How to Choose an Assisted Living Facility - (2024)

Choosing an assisted living facility for yourself or a loved one is no easy task. Even after you narrow down which type of senior care you need, there’s a lot to think about, including how much you can comfortably afford to pay, which amenities are important to you and where you want to live while in assisted living.

We talked to two Family Advisors, Aidan Moloney and Haley Fleming, to get their expert insight on how to best choose an assisted living community for yourself or a loved one. Below, we break the process down into four simple steps to help guide your search.

4 Steps To Choosing An Assisted Living Community

  • Step 1: Prioritize The Amenities and Services That Are Most Important To You
  • Step 2: Conduct Online Research
  • Step 3: Tour Communities and Ask The Right Questions
  • Step 4: Compare Notes and Make a Decision

Step 1: Prioritize The Amenities and Services That Are Most Important To You

Before looking into specific communities, it’s essential to consider your needs, preferences and priorities. This will help you keep your search focused and avoid any disappointment if you get your heart set on a community online to realize they don’t offer a service or amenity that’s important to you.

A good way to think about it is to group your preferences into categories of “must haves” and “nice to haves.” Depending on your needs and lifestyle, this may include care services, amenities or a specific location. For example, if you take an injected medication, a must-have may be staff members trained in administering this medication. For a lifelong swimmer, a pool may fall under a “must-have.”

The main categories of needs and preferences that you should consider when thinking about assisted living are care services and amenities.

Care Services

All assisted living communities will offer assistance with the activity of daily living, which include:

  • Eating
  • Dressing
  • Grooming
  • Bathing
  • Toileting
  • Walking
  • Medication management
  • Housekeeping
  • Laundry services

All communities will also have trained staff on-site 24/7, and prepared meals.

Some, but not all, communities will have additional care services such as:

  • Mental health counseling
  • Medication administration
  • Physical and occupational therapy on-site
  • On-site nutritionists


In addition to personal care assistance, most ALFs offer amenities, activities and other quality-of-life services. This is where budget plays a significant role- while most communities offer a similar baseline of care services, the amenities and lifestyle services can drastically differ.

Standard amenities and lifestyle services you’ll find at many assisted living communities include:

  • Transportation
  • Scheduled group activities and events
  • On-site fitness center
  • Activity room and other shared spaces such as a media center, library or art studio
  • Group outings to local attractions
  • Basic salon or barbershop
  • Worship areas

Some more high-end communities may also feature:

  • Indoor or outdoor pool
  • Rooftop deck
  • Al fresco dining
  • Personal fitness training
  • Full-service salon
  • Golf course or putting green
  • Theater room
  • Multiple on-site restaurants
  • Concierge service
  • Dry cleaning

Step 2: Research Communities Online and Create a List of Your Top Options

Once you know what you’re looking for in an ALF, you can start looking for communities that meet your needs. During this time, you should make a list of any communities that meet your criteria that you would be interested in touring. Below we outline three strategies you can use.

Filter Your Search For Your Specific Needs

Some people will be pretty flexible when it comes to the specifics they need in a community, but others may have more specialized needs. In some cases, community rules or policies can make or break whether it’ll work for you. Some situations that may warrant this include:

  • If you have a pet, you’ll want to filter for pet-friendly communities. Also check any breed or size restrictions, if relevant.
  • If you have a spouse or partner who isn’t planning on moving in with you, you’ll likely want a community that allows overnight visitors.
  • If you have dietary restrictions, make sure you only look at communities where meals can be tailored or each resident.
  • If you plan to continue driving, look for communities with resident parking available.
  • If you never want to move residences again, look for a “life care” community or a community with a spectrum of care, from assisted living to memory care and skilled nursing.

Look Closely at Location and Weigh the Pros and Cons

You should have a general location in mind for where you want to live when you move into an ALF. What you may not know is that costs can vary even from city to city within the same larger area. Check the cost of assisted living communities in your target area as well as some surrounding towns to see if it’s worth going outside of your initial target area to save money, even if it’s less convenient.

You can also plug the addresses of any communities you’re interested in into Google Maps or another online map tool to see what businesses are nearby. You may not care how far an ALF is from medical facilities, entertainment venues or stores, but it’s still valuable to know how easy or difficult it will be to access these places if you move in.

Read Reviews and Seek Other Firsthand Feedback

An easy but telling way to get a sense of a community’s quality is to simply plug the name into Google or another search engine and see if any reviews, news articles, mentions on Reddit or social media profiles come up. If so, read through them and look for any red flags. You may also find positive information or images that confirm that you want to tour a community.

A business’s own website will always focus on the positives, so it’s imperative to get firsthand accounts of residents’ and their loved ones’ experiences with an ALF. features more than 375,000 reviews, all of which are vetted for quality and validity.

Step 3: Tour Your Top Options

After you create the list of communities you’re interested in, it’s time to tour. If you’re able, touring in person is best so you can catch details and smells and make other observations that simply aren’t possible when just doing online research. If you’re not able to look at communities in person for whatever reason, ask about a live virtual tour.

It can also be an opportunity to see how the community staff interacts with residents and their families, such as if they’re responsive and take time to ensure families have a good tour.

Family Advisor Haley Fleming explains, “If they’re not really communicating with you or if they’re trying to rush through a tour and not taking the time to answer all of your questions or even ask you questions, that’s a big red flag. They should be asking a lot of questions pertaining to what they’re going to need to do to care for your loved one.”

