A Checklist For Evaluating Assisted Living Facilities

Assisted living facilities offer a range of services that are between senior retirement communities (“independent living”) and nursing homes.  They provide the opportunity for the independence and community of the former with some of the support services of the latter. Residents typically have their own apartment, which may or may not include its own kitchen and laundry. Moving a loved one to an assisted living facility is the first step on a path to less independence, and therefore can be a very emotional, though usually necessary, decision. It is not uncommon for families to consider the move several times before actually taking it.

You and your senior family member may wish to take an active role in the selection process, and the following checklist highlights some important aspects to consider when choosing the right facility.  We encourage you to take it along with you as you tour the various choices, as these tours can be a bit overwhelming. As an additional resource, the AARP provides an excellent worksheet to help you ‘ask the right questions’ while making your initial fact-finding phone calls.

Location And Proximity To Family

  • How important is proximity to your loved one?  Do you want to walk or drive?
  • Is the facility located in an acceptable neighborhood?
  • Does your loved one have any particular location preference?

Health And Safety

  • What level of medical care and support is provided and how is it integrated into the residents’ lives? (nurse “house calls” to their apartments, for example)
  • What level of training and accreditation does the medical staff have?
  • Are there separate care areas for various levels of support?
  • Is there a procedure in place for regularly checking up on each resident’s needs?
  • Are the hallways and stairs well lit, with obvious fire safety systems and security?
  • Are there well-marked exits?
  • Does each room have housekeeping services?
  • Do rooms have their own bathrooms, and are they equipped with handrails and call buttons?

Resident Life

  • Do the residents themselves seem happy with their surroundings?
  • Could you see yourself living in this facility?
  • How do residents get around in the community? Are there transportation services?
  • Is it possible for residents to go somewhere on short notice?
  • Can residents visit family whenever they please?
  • Does the facility provide at least three meals every day?
  • Are the meals something you wouldn’t mind eating? (try one while you’re visiting)
  • Do the meals seem nutritious and well-balanced?
  • Are there snacks?
  • Can this facility accommodate any special dietary restrictions, preferences, or needs?
  • Is there obvious evidence of resident participation in the community?
  • Is there a daily / weekly schedule of events and activities?
  • Do residents take part in events in the neighboring community?
  • Are pets allowed?
  • Are there special services such as a bank, beauty salon, convenient store, or a post office?
  • Does the facility have onsite worship services – or do they provide transportation to offsite ones?


  • What is the interaction like between staff, visitors, and residents?
  • Do the residents and staff seem to have a pleasant relationship? Be sure to ask a resident!
  • Is the staff readily available 24 hours a day?
  • Do staff greet you when you arrive? Do they seem happy to see you?


  • Are there entrance fees?
  • What is the monthly rent?
  • Is there a security deposit? Is it refundable?
  • Are there additional services, and if so – what do they cost?
  • Are utilities included? What about phone or Internet?
  • Are there any regular fee-increases?
  • What happens if your financial situation changes?
  • What happens if your level of need increases?
  • Are there any programs that might assist with costs?

Red Tape And Residence Contract

  • Is the contract easy to read and understand?
  • Does the contract address all of your concerns?
  • Are all costs, services, and provisions clearly outlined in a residence contract?
  • Is living space held for a resident if they require an extended stay in the hospital?
  • If a resident’s financial situation changes, or if they decide to move out for other reasons, what are the financial penalties you might incur?

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