What Are the Top 10 Tips for Touring a Senior Living Community?



Your impression of the community starts clicking before you actually even take the tour! How did you feel when you booked it? Yes, it’s important to pay attention with a critical eye, and use your five senses as you tour, paying attention to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and even textures. as you visit each community on your list 

Thanks to insights from our Benchmark staff, plus data collected during our own “mystery shopping” visits, these 10 tips for touring will help you know what to look for so you know you’re getting a well-rounded view of the community.

respond-and-follow-up1. Response & Follow-up: Before you even arrive for a tour, how was your inquiry call handled? Was the scheduler polite, professional, and knowledgeable? Did the scheduler follow up to confirm your appointment? After you toured the community and returned home, did someone follow-up with you to find out what you thought, and if you had further questions or needed more information? What next steps, if any, were laid out by the person who gave you the tour?


2. Atmosphere: How were you greeted when you entered the building? Was it easy to find the front desk and were you quickly met by the person who arranged the tour? Were you able to meet the Executive Director (the leader of the community who basically sets the tone) and other department heads in key positions — care & wellness, dining, and programming, for example — and were they friendly and engaging? Do they seem happy to be there? Are they active and involved, or do they stand back and observe? How do they interact with the staff and with the residents during your tour, and do they know all of their names? Ask yourself the same questions about the residents you meet  and see too. Speak to residents and/or family members you pass on your tour. Talk to staff in the dining room or other employees and residents you see in the hall. Ask them about their experience as either a resident or employee.   


3. Maintenance: Consider the cleanliness and odor of the building, and how it is physically maintained. Aesthetics like carpets and chandeliers are not as important as whether those carpets and chandeliers are clean and functional. Has it been recently updated in terms of design, furnishings, carpet/flooring, and other environmental features?

levels-of-care4. Levels of Care: Even if your loved one doesn’t need care at the time of your tour, be sure to ask questions about what levels of care are provided in the community, like assisted living, memory care, rehab, or skilled nursing. Ask about move-out criteria (i.e. if your parent needs more care, can he stay, or will he have to transition to another care setting, such as a nursing home?). Does the community have relationships with other settings and can refer residents to appropriate facilities? Can you bring in your own private duty care if more support is needed, or do you have to partner with the community’s providers? If your loved one needs a mechanical diet (which means all foods can be made easier to chew and swallow by using machines. Foods may be blended, pureed, ground, or finely chopped) on account of illness or at the end of life, does the community have the equipment to accommodate that diet?  

activities 5. Activities: Ask about activities, programs, and attendance. Is there a full range of experiences designed to stimulate, inspire, and engage the mind, body, and spirit? How often are residents offered activities outside the community, such as a trip to the museum or a foliage tour? If you’re able to attend a program or sit in on an activity, do so. Did they share information about any signature programs specific to that community, or highlight favorite, featured events on the calendar? 

dining6. Dining: Have a meal in one of the dining areas. Ask about when meals are served: are meals served at fixed times, or is there flexibility? Can meals be delivered to rooms if a loved one is sick? Are snacks available throughout the day? Ask to see menus, are fresh ingredients used, and ask about meal choices. Does your loved one have any dietary restrictions, and if so, how will they be accommodated? What is the chef’s background and experience, does the chef mix it up, create holiday events, and keep dining fun and engaging?     

staffing7. Staffing: Ask about the staffing model: How are staffing levels determined? What are the staffing levels like on evenings and weekends? Are department heads always on-site on weekends? Did associates say hello as you passed through the hallways? Did servers in the dining room seem professional, courteous, and warm? 

oversight8. Oversight: Depending upon which care setting you’ve chosen, chances are that the community or agency is subject to some type of regulatory oversight. While independent living communities may be like apartment buildings, skilled nursing centers are highly regulated by state and federal laws. Ask how the community or agency is regulated. Are they inspected by the oversight agency? Can you obtain a copy of a recent inspection report and discuss it with the Executive Director? In a future post, we’ll discuss inspection reports (often called “surveys”), regulatory compliance, and the role of state ombudsmen in long term care. 

outdoor-spaces9. Outdoor Spaces: Tour the whole community, outdoor areas included (i.e. walking trails or patios). What was the “curb appeal” of the community as you approached it? How is the landscaping? What kind of outdoor options are available for residents and visitors to enjoy, like a gazebo, community garden, or picnic space? How well-maintained are the grounds in general? 

safety-and-security10. Safety and Security: Ask about security and safety procedures, how falls are handled, and what systems and technology are in place to monitor both. Is there a staff member on call to respond to safety and security issues 24-7?


Stay tuned for more tips and insights at Open Conversations. 
Want to share a comment or ask a question: openconversations@benchmarkquality.com

Content for Open Conversations was developed in partnership with Caregiving Advice.

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