Expert Tips for Scheduling Your Tours

  • Try to tour during the week and during business hours, especially during mid-day, when the most staff and residents will be active around the community.
  • Schedule 2-4 tours; don’t limit yourself.
  • Ask about promotions, specials and move-in incentives.
  • Be strategic about timing, if possible- communities are more likely to run promotions at the end of the year and into January, so if you can plan to start this process around then, you’re more likely to get lucky with a deal.

Below, we break down the main things you should look out for when touring a community and the questions you should ask.

Explore Food Options

Whether or not you enjoy the food in your ALF can make a big difference in your quality of life. A tour is your opportunity to sample the cuisine you may be eating daily. Definitely try to visit during mealtime to see if residents are enjoying their meals, or at least ask for a daily or weekly menu.

What Our Experts Say

“A lot of communities are open to lunch tours where you can try the food, you just have to ask ahead of time. So if you want to do a lunch tour, it’s totally appropriate to ask if it’s possible. A lot of them will accommodate for that,” says Fleming.

“Make sure you pick up a food menu, see what the food is like, smell the food, and taste the food if you can,” says Moloney.

Talk to Staff Members

Community staff’s disposition and capability can significantly impact your health and quality of life. You’ll want to pay attention to their training, attentiveness and interactions with residents.

What Our Experts Say

“I would ask about the longevity of the staff, such as if there’s a really high turnover. A lot of people really like to be in a place where you’re going to have the same staff around and you form a sense of security and trust with those people,” recommends Fleming.

Ask About Care Services

All assisted living communities will offer assistance with the activities of daily living, but how care services are delivered can vary. For example, some may have physical and occupational therapists on-site, while others will require residents to leave the community to see these providers. Knowing how care services are delivered is especially important if you have a complex health condition.

What Our Experts Say

“Not all communities offer all services, especially with those heavier levels of care, like transfer assistance and insulin injection. Those are definitely things that I would ask about if it pertains to the potential resident,” says Fleming.

Examine Shared Spaces

One of the advantages of moving to assisted living is the social network. To take full advantage, you’ll want to ensure the shared spaces for resident socializing are appealing, comfortable and clean. Don’t just use your eyes here- be aware of any unpleasant odors too.

What Our Experts Say

“If a community has been recently renovated or remodeled, I would say that’s a green flag. It shows that they’re doing really well to have the funding to do so,” says Fleming.

Compare Rooms and Apartments

Multiple floor plans may be offered in a community, so be sure to ask to see them all, or if you only see one, it may not match the one you toured. Additionally, pay attention to the rooms’ cleanliness, whether the sheets and blankets look clean and the bed is made for insight into how well housekeeping is kept.

What Our Experts Say

Moloney also recommends you look at “the layout, the ceiling height, windows brightness, and the view from the room.”

Look at Current Residents

In addition to the physical environment, pay attention to residents as you tour a community. Do they look clean? Do they look happy? Are they socializing in the common areas? Are their clothes stained? All of these things can indicate how well staff is caring for residents.

What Our Experts Say

“Red flags- The residents are not happy. They look sad, just sitting in hallways in wheelchairs, not doing anything” Moloney explains.

“It’s definitely important to check out what the other residents are looking like, their upkeep, hair and clothes and their general sense of well-being, it’s definitely very important,” says Fleming.

Step 4: Decide Which Community Is The Best Fit

If you’re looking for a community for yourself, you’re likely ready to make your choice after you’ve toured a few options. It may be a more complicated process if you’re looking for a parent or other loved one. You can read our guide on How to Talk To Your Parents About Assisted Living for tips on facilitating these conversions.

Our Questions to Ask When Visiting an Assisted Living Community checklist is another great tool for this stage. After touring all of your top options, you can refer back to the filled-in checklists for the different communities to see how they measure up.

If you’d like more personal assistance choosing an assisted living facility, you can speak with a Family Advisor at no cost to you. Call (800) 558-0653 to speak with a trained advisor.

Key Takeaways: How To Choose an Assisted Living Community

  • Take time before you dive into your search to get clear on your needs, priorities an preferences for a community so you can focus your search
  • Be diligent in your online research and use tools like reviews to get firsthand input from a community’s visitors, residents, and loved ones of residents
  • Tour multiple communities in person (if possible) and be aware of residents’ appearance and disposition, the attentiveness of staff and any unpleasant smells in the community
  • Use’s Assisted Living Tour Checklist to compare the communities you tour and aid in your decision

Expert Contributors

How to Choose an Assisted Living Facility - (1)

Aidan Moloney, Family Advisor

With over 5 years of experience with, Aidan’s role is to educate families on their options and provide resources and personal assistance in finding senior living communities. He is people-oriented and compassionate, values that have been crucial in building strong connections with’s customers and partners.

Haley Fleming, Family Advisor

Haley has been a Family Advisor at for over three years. She has a passion for helping others navigate senior care options, whether it’s finding the right assisted living facility or in-home care services. With her knowledge of the industry and compassionate approach, she aims to provide personalized recommendations that meet the unique needs of each individual. She is dedicated to making a positive impact in the lives of seniors and their loved ones, and looks forward to continuing to assist families in finding the best care solutions for their aging loved ones.

How to Choose an Assisted Living Facility - (2024)


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