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6 Tips for Virtual and In-Person Senior Community Tours

By Kara LewisOctober 22, 2021
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Finding the right senior living community for your loved one is an important and personal decision. Whether you’re touring assisted living communities, memory care facilities, or are looking for another type of care, the environment in which your loved one will live on a daily basis will have a significant impact on their overall well-being.

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While in-person tours have long been the norm, the rise of COVID-19 led to a surge in virtual senior living tours. Experts expect these video conferencing visits to continue beyond the pandemic, citing factors such as convenience and advancing technology, like A Place for Mom’s new touring video app. However, whether you prefer the virtual or just want that in-person experience, A Place for Mom’s community touring notes guide helps you keep track of your questions and compare your tour experiences along the way.

And, no matter which touring method you choose, the six tips below can empower your family to transition to senior living with confidence.

1. Observe community layout and tone

Is the layout small or large? Do its features accommodate mobility challenges? Does the staff maintain the building’s cleanliness? Evaluating these core questions can help you assess if a community can be your senior’s new home. In-person tourers should rely on all their senses: Take in a community’s sights and scents, for instance. Unpleasant odors throughout the community may indicate a lack of cleanliness.

Look past the surface of a community and into the details, like windows and furnishings. Whether you’re taking an in-person or virtual tour, ask to view the surrounding outdoor areas, and request to see a room similar to the one your loved one may occupy, if possible. See for yourself what view your loved one will have from their window. Lastly, pay attention to the décor and colors to gauge if they will uplift your loved one’s daily mood and routines.

2. Prioritize safety and security

For all seniors, especially those experiencing dementia symptoms like wandering and confusion, safety is paramount. To help ensure your loved one will have adequate supervision, ask the following questions:

  • How is the community secured?
  • Is there a 24-hour nurse on duty? If not, when is a nurse on duty?
  • What medical services are available?
  • How accessible is medical help?
  • How do staffing patterns differ between night and day?
  • For residents with dementia, are there emergency alert systems, enclosed courtyards, or color-coded hallways to simplify navigation?

3. Assess staff friendliness, training, and qualification

Families turn to senior living communities for a greater standard of care and expertise than the family itself can provide. Try to observe one-on-one interactions between staff members and residents as a way to assess not only staff knowledge but also traits like friendliness and patience.

From a more clinical perspective, ask your senior living tour guide these questions to check if their staff meet high standards:

  • Is your facility and staff accredited?
  • Do staff attend ongoing training? How many training hours do they receive per year?
  • Are staff members certified dementia care managers (CDCMs)?
  • What’s the staff-to-resident ratio?
  • Do staff plan individualized care and treatments for each resident?
  • How do staff care for bedridden or wheelchair-bound residents?
  • How do staff care for disruptive or aggressive residents?
  • Who coordinates outside visits?

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4. Get to know the community’s social offerings and residents

The other residents at your loved one’s new senior living community will become their friends and daily companions. Do current residents seem social, engaged, and happy? If you’re touring in person, consider visiting during a group activity, like bingo or a social hour, to observe interactions among current residents.

Additionally, try to incorporate a meal into your tour to review available dining options. Meal time also will provide another view on the social scene. During conversations with other residents, ask questions about their daily routines, and seek their honest opinions on the community.

If you’re taking a virtual tour, ask the guide about residents’ personalities, how many residents participate on outings, and if there are community clubs. Consider asking to see an event calendar or to speak with individual staff members.

5. Consider next steps if care needs progress

In the event a loved one’s condition advances, make sure the senior living community has procedures in place to support them. Or, if your loved one needs to move out because of a need for a greater level of care, how will the community help facilitate this transition? Consider these questions:

  • Under what circumstances is a resident asked to move out of the community?
  • If a care contract is in place, under what circumstances may a resident leave the community?
  • No matter the reason for leaving, whether due to health or a less-than-optimal fit, how much and what type of notice must you or your loved one provide to the community’s management?

6. Let your instincts lead you

Though questions, notes, and tips serve as a handy guide, they’re no substitute for your gut feelings. Ultimately, you know your loved one best. If you moved your family member into this new home, would you have peace of mind?

Kara Lewis

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