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What to Look for When Considering a Retirement Community

By: Country Meadows |

Deciding what retirement community is right for you or your loved one can be overwhelming. Depending on your necessities and preferences, you may have many choices in the area. When evaluating your options, there should be a balance of practical considerations with quality measures. Most notably, pay attention to what is important to you or your loved one. To help you find the right community for your family’s needs, here are some guidelines and questions to ask:

Practical Considerations

  • Is the community close to family and friends to visit?
  • Are visits with residents welcome at any time?
  • Does the community offer levels of care you anticipate you or your loved one may need in the future for peace of mind?
  • What is included in the expense? Is it in one monthly, all-inclusive rate or a la carte charges?
  • Is there a waiting list? How do they communicate availability to those on the list?
  • How have they fared in recent state inspections? What have been their deficiencies and how were they corrected?
  • Does the community provide scheduled transportation to doctors’ offices, shopping and other activities desired by residents?
  • Do residents have opportunities to be taken to the grocery store, bank and out to lunch?
  • Can residents arrange for transportation on fairly short notice?
  • Does the community allow pets? If residents need assistance in caring for their pet or are away on vacation or a hospital stay, does the community offer a pet care program?

Quality Measures

Personal Care, Hygiene & Health

  • Does the overall appearance of residents look well cared for, paying extra attention to those details that matter to you such as shaving, nail care, hair care?
  • Is residents’ clothing properly cared for (free of stains and wrinkles)?
  • Is medication management paper- or computer-based?
  • What is their policy in storing medication and who has access?

Resident & Staff Interaction

  • How are co-workers addressing residents? Are they using the individual’s preferred name?
  • Are co-workers acknowledging and interacting appropriately with residents?
  • Do the residents seem happy and comfortable?
  • And does the staff look happy—smiling, bright voices, engaged?
  • Does the community conduct care conferences or wellness meetings?


  • Do residents have adequate access to privacy?
  • Is the décor pleasant and adult-like?
  • Is the setting free of odors?
  • Are the grounds well maintained (residents still want to be proud of their home when family and friends come to visit)?
  • Do the open areas (for example, lobby, dining room and hallways) look clean?
  • Is a manager present in the evening or on weekends?
  • Are there outside gardens, patios or walking paths for residents to enjoy safely and leisurely?
  • Overall is there a positive ambiance: laughter, music, conversation, lively activity?

Quality of Programs

  • Is there an activities schedule available? Do they have a dedicated activities director?
  • Do the activities involve both on- and off-campus events? Including weekends?
  • Do you see residents engaged in an activity or conversation with other residents or staff, or are they mostly in their rooms?
  • Does the menu offer options daily? Does it include items you or your loved one would enjoy? Does it change often?
  • Does the dining program accommodate special diets?
  • Are the meals prepared on site? Are snacks available throughout the day?
  • Are family and friends welcome to dine with residents?
  • Are there opportunities for worship? Who leads these sessions?
  • What opportunities are there for daily fitness activity? Who leads these sessions?
  • Are there therapy services on site?
  • Are on-site barber or beautician services available?

Quality of Staff

  • What training have co-workers received?
  • Are there licensed nurses on staff 24 hours a day (including weekends and holidays)?
  • Do you have the opportunity to meet the administrator?
  • How do they deal with challenging resident behaviors or situations?
  • Is the staff friendly to you?
  • How does the staff interact with each other—positively, respectfully, pleasantly?
  • Do co-workers appear composed and work stations organized?
  • Do co-workers have a clean, neat appearance themselves?
  • Do staffing levels change on weekends and holidays?
  • Can the sales staff provide helpful advice in approaching a senior loved one about a change, discussing options with siblings or making a smooth move-in transition?

Visit the community as often as you feel it’s necessary (at different times, on different days, on weekends, at busy times like lunch or dinner). Talk to the staff, administrator, residents and family members. Bring other family members or friends to get their perspective too. And above all, trust your intuition. You should feel comfortable and welcome—like you would in any family or friend’s home.

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