How To Evaluate a Senior Living Arrangement

As noted in a recent post, Moving in Retirement? How To Decide Where To Go, the state of your health might dictate the location for your next move. After a frank health assessment, you can decide which alternatives make the most sense for your situation.

  • Home Healthcare
  • Adult Daycare
  • Assisted Living
  • Skilled Nursing Care
  • Memory Care

Home Healthcare

According to a 2021 AARP study, 77% of seniors want to “age in place” in their homes. As a result, the interest in home healthcare has grown. Both medical professionals and insurers increasingly support home healthcare as an effective yet lower-cost method to support patient health. This form of care can deliver various medical services and, in some cases, assistance with daily activities, housework, or transportation. The availability, cost, and quality of home healthcare services in your locality may be significant factors in deciding whether to move.

Adult Daycare

Some of us may opt to live with family for health and well-being. While this can be a positive arrangement, it can cause stress for caregivers stretched thin by their responsibilities. Adult daycare provides an opportunity for adults with extra needs to spend daytime hours in a safe, supportive atmosphere. Adult daycare services vary in the services they offer. Some offer social interaction, others offer medical support, and others provide dementia care.

Assisted Living

Located in a facility outside the home, assisted living arrangements provide housing, social interaction, medical support, and help with daily activities. Accommodations range from private apartments, rooms, or shared quarters. The facilities typically strive to create a feeling of home and are set up to promote resident independence. Services usually also include meals, medication support, and housekeeping/laundry. In addition, some facilities offer “enhanced” assisted living which includes some higher levels of medical care that would otherwise only be available in a skilled nursing facility.

Skilled Nursing Care

For those who need a higher level of medical support, skilled nursing care (SNC) facilities provide services at a level below an acute care hospital. SNC services can be short or long-term. Short-term stays focus on helping patients recover and rehabilitate after a hospital stay. Long-term care focuses on those with chronic conditions requiring around-the-clock medical attention. Unlike short-term patients, those requiring long-term care rarely return home.

Memory Care

Patients requiring memory care may be healthy in most other ways, but the effects of dementia make it unsafe for them to live in the community. Dedicated memory care facilities are designed to support residents’ safety and well-being. These facilities typically provide the following:

  • Private or semi-private rooms
  • Meals
  • Medical and location alert systems
  • Housekeeping/laundry
  • Assistance with daily
  • Assistance with social/recreational activities

In addition, some assisted living and skilled nursing facilities offer memory care in specially designated areas within their buildings.

How to Evaluate a Senior Living Arrangement

Despite the differences in the alternatives above, here are some guidelines for determining if a particular option is the right fit for you or a loved one. For a more comprehensive dive into these guidelines, read: How to Choose? The Ultimate Senior Living Checklist!
The Essential Assisted Living Checklist - Click here to read the checklist

Finding Information

Once you have decided on which type of senior living alternative, how do you find out what’s available in your area? The easiest way to find possible choices for consideration is through an internet search. Also, some websites like Cantissimo Senior Living have in-depth, curated information about various options. Another tactic is to ask friends and trusted professionals like doctors or attorneys for their recommendations.

Next, after reviewing the websites of potential candidates, narrow the field to 3 to 5 top options. Follow this with initial telephone calls to each location. The person in charge of admissions will answer basic questions and learn more about the prospective client.

Taking the Tour

Armed with a final list, arranging facility tours comes next. For home healthcare, this means a visit by the home healthcare agency to the house to meet the prospective client and tour the residence. The prospective resident/client should participate in the process. His or her buy-in is crucial. Otherwise, the transition to senior care could be a disaster.


On the drive to the building, note its proximity to the homes of loved ones. Is it an easy drive all year round? Is the neighborhood pleasant with stores and services nearby, and is it safe to walk outside in the area? Is it in a noisy, bustling location or a quieter setting?

The Building

When you arrive, note the parking situation to see if there are enough spaces for visitors. Does the building strike you as well-maintained and attractive? Are there safe, pleasant areas outside the building for residents to sit or walk?

Next, take note of the interior spaces. Does the lobby feel welcoming? Are the common areas open, well-lit, and uncluttered? As you walk through the facility, is the layout easy to follow? Are appropriate safety measures in place, like handrails in the hallways and grab bars in bathrooms and non-slip floors?


All senior facilities and home healthcare agencies have policies that are important to know. Therefore, make sure to get a complete list of policies during the visit.

Living Quarters

Typically assisted living quarters are considered to be apartments. They can be studio/efficiency or one or more bedrooms. For skilled nursing care, private or semi-private rooms are the norm. Look over any room amenities such as kitchenettes, closets, and bathrooms.


On the tour, note how the residents appear. When touring the building, take note of the residents. Do they appear clean, well-groomed, happy, and comfortable? Are they socializing?


How do members of the staff act during the tour? Are they professional, friendly, and knowledgeable? Ask about staffing levels because of the difficulty finding competent workers is a problem these days. Also, what is the plan for the staff to communicate with the resident’s/client’s family?

Care Plans

All these senior living alternatives should have care plans for residents/clients. These documents define the details about care to be delivered. Ask for a sample care plan, so you know what it includes.


Signatures on contracts will be required for services to commence. Carefully review the agreement to fully understand the financial and policy implications of service delivery.


You will pay for services via insurance, out-of-pocket, or a combination of the two. The services contract will specify your financial responsibility. Some people run out of money during the delivery of services and switch to Medicaid insurance. If that is a concern, make sure you understand the details of how that coverage transfer works.

Medication and Healthcare

A major goal of any senior living arrangement is maintaining the resident’s/client’s health, so the quality of care ranks high in importance. Closely question the staff about how health services will be delivered.


Each senior living alternative includes a food services component. Even home healthcare can have meal prep as a service, and adult day care serves meals. Sampling meals can provide insight into food quality.


Stimulating activities should always be a part of the senior living experience. A varied list of interesting activities and events leads to greater happiness and well-being for residents/clients. Ask for samples of activity schedules.


Does the facility have its own transportation program? For home healthcare, are aides able to transport clients to the store or doctor appointments? Ask if transportation costs extra and if drivers are fully trained and insured.

It is important to assess all the aspects of a senior living arrangement. Ask a lot of questions and gather as much data as you can. However, your own intuition can be a good guide. The arrangement needs to feel comfortable for the resident/client and family because finding the right fit will hopefully lead to a satisfying experience for all involved. 

Learn more! Read our eBook, "Your Guide to Finding a New Home After 50"!


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