Checklist: Questions to ask an assisted living community

Here are some things to ask and contemplate when choosing an assisted living community. Make sure you take your time, ask many detailed questions and if possible, try to bring a trusted friend or family member with you during a visit or consultation.

Cost and contracts

  • Does the contract disclose all the health care and supportive services available and all the fees attached to them?
  • Is there a tiered payment plan? If so, what kind of services are included in each tier?
  • Are there additional charges for services?
  • What are the admission and discharge procedure and fees? Are refunds available?
  • If the resident is admitted to the hospital or is away temporarily, what fees continue to apply?
  • What kind of payment does the community accept?
  • Does the community accept Medicaid, or other low-income subsidy programs, as a form of payment for services?
  • How does the community bill its residents? Does the community generate a paper bill or are electronic payments allowed?

Services and needs

  • What is the staff to resident ratio? (Make sure this number does not include administrative staff or other staff members who aren’t directly involved in resident care. In general, the fewer residents per staff member, the better.)
  • How does the community determine what services are needed for the resident?
  • Does the staff perform periodic assessments, and how often do they occur? Many facilities have semi-annual assessments but this time frame varies.
  • How will the resident or family member be notified if there’s a change in services? How can you change/dispute any added service fees?
  • Is there 24-hour assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs)? This includes dressing, bathing, help with mobility, meals, shopping and housekeeping.
  • Does the residence provide periodic medical services? If so, which ones and how often are the services available?
  • Is transportation provided to nearby stores or doctor’s offices?
  • How are medications ordered and replenished? Does the facility handle this or does the family assist with this?
  • Are there therapies (like occupational, speech and physical) available on site?
  • What kinds of social activities are available?
  • What are the meals like? Taste the food, if you can! Does the kitchen accommodate special dietary or religious needs?
  • Are there religious or cultural services and programs?
  • Are there rules (like behavioral conditions) that the resident needs to comply? Can the community terminate services if these conditions are not met?

Community layout and maintenance

  • Is the layout of the residence easy to navigate?
  • How many rooms are available? In what size?
  • How many residents live there?
  • Are the rooms, doorways and hallways large enough for walkers and wheelchairs?
  • Are there elevators?
  • What can you fit in your room? Can you bring some of your own furniture?
  • How are the closets and bathroom in the rooms?
  • Are the community and rooms light or dark? Is there natural sunlight or enough lighting?
  • Is the community clean? Any odors?
  • How is the temperature? If you’re visiting a community in the summer, is the air conditioning set too low or high?
  • Are pets allowed?
  • How does the residence maintain security?


  • Do you like the initial look and feel of the place?
  • How does the exterior and interior of the building look? Is the décor dark and drab or bright and attractive?
  • How do the staff seem to interact with the residents? Are they friendly? Talkative? Do they address each resident by their name?
  • What are the demographics like? Will you (or your loved one) feel like they fit in? Will the staff be sensitive to any non-traditional family arrangements?
  • How do the residents interact with one another? Try sitting in on a scheduled activity or eating a meal with the residents to soak in the atmosphere.
Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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