During these uncertain times of COVID-19, with senior living communities in quarantine and with social distancing orders, it can be daunting to figure out how you or a loved one can find the care you need.  Sometimes, even with these conditions, you may not be able to put decisions like this on hold indefinitely; you need to find the right assisted living home near you today.

So, how do you find the right retirement community in today’s environment of stay at home orders, social distancing and self-quarantine and how can you determine if it is the right fit for you or your loved one?  This is an important decision when you can normally tour a senior living community, it is even more monumental now.  Because not all communities have the same qualities you or your loved one need, it is important to conduct the appropriate research.  While you can always change your mind and move somewhere else, it is much better to pick the right community first as moving is both an emotionally and physically challenging undertaking as you get older.

When researching senior assisted living communities, you want a community that feels like home and can adapt as your needs change. Just as importantly, you need a caring, compassionate community that focuses on your well-being. This includes everything from making the most of your independence to offering additional help when you need it.

Finding the right assisted living community as your next home that allows you to live comfortably and ably is like finding the right college for high school students. All colleges offer higher education courses that can help graduates achieve their professional aspirations and create a life for themselves in their next chapter of adulthood.  So, to, is finding your next home which will allow you to lead a good life in your next chapter of retirement.  As college selections are about preference, so too is choosing the right senior assisted living community for you.

While visiting assisted living communities is difficult during the coronavirus pandemic, you can still conduct research online and over the phone which will allow you to make the best decision.  Video conferencing is also an option, as it allows you to meet and speak with staff and residents as well as tour the community all in a virtual environment.  Here are seven qualities you should look for in a senior assisted living community to help you narrow your choices based on what is most important for you or your loved one.

  1. Culture

Senior assisted living communities have distinct cultures based on management and staff’s dedication to making the right decisions for its residents. Culture also includes residents’ likes and dislikes, the friendliness of all staff, and management’s concern for an outstanding experience. One great way to get a feel for the culture is to observe an activity and then stay for a meal. However, since that’s not practical considering COVID-19, take the time to speak with both staff members and residents.  Ask questions of them that are important to determine if a community and its values are a good fit for you or your loved one.

  1. Mission and purpose

In addition to culture, a senior assisted living community’s mission and purpose is especially important when determining your next home.  A community’s mission should guide management and staff in everyday decisions about a resident’s quality of care as well as how they treat and respect each other and their residents. When speaking with residents and staff, find out what the mission and purpose is, if it is put into daily practice and how they feel it improves their day to day lives.

  1. Caring and compassionate staff

You will learn a lot about how caring and compassionate the staff is from its mission and purpose.  It is also important to talk to caregivers. Talk to the staff who are responsible for the everyday quality of care for residents. Find out what is most important to them. Ask them what they like and what they do not like about working for the community and serving residents. If you talk to other residents, ask them specifically about the staff they encounter every day.  How are they treated?  Is it with dignity, kindness and respect? Do they feel like their needs are met and expectations exceeded? Are they happy? Are their concerns addressed promptly?  Does the staff respond to family members courteously and in a professionally acceptable timeframe?  These are just a few questions you should consider asking when speaking with both staff and residents of every assisted living community you are considering.

  1. Services

Many assisted living communities offer a myriad of services.  It is important for you to know what services are paramount to you or your loved one and which services would be nice to have but are not necessarily vital to your decision.  For example, providing assistance with dressing and medication management may be a priority. However, having a pool may not be.  Additional questions to consider are: What kind of personal care services do they offer and are they included or an extra charge? What type of programs or enrichment activities are offered?  If you are still driving, can you bring your car? Is there a charge for parking? Do they provide laundry and housekeeping services? If so, when and how often?  Do they offer transportation to activities or medical appointments? What services are included in the monthly fee and what are not?  Be sure to speak about you or your loved one’s specific needs. It is important to know what all the costs are and whether the monthly service fees are within your budget before you make a final decision.

  1. Safety and security

You need peace of mind knowing that where you or your loved one is living is safe and secure. If you are looking for assisted living, make sure that accessing staff for help and medical assistance is easy to do. Also ask how the community and its residents are protected.  How is the safety of residents ensured?  How often are residents visited by caregivers to make sure they are doing well?  Which staff members are on duty at night?  Is there a call bell in the resident’s room in case of emergencies? Also, part of being safe and secure is management’s and staff’s dedication to cleanliness, especially during these current challenging times, but also as an ongoing security measure.  You can ask communities how they performed on their last state inspection as an added measure to determine the right community for you.

  1. A robust activity program

When researching, it’s important to find an assisted living community that offers plenty of activities for socialization.  There should be daily activities of varying programs that are of interest to everyone.  A community’s website may provide a monthly calendar that lists the various activities by day. It is important to look for activities that are not routine.  Instead, the calendar should provide activities that fills residents’ days with programs that are holistic, fun, and engaging as well as educational.  Educational activities should promote continued learning and opportunities to enhance mental acuity.  When speaking with staff, ask to see several months’ worth of activity calendars to see the variety throughout the year.  When speaking with residents or family members, be sure to ask them about the activities they engage in as well.  Do they feel the community offers variety?  Which ones do they like the most? Are they provided an opportunity to offer suggestions for future programs of interest?  Are family members invited and encouraged to participate?  Are there activities that are included as part of the monthly fee or is there an additional cost?  It’s important to keep in mind the community you move into will be your next home.  Your home should provide you with every opportunity to learn, grow, enjoy fun and engaging activities and build friendships.

  1. Gourmet cuisine

Dining and nutrition are important, not only from a health, diet, and well-being standpoint, but as an experience for residents. Look for a community with chefs on board who not only take care of any resident’s dietary needs, but their personal tastes as well. Will the chefs make that special meal you or your loved one enjoys so much?  Are your birthdays recognized?  Do they remember how you like your coffee?  Is the dining room a place of joy and socialization?  As a loved one, does the dietary staff notice if your mother or father’s appetite has decreased and he or she is not eating?  What do the residents and family members have to say about the cuisine? Is it healthy and delicious or is it just ok? Food is an important aspect of our lives, so it remains when we move into an assisted living community as well.

Final thoughts

Nothing can speak more highly about a senior assisted living community than the one you feel will make sure you or your loved one is safe, happy, and well cared for.  One that will meet your needs today and in the future as your care needs change.  Choose a community that will help you grow as a person through plenty of activities and socialization. And look for one that provides just the amount of assistance you need while helping you live as independently as possible. After speaking with residents and staff, the community you or your loved one chooses should be the one that feels like home.