will not routinely help with toileting, for example, and the senior is incontinent, then the facility is not a good match. Assisted living facilities vary in the types and amounts of assistance they provide. Therefore, it must be very clear to both the staff and the family what is included, not only for the present time, but also in the future, when the resident may actually need greater assistance than he or she needs now.


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TIP: If possible, opt for the facility that offers the greatest range of service, in case it is needed at a later time.


The most important item in the contract will be the rate terms. Typically, the contract will specify a monthly rate to be charged, along with provisions relating to when and how payment is to be made. Make sure that the contract spells out exactly what type of room is included in that rate, whether it is a private or semi- private room, how many beds will be in the room, and so on.If the resident is admitted halfway through the month, the contract should state whether the charges are prorated. Similarly, if the resident leaves the facility part of the way through the month—either temporarily or permanently—the contract should indicate whether and how a refund will be given for the rest of the month.

Another issue that may arise during the resident’s stay in the facility is the readmission, or bedhold policy. This issue comes up whenever a resident leaves the facility for a hospital stay or for what is known as a therapeutic home stay, which refers to an extended (at least overnight) visit with family away from the facility. The facility should have a policy outlining the requirements and procedure for readmission. One common policy is a daily fee for holding a bed. Be sure that the family is informed of the charge to reserve the bed if the senior needs to leave the facility for a hospital stay. Residents who have been discharged to the hospital or on therapeutic home leave should have priority in being readmitted to the facility. Some facilities have different policies for residents who have been discharged for other reasons. State law governs bedhold requirements for Medicaid recipients who have been discharged or who are on therapeutic home leave, but federal law requires that Medicaid recipients be allowed readmission to the first available bed in a semiprivate room. If the facility has separate requirements for admission of nonprivate-pay residents, for example, those receiving Medicare, Medicaid, or Veterans Affairs benefits, the requirements should be clearly spelled out in the contract, whether they result from facility policy or from local, state, or federal law.

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TIP: When evaluating a facility (if possible) or at some point prior to admitting your family member, ask for a copy of the contract and other admission documents in order to have it reviewed by an attorney familiar with contract law


As more and more people stay reasonably healthy for longer periods of time, facilities will be dealing increasingly with issues of sensitivity toward married, as well as unmarried resident couples. Families evaluating assisted living and nursing facilities for married couples should be sure that the staff respects couples’ privacy and relationships. When the staff needs to discuss health care and other issues affecting the couple, the residents should be treated as a unit, as much as their physical and mental condition will allow.

In some cases, a married couple will request that they not be placed together, because they feel that they will get along better if they spend time apart and have their own space. This is not an altogether unusual request and the administration should work with the family to find the best room assignments for both spouses.

A good facility will have a written, nondiscriminatory policy regarding room assignments. It will give weight to certain factors, such as gender and medical condition, when assigning a room, but will not consider race, ethnicity, or religion. In the case of assisted living facilities, there may be a choice of floor plans available to prospective residents. Many different kinds of residences may be considered assisted living.

Accommodations may range from a single room in a hotel-type building, to a multi-room apartment, to a separate villa. It is especially important that the senior and the senior’s family members see the living space first-hand so the senior’s preferences and abilities can be discussed when choosing a floor plan.