Visiting assisted living facilities or memory care facilities is a must as you determine where your loved one feels comfortable and offers what s/he wants and needs. Even if the first one you visit feels like “The One,” having other facilities to weigh it against is extremely important.
Plus, we guarantee your experiences at each community will teach you something, or shed light on an unfamiliar idea you didn’t know before. This well-rounded base of information will be fruitful as your loved one begins the transition into their new community.
Should We Visit Several Facilities?
Ideally, you would visit around three different communities before making a final decision.
Touring about three allows you to make some important comparisons between different facilities so you and your loved ones can compare and contrast them and should give you a good idea of what you are looking for.
Many people assume touring as many as possible is the best option, but trying to tour four, five, six or more is virtually impossible for most people, and can make the experience overwhelming.
Even the best note taker finds it difficult to recall things from four or five visits ago especially if you are trying to visit as many as you can in one day.
If you really want to tour a large number, we recommend you schedule them on different days and give yourself time in between tours so you aren’t rushing from one tour to the next. Leaving a few hours, or even a day, between tours provides the time needed for you to think about the tour, what you liked or didn’t like, and even get in touch with the director to ask follow up questions. This information will also help you as you move to tour the next facility.
However, do note that there is a difference between assisted living facilities and memory care centers. While the former may have a memory care wing or department, the latter is entirely focused on dementia and Alzheimer’s care.
If you’re deciding between the two options, you may need to visit a few in each category since you’re making two separate decisions: 1) which type of care is the best one for my loved one, assisted living or memory care, and 2) when that decision is made, which assisted living/memory care facility do we like the best.
Preparing For Memory Care Center Visits & Tours
The better prepared you are before scheduling visits and tours, the better able you’ll be to take it all in with a discerning and expert eye. You’ll know what questions to ask, which areas you want to observe or check into, which activities you’d like to watch or participate in and so on.
Otherwise, it can go by so fast and you may become so overwhelmed that it all seems like a blur.
If the following recommendations are put into play ahead of time, you’ll find your visits feel more calm, intentional, and productive.
Make a short list of must-haves, wants and basic questions
This may be a bittersweet reminder of what it was like to search for a home, and that’s because it is just like that. The facility or community you choose will become home, neighborhood, community, and more for the resident who moves in.
For that reason, a list of “must-haves” and “wants” becomes helpful as it gives you a solid foundation to start as you determine where to tour. A quick list of general questions is also helpful if you’re narrowing the field between multiple options.
Your list and questions also ensure you’re comparing apples-to-apples when you sit down to discuss your observations, feelings, and findings with your spouse, family, and friends.
Establishing this list at the outset also saves time and energy. A quick conversation and run-down of the list with facility staff ahead of time may automatically rule some prospective assisted living or memory care facilities out before you tour them, allowing others to rise to the top.
Some of these align with specific questions you’ll ask while you’re visiting various communities (more on that below). Things to consider as you make your “must-haves” and “wants” list include:
- Current health and present diagnoses
- Level of medical care required
- Type of care provided or not able to be provided
- Type of supervision required
- Activity offerings
- Size and scope of the grounds
- Security measures
- Public transportation needs
- Religious/spiritual service offerings
- The living arrangements (apartments, studios, rooms, cottages)
- Preferences regarding onsite and/or offsite activities and outings
- Size and occupancy of rooms
- Any other specific needs/wants to pertain to your loved one
Many of these items can be determined by visiting websites and reading promotional or marketing materials that can be downloaded or mailed to your home. Detailed reviews ahead of time save you from touring or visiting a place you wouldn’t have if you’d had more information beforehand.
Download a voice recording app or bring a mini-recorder
Ask ahead and verify if the entirety of your tour (or at the very least, the Q&A session) can be recorded by you. Hopefully, the answer is, “yes,” and this gives you the opportunity to relax that busy brain so you can soak it all up. You’ll leave knowing it can all be played back at home to catch anything you missed or review their answers to your questions.
Practice recording ahead of time, and check the recording frequently during the tour to make sure it started and that it isn’t accidentally turned off before you’re finished.
Consider this your opportunity to host an interview
Ultimately, these tours and visits are your opportunity to interview prospective communities, and this is done by asking questions about their administration, staff, and medical personnel. Don’t forget that your eyes, ears, nose, and intuition are also conducting an interview all the while…
Since it’s easy to go off on tangents and asides, we recommend printing a separate copy of your list of questions for each tour you attend so you can check each question/answer off as you go.
Take notes if you like, but your voice recording will be there for you to fall back on when you return home. The goal is to make sure each question is answered in full so you feel clear about your final decision.
Always trust your instincts
Most importantly, as you visit your three to six prospective assisted living or memory care centers, trust your instincts.
Sometimes, the place that looks the best on paper or that sounds the best via radio commercials or personal referrals doesn’t feel the best to you and the future resident. Honor these feelings. It means it’s not the right fit for you, and by crossing that prospect off your list you are one step closer to finding the right memory care center to call Home.
Choosing Memory Care For Your Loved One
While all the preparation in the world can give you a great deal of insight, going with your senses and intuition during tours it critical, and just as valuable as the best, most clear-cut answers you receive to your questions.
And, always keep in mind that the most important factor in this decision is which facility makes you and your loved one feel the safest, most comfortable, and secure.