What to look for in choosing the right assisted living

There are many things to consider when looking for assisted living for yourself or your loved one. Not all assisted livings are the same, and, in my professional opinion, assisted living residents thrive when they have the following three services met: great food, great hospitality, and great care.

It may surprise you, but not everyone moves into an assisted living community because they need the assistance. Some move because they are looking to downsize from their current home, some move for the socialization, and some move for the food!

Assisted livings usually offer all meals and snacks, included with the resident’s base rent. When you’re looking for an assisted living, be sure to choose one that offers variety and choice for all residents. Some facilities only offer one option for each meal, while others offer a full restaurant-style menu where the resident can choose what they are hungry for. Meals should be visually appealing, balanced, and taste delicious!

Is the assisted living interested in learning about your favorite foods and preferences prior to moving in? Would they be willing to make some of your favorite recipes? If you don’t want to eat in the dining room, are you able to have meals in your apartment? Those are simple questions to consider when choosing an assisted living. The dining program of an assisted living is the only activity every resident participates in, so it must be enjoyable to all.

Hospitality, by definition, is “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers.”

When you first walk into the doors of an assisted living, before you even hear or speak a word, great hospitality can be felt. How are you welcomed when you enter the facility for the first time? When you’re on a tour, does the staff greet others and introduce you to front-line employees when you pass them in the hall? Those are questions to consider when you’re looking for the right assisted living.

But how is great hospitality felt when you’re no longer a “guest, visitor or stranger?” How does the assisted living show hospitality to its residents? When you’re choosing the right assisted living, be sure to ask current residents how they enjoy living there. Keep in mind that all residents have different needs and reasons for choosing an assisted living, but great hospitality is always felt and can be recognized by the smiles and attitudes on resident and staff faces.

One of the largest services that assisted livings offer is care and assistance for its residents. Throughout each resident’s stay in an assisted living, they will at some point rely on the care of 24-7 staff and nurses to assist with activities of daily living, medication management, or even hospice and skilled care services. Great care is always provided by great staff. Be sure to ask what the resident-to-staff ratios are on each shift.

Do they have nurses on staff? Are the staff open to working on your schedule and accommodating your routine, or do you need to follow theirs? The best assisted livings provide great care when they can accommodate services based on the resident’s specific care plan, and not on the plan of the facility. Inquire about the level of communication between the nurses and resident physicians. Does that particular facility have a good relationship with your physician? Are there physicians who visit that facility? If the need for care increases, will you be able to stay at the assisted living? Great care requires a team approach and should always include the resident’s choices and wishes.

Choosing the right assisted living can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.

The right one should have staff that will be a valuable resource to navigate the process. And remember, the right assisted living will offer great food, great hospitality and great care, but will also be the right fit for you.

Julie Kelly works for Hinkson Properties which has over 30 years of experience caring for seniors in home health, independent, assisted living and memory care living in the Upper Peninsula and northern Michigan.