The Search: Three Questions You Should Always Ask When Looking at Senior Living Communities

by Rachel Keranen

When looking for a senior living community for mom or dad, there are common questions that always come up. “What’s the food like?” “What sort of activities do you have?” These questions matter, but when looking for a senior living community for mom or dad, there are common questions that always come up.ople often don’t know to ask some of the bigger questions that tell more about a place.

We talked to Alex Salabarria, CEO of Oaks Senior Living, to hear what questions he wishes families would ask when touring senior living communities.

Outside of the typical oversight, dining services, medication administration, and activity programming, what does your community do to provide for my loved one’s mental, physical, and spiritual functioning?

A good assisted living community focuses on improving your parent’s baseline wellness, mentally, physically, and spiritually. (Baseline wellness is the level of wellness we have at the present moment.)

It’s not just about providing daily care, it’s about providing opportunities for people in the community to engage in meaningful social interactions. It’s about providing exercise programs run by expert therapy teams to improve strength and mobility. It’s about providing religious services or yoga classes that help with spiritual growth.

In a community that focuses on mind, body, and spirit, a resident’s baseline wellness tends to improve, which is an optimal outcome for residents.

Can I see your annual inspection from the state regulatory agency?

Assisted living communities are inspected annually by state regulatory departments. Those inspections show any deficiencies that the regulators found. Some deficiencies are relatively minor, but if a community has deficiencies related to care outcomes or watchful oversight, that should raise a red flag.

How many caregivers do you have per resident in both assisted living and memory care?

The state sets minimum staffing ratios for waking and sleeping hours. After those minimums are met, communities vary on how many caregivers there are to tend to each residents’ needs.

Salabarria recommends pressing a level deeper after hearing the initial ratio. Ask “Do those people provide direct care all the time for residents in their community? Or are you counting management personnel?”

Some communities will include personnel like wellness nurses or resident care coordinators in their staffing ratios, and while those people are valuable team members, they don’t provide continuous direct care.

If you’re a family member with a loved one in a senior living community or a caregiver, are there any questions you recommend asking?

Photo credit: Creative Commons image by David

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