Assisted Living Dallas – How to Tour & What to Ask

It seems easy, right?  After you sort through the many, many assisted living options, you call and schedule a tour or just stop by and someone shows you around. You get an idea of what life is like and what they can provide at that specific assisted living community and that’s about it.  If only it were that simple.

It’s my experience that many people get overwhelmed by this stage and don’t know what to ask or how to judge each community.  They all promise different but similar services with each one touting to be the best and top of the line.  It’s hard to know what’s real and what’s just marketing.

However, I can share with you ways to make sure that you get the best glimpse and feel very comfortable with your final decision of what communityDid you know that there are over 300 assisted to move yourself or your loved into.

I spent many years actually working in a large assisted living and years of successfully helping families find the best senior community for either themselves or their loved ones (to read my story click here). I decided to put together a list of questions that I think are critical to finding a community that best fits your needs.

This list not only looks at amenities and care levels, it also makes you assess how you feel about different aspects of the community.  For example: the sales/leasing person giving the tour may tell you that they have 7/1 caregiver to resident ratios (sounds good, right?), however, when you are touring, you only see 1 caregiver and several people that either look like they need assistance or are flat out asking for help and not being attended to.  Think about how that makes you feel – does that make you feel like they are adequately staffed regardless of the ratios that they touted?

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Assisted Living Ratios –

The caregiver/resident ratio question in assisted living and memory care is a tricky one but touted by some to be one of the most important things that you should ask.  Coming from having worked on the inside, I tend to think that it’s not a very reliable piece of information on its own.  It is sometimes (not always) inflated to look better than it actually is.

One community may tell you they have a 5/1 ratio but they actually have a 12/1.  That’s because they are counting staff that does not do direct caregiving and might be housekeeping, laundry, maintenance or administrative staff.  Another community might tell you they have a 12/1 ratio (horrified gasp) because you were just told by the community before that they had a 5/1.  It’s important to compare apples to apples and know what that number really means.

I think a better question to ask is – Do the caregivers strictly give care or do they do other things like meal preparation, housekeeping, laundry, etc? Then once you know what they are responsible for ask them what their ratio is and how they measure it.  Keep in mind that overnight ratios are completely different than day time ratios and that’s totally normal.

Drop in tours –

Another insider insight that I want to share with you is that – You don’t get the best information or really understand what you are judging when you just drop in for your first tour.  I strongly suggest that my clients always call ahead and set up a scheduled tour.  I know, you’re thinking that you will get a staged tour and it’s best to just surprise them so that they can’t cover anything up and you get he really scoop on what’s going on in that community, right?  Don’t worry you can still do that, I just don’t recommend it for the very first tour.

The biggest reason that I want you to schedule your first tour –

You should tour with the appropriate person so that all of your questions can be answered in the best way possible.  If you drop in they may be with another family and not have time to tour you or you could be toured by someone that is available which may be the dining or activity coordinator or the maintenance director.  They probably won’t have the best knowledge about medical services, pricing or anything more than general info. I want you to be an educated consumer and know what it is that they are promising.

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After this bells and whistle tour, if you like them and they are under serious consideration, do a drop in tour.  Just show up and ask to be shown around.  Let them know that you have already toured and just want another look.  Now is your time to judge them on what they say they promised.  Are the activities that are listed actually happening?  Does it smell or is everything in disarray? Do the residents look clean and happy? Does it seem adequately staffed?   Do you feel like it is a safe home for the residents?  Talk to the residents; see what they think of their home.  Answering these questions will help ease your mind and solidify the decision.

Now if the drop in tour went well then I want you to set up a time for you to experience a meal with them.  Lunch will probably be the largest meal of the day and will give you a good peek into what the offer.  Good food is very important and unfortunately, I see a lot of families skip this step to save time.  We want our seniors to love their food (not just the sweets) we want it to nourish them and keep them healthy so this is a critical piece of the process.  If they don’t like the food then it will be hard to keep the appetite stimulated and the nourishment up.

If after the bells and whistle tour, the drop in and the dining experience you decide that this is the community (or at least you’re pretty sure) then I want you to ask for a couple of references from families that live or lived there. I’m by nature a review junkie.  I will read tons of online reviews before I purchase something, why should this be any different?

Now you are ready to decide if this community is a good fit for you or your loved one.  This is a big and expensive decision and taking time to make the right one is crucial.  Doing all of this doesn’t mean that there won’t be issues but it does minimize them. Plus, you will know that you put forward a true effort and made the most educated and insightful decision possible.  Happy Moving!

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