You know that expression in the car-buying business about kicking the tires before you buy? This idiom serves as a reminder to inspect something to make sure it meets your expected standards before you commit to buying.
Take senior living communities, for example. No matter how lovely the website or how engaging the brochure, you definitely want to kick the tires of each community, so to speak, before you make your decision.
So as you start setting up your in-person visits, here are 10 tips for touring senior living communities — what to look for, what to ask, and how to compare as you weigh your senior living options.
Arrive about 15 minutes before your scheduled visit and watch the activity in the lobby or entryway. Are residents and family members coming and going? Does it seem to be fairly lively? Are staff members interacting with residents? More importantly, were you greeted properly by someone, with a smile, a handshake and a friendly welcome? Did any residents stop to welcome you as well?
While you’re still in the lobby, observe the security and the vigilance of the staff. Are visitors checking in with the front desk, or wandering around at will? If you arrive early enough and are able, drive around the community. Check out the property entrances. Is the community gated? Is there a security booth, and is it staffed? Does the location feel safe?
If you arrive early, keep an eye on your watch. When it’s time for your scheduled visit, does someone from the marketing staff come out to greet you, or are they late? Do they seem focused on you or do they seem rushed? During your community tour, do your questions get answered thoughtfully, or does the staff member seem distracted and dismissive? Just the way the staff handles community tours can tell you a lot about the community’s culture.
This is a good opportunity to both try the food and judge the activity in the dining room. It’s also a good time to get a feel for the residents. Are they dressed up, or wearing casual clothes? Is there a lot of conversation and laughter or is it quiet? Are any family members dining with residents? Are any residents eating alone?
There’s a reason for this unusual tour request: It allows you to check the overall cleanliness of the community. If the locker room has towels lying on the floor, the bathroom stalls aren’t tidy, the sinks and counters are messy or the waste bins are overflowing, you may ask yourself if the entire senior living community has the same level of disorder.
Occupancy is what keeps a senior living community running: The higher the occupancy, the healthier the community’s fiscal situation. And that matters whether it’s a for-profit or not-for-profit community. Financially healthy communities can bring in and retain quality staff, continually enhance activities and programs, and make improvements to the physical environment.
Some senior living communities may charge for services and amenities like housekeeping or extra meals. You may have to pay for some of your own utilities, or pay extra each month for a parking spot. Be sure to get a full list of any a la carte services so you know what is and isn’t included in your residency agreement.
If the senior living community you’re touring offers higher levels of care beyond independent living, this is especially important to ask. One helpful tip when touring a senior living community is to ask for a tour through all levels of senior care. Follow up with questions about staff tenure; high staff turnover and low tenure may be red flags.
Ask to speak with a few residents for their opinions on what they like and don’t like about living there. Also ask for their insights on the staff, the quality of dining and the activities, and what their typical day is like. You may even ask the community if you can stay for a night or over a weekend for a “try before you buy” senior living experience.
The reason why this is the only tip in this section? It’s quite possibly the most important question you’ll ask. If you choose a community that offers a Life Care contract, you know you’ll be guaranteed the health care you may one day need. You know you’ll receive that care right on the community’s campus. And you know that care will be provided at predictable costs for the rest of your life.
You have the answer to the Life Care question; now get the other nine questions answered during your personal tour of Friendship Village. Schedule your visit now by contacting us. We can’t wait to show you around!