7 Red Flags to Watch for When Finding Assisted Living

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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health professional and senior couples

Deciding to move to an assisted living facility isn’t easy. Finding the right one can be even harder. However, a tour of the facility will tell you a lot. You may need to cross a facility off your list if you see the following signs of trouble: 

1. The current residents don’t look well-cared for. 

Check out the residents. Pay attention to what they are wearing. Are their clothes clean? Are they well-groomed with hair done and beards trimmed? Are they dressed correctly for the weather? If the answer to any of these is no, it could be a warning sign the residents aren’t cared for as well as they should be. Move on.

2. The staff is rude or unable to help you. 

Question the staff: Find any staff member and ask a basic question like, “What time do you serve breakfast?” Or, “Where are the laundry facilities?” You can learn a lot by the way he or she answers you. If the staff member is friendly and knowledgeable, it’s a good sign. If the staff member is harried or not polite, it could be a sign that he or she is overworked or hassled. If the staff member can’t answer basic questions, look elsewhere. 

Check the staff turnover rate as well. If staff members are constantly leaving, it could indicate a problem. 

3. The facility looks empty.

Look around. When touring the facility, observe closely how many residents participate in group activities or use the common areas. If you see few residents in group activities or closed doors and empty rooms, it could be a sign the facility isn’t full. This could mean the facility has financial issues or is not a popular choice because it has problems. 

4. There is clutter and poor lighting. 

Are you tripping over clutter or wires from lamps and televisions? Are the pathways clear? Does the place have good lighting? One in three adults age 65 and older falls each year, and falls can cause serious injuries. Look in the residential rooms as well as common areas to be sure they’re furnished and well-lit to avoid tripping hazards. If they’re not, it’s a red flag. 

5. The facility has violations or complaints. 

Every state has a regulating body that will do regular inspections and issue citations if it finds violations. You can view these reports and records for the facility you’re considering. One way to do this is online. Go to AssistedLivingFacilities.org  to find your state and enter the name of the facility. If a facility has a number of violations, it could be a red flag. You also can check with the Better Business Bureau to see whether people have filed complaints. 

6. It’s difficult to get the necessary paperwork. 

When touring the facility, ask for a copy of its admissions contract. Also ask for its rules for residents. Does the tour guide seem reluctant to share this information with you? If so, it could be a red flag. There might be a reason why the facility doesn't want to share this information in writing. 

7. The administration hesitates to discuss fees. 

Discuss finances and billing. Your tour guide should be open and upfront about fees. Ask what’s included in the price and what’s extra. Also ask what cost increases you can expect. If the administrator balks or gives vague answers, it may be a warning sign something is off. This information should be transparent. Also, don’t assume the most expensive facility offers the best care. Higher-than-average prices for your area also could be a sign something’s amiss.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Apr 21
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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