A visit is the perfect starting point to find the right elder care community for your loved one.

Visiting a senior living community isn’t the end to your search—it should be the first step when you are exploring senior living options for your loved one. But many people put off an in-person visit. Some don’t know what to expect or worry that they’ll feel pressured to make a decision.

A great senior living community will be committed to making sure it can offer your loved one the right care and sense of community. So, scheduling a visit is a chance for both of you to get to know each other. It isn’t an obligation to make a decision. It’s an opportunity to get a feel for the community while learning more about your options. Meeting residents and staff will help you set expectations and determine what community is the right fit for your parent.

Beginning the Search for an Elder Care Community
Searching for a senior living community is “similar to the same process we use as we’re searching for a new home,” says Ted Burgess, Executive Director at AlmaVia of Camarillo. You want to see the location and get a good understanding of its atmosphere and the quality of care they provide. “The only way you can experience that is by actually being there,” says Burgess.

Before you make an appointment to visit the community, drop by unannounced. “Just dropping in says, ‘I’m going to observe people doing what they do every day,’” says Burgess. You’ll be able to see how the community functions when you’re not expected, and see if this matches up with what you see during a scheduled visit.

Taking the Tour: A Personalized Look at Your Options
You should never feel pressured to make a decision when visiting a community. “If you walk in and you’re immediately pushed into doing something you don’t want to do, walk out,” says Burgess. “Our salespeople are not just salespeople, we are information sources. We’re here to help people learn what they want to know.”

Take the time to sit down and talk with a representative to clarify what you are looking for in a community. This way, your visit will be focused on the specific aspects of the community that apply to your loved one, rather than an expansive tour of the entire community. “It’s so individualized, no two tours are the same, no two people moving in are the same, and that’s how it should be,” says Burgess.

Make sure to visit several different communities to see what is out there and which might best meet the needs of your loved one and your needs as a caregiver. To gain a better feel for each community, visit on different days and attend a variety of activities. Speak with different members of the staff, sit and have a meal with residents, and attend an event or participate in an activity that would appeal to you or your loved one.

What to Ask On a Senior Living Visit
Ask the tough questions, says Burgess. In addition to basic questions you should ask, such as the staff-to-resident ratio, residence options, and long-term care services at the community, get down to the nitty-gritty. What happens if your parent needs something in the middle of the night? What training does staff have to handle emergency situations? Burgess also suggests describing a situation you’ve faced with your loved one that was tough for you, and ask how the community will approach that same situation.

Also, ask residents and staff about the community’s culture and activities. This will help you find a community that matches your loved one’s personality and passions. “Look for the opportunities where mom can still be mom and not be forced to do something she’s not going to want to do,” says Burgess. Ask yourself what is going to make your loved one feel most comfortable and what kind of care is needed, then pick the community that will best answer those needs.

For more information on visiting a senior living community, use our handy questions to ask checklist. Click here to schedule a visit at an Elder Care Alliance community.