Questions to ask Assisted Living / Memory Care Facilities

Before you tour, it is better to call and ask question of facilities to avoid wasting your time. You can ask questions in person but it’s less time consuming and easier to ask over the phone.   Avoid giving information about the prospective client. Every facility will “Say” they can take care of any type of resident but in practice that isn’t true. Also avoid telling them the prospective client’s budget.  What type of care do you specialize in?

  • What type of care do they specialize in?

You want to avoid facilities that are “Age in place” Facilities. Facilities that specialize in a single type of client are almost always better at providing care for that type of client. Facilities whom take care of many types of residents even if they are in different wings, tend to not be as attuned to that type of resident’s needs. There is a big difference between caring for someone who has a walker and caring for someone who has dementia. Not just in the employees but also in how you build the actual facility.

  • What percent of the clients are ambulatory/non-ambulatory?

This question is similar to the previous question. There is a lot of ageism within the elderly community. The person with a walker doesn’t want to socialize with the person in the wheelchair. The person with a cane doesn’t want to socialize with the person in a walker. The person without a cane does not want to socialize with someone who has a cane. Also, the type of activities they have in these facilities greatly change according to the physical abilities of their residents. In general you want to match the physical abilities of the people in the facility

  • How long the person you are talking to has worked there for? If the person you are talking to is not the administrator, ask how long the administrator has worked there for?

A really big question in any facility is how well a facility is doing and how well they treat their employee. In general (Aside from someone like the cook and an executive director) The pay in facilities is pretty fixed. A low turnover in general is indicative of a facility that treats their employees well and has enough residents so that they are able to pay above market rates. Although turnover can be high, in general you don’t want to have management who has only been there for less than a year and at best you want someone who has been there for 2 or even 5 years. Obviously if the facility is new or has gone through new ownership, then this may not be the case. Most likely the person fielding these questions will be either the administrator or marketer. For either of them, you want to hear that they have worked at the facility for at least 2 and preferably 5 years. For caregivers you may talk to , 2 years is sufficient. 

Cost of assisted living

I talk about it more depth in my other post.

Once you are clear that the facility you are talking to specializes in the type of care the prospective resident is looking for, you can start asking about price. There is a strong chance that you will not be able to get an answer over the phone, but you should try.

  • How much is the deposit?

The deposit is usually equal to one month’s rent, and is refundable when the patient leaves.

  • How much is the admission fee?

Admission rates can vary wildly. They can be 1,000 dollars or 15,000 dollars. These costs are nonrefundable whether you stay in the facility 10 years or 10 days.

If you have not used a referral agency, specify that and ask if they can reduce the admission fee. Admission fees commonly go to referral agencies for bringing in a client. The standard price is usually somewhere between half and one months rent.

How much are the monthly expense for the room?

You can break the costs down into 2 costs. The room costs and the care cost.

  • What is the base cost of the available rooms if there are no care requirements?

Hopefully they will give you a straight answer. This amount should be used as the lowest possible price they can get for a facility. If the amount they give you is out of your budget, it is best to move on to another facility.

  • How do you approach care costs? Do you have a written point system? Do you have certain things you increase for written?

Many facilities at this point will start asking you about the prospective client. Is the person continent? Is the person ambulatory? You can simply ask back how much extra if they are. You simply want to get basic information at this point, and not agree to a price until after you tour.

Many facilities have a list 20 items long with a corresponding point that increases the price. They will quote you 1 price then raise the care costs the next month citing a long list of care requirements you claimed that were not disclose. You may say they are not incontinent, but suddenly the 2 times a month that someone walked them to the bathroom results in a 500 dollar increase in monthly rent.

Smaller facilities will usually not have any documented cost, and simply have a vague sense of how much they charge.

Questions to ask during a tour

  • Can I tour during lunch or dinner?

One of the most important things a facility can get right is the food they serve. It is not odd for the best paid person at larger facilities to be the chef.

  • Will I meet the administrator during the tour?

The administrator is the person on record responsible for the facility. Any issues with the facility should to be addressed to the administrator.

  • How long they have worked in assisted living and how long have they worked at this facility?

As mentioned earlier this is a question that should be asked of all employees you meet, especially the caregivers.

Caregiver pay across the industry is pretty flat so a caregiver will stay at a place if they have good management that doesn’t skimp on what they need to do their job.

If this facility is a memory care, ask how long the person has worked with Alzheimer/dementia residents.

  • Is the building owned by the same people who manage it and if it is, how long has the management company managed the facility?

One of the things that can make or break a facility is how they upkeep their facility and take care of their reputation.  There are many good management companies but they are sometimes, not invested in the long term success of a facility.

Be wary of finding a facility with a building that is 10 years old with a management company that has only been there 1 or 2 years. This along with a low census is a big red flag even if the rates seem very reasonable.

  • What is the current census?

A low census given an old building is a pretty bad sign. Low is really anything below 80 percent given a facility has been operating longer than 2 years. Facilities like this are usually skimping on things like staffing and facility maintenance.

  • How many caregivers do you have on staff at night?

Make sure you confirm the night staff are caregivers. Not janitors or security personnel.

  • Can I get a copy of the activity calendar?

All facilities licensed to care for the elderly in California are required to have one displayed.

If you have any other questions please post below and visit or facility here.

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