With over 28,000 assisted living facilities in the United States, choosing the best assisted-living facility for your elderly loved one can be a little overwhelming. There are so many factors to consider because it’s very similar to choosing a new home.

How can you possibly choose a new living space with just a few visits? Easy – you need to ask a lot of questions. We’ve rounded up nine tips on what to ask the staff and what factors to look out for so you’ll know which assisted living facility is the best for your loved one.

1.  Ask the staff how long they’ve been working for the facility.

High caregiver turnover is a common problem among assisted living facilities. However, one of the factors in distinguishing the ‘best’ ALF is that there is a high retention of staff workers. This usually means that the management treats their staff well that it translates to their performance. If the caregiver is happy and if he/she enjoys what he/she does, then you’re sure that your elderly loved one will be well taken care of.

2.  Talk to the caregivers

The backbone of the facility is not the owner, nor is it the residents. In fact, the backbone of every assisted living facility are the caregivers. Aside from taking good care of the senior residents and attending to their needs, caregivers set the tone and the mood of the facility.

Sure, getting to know the owners and managers of every ALF you consider is important, but establishing a relationship with the caregivers are a must. After all, they’re the ones your loved one is interacting to the most. Getting to know them gives you a hint of how the facility treats their staff.

3.  Talk to a resident

During your visit, don’t forget to talk to the residents because some visitors can sometimes feel shy or uncomfortable reaching out to residents. This may seem obvious but if residents seem happy and enthusiastic to talk about their new home then chances are, they love it there. If you think a lot of the residents seem unhappy or uncomfortable then it’s a serious red flag.

The type of residents that reside in the facility speaks volumes regarding the quality of the environment your elderly loved one may soon move into. You’d be surprised how much you’ll inside scoop you get just by talking to the senior residents. If you’re unsure where to start, find a common ground between the both of you and work from there.

4.  Sniff, sniff – Observe the Cleanliness

The first time you step into the facility, you’ll notice whether it feels fresh and clean. But don’t forget to look past the overall atmosphere. Look into the corners, the rooms, the baseboards, windows, and the kitchen. Make sure to ask how often the facility is cleaned and if housekeeping is provided in the resident’s personal living quarters. It usually is but it never hurts to ask. Also ask about types of maintenance offered, as well as the laundry procedures – along with the additional costs that come with these services.

If you notice bad odors in the property, this can be a strong indication of a (temporary or not) problem with cleanliness. If the odor comes from one specific place, then it might’ve been a recent incident, nothing a good cleaning couldn’t fix. However, if the odor can be smelled throughout the whole community, then this indicates a bigger problem. Feel free to ask the manager about it.

5.  Ask about fees.

One of the most important factors in choosing the best ALF is the affordability. Knowing the fees associated with every facility you consider will help speed up the decision process and also helps the family make a sound decision.

It’s also important to ask how and when they compute monthly rates for care fees. Being upfront about this issue is a great help in avoiding unnecessary problems in the future, and therefore leading to a happier stay in the assisted living facility.

6.  Checkout the visitor bathroom.

We’ve already established that we should keep an eye on the level of cleanliness in all parts of a facility. While we’re sure that the common areas of the home would be spotless, visitor bathrooms are sometimes left untaken cared of. If a facility can’t keep visitor bathrooms clean, then think about the residents’ own bathrooms.

7.  Arrive early.

Arriving early gives you a chance to ask questions, talk to other people, and check out the visitor bathroom. And not only that, it gives you a better picture of the facility as a whole. Think about it, during a scheduled tour, the facility will most likely put their best foot forward. However, being there ahead of time shows you the true colors of an assisted living facility.

8.  Ask feedback from residents and their families.

A senior resident’s family will have a lot to say about the assisted living facility, so be sure to ask past or present residents and families of their opinion. Assisted living communities usually have a resident council that will be more than happy to answer all your burning questions. If you don’t have time to personally approach them, you can message them online or read various reviews on the facility.

9.  Go with your gut.

While touring potential assisted living facilities, don’t ever forget to picture your loved one actually living in the facilities. Does your loved one seem comfortable? Do you feel at ease knowing you’ll hand over your loved one to them? Are the residents, along with the staff, friendly, inviting, and warm? Trust your gut no matter what.

We’re well aware that touring different assisted living facilities and making life-changing decisions for your elderly loved one can be taxing. Don’t forget to ask your loved one’s opinion. After all, they’ll be the ones who transition to a new chapter in their lives. If you’re still looking for an ALF, don’t lose hope! You’re sure to find the perfect ALF for your loved one – you just have to know what you’!