The Guide to Choosing Assisted Living: For Caregivers and Loved Ones









This post was written by Peggy Martin, MSFS, ChFC, CASL. Peggy is a financial advisor with The Family Wealth Consulting Group and a contributing author to this blog.

Guide to Choosing Assisted Living for Your Loved Ones

The PBS Frontline program “Life and Death in Assisted Living” (hyperlink:, which aired for the first time last week and is now available for viewing online, was a dramatic wake-up call for many people. The program primarily focused on one provider of care, whom the patients’ loved ones chose as assisted living, and how multiple acts of negligence put several patients’ lives at risk and led ultimately to their deaths. The full impact of the program on the assisted living facility industry is not yet known.

As a family caregiver, I have had the opportunity to be an advocate for the parents in my family, placing their needs first when working with medical providers. As a financial planner, I have worked closely with many clients to navigate the complexities of managing care for their aging loved ones or for themselves.

I have interviewed owners, managers, and the staff of assisted living facilities and I have given clients guidance to do the same. I have found that being proactive, present, and asking the right questions contributes to a positive experience for your love one and allows peace of mind for you.

The Guide to Choosing Assisted Living below should help you make informed choices about assisted living facilities. If you have further questions or would like to know if we might provide customized assistance, please Contact Us:

1. Has the facility recently been taken over by a larger company? New ownership can mean that both the quality of care and resident costs may soon change.

2. How long have the current owners/managers operated the facility? In large corporations, managers can change frequently and not understand the needs of the residents.

3. Your loved one will be spending the majority of their time in the facility. Things to look for or request:

a. Do you get the sense of a homelike environment?
b. Do you hear staff calling the residents by their name?
c. Is socializing between residents taking place?
d. Are you allowed to speak with residents about their experience?
e. Are social and recreational activities provided and residents encouraged to participate? Are guest speakers and special programs provided?
f . What about small pets?
g. Does the facility provide transportation to and from doctors’ appointments and for light shopping?
h. Is there a licensed nurse on staff?
i.  How is medicine dispersed and where is it stored?
j. Is staff available 24/7?
k. Find out how frequently staff is interacting with the residents.
l. Are there staff meetings with management where there is encouragement to speak freely about residents’ concerns.

4. For the residents of a facility, food is very important. Eating meals with other residents is social and friendships are often created around the dining room table.

a. When are meals provided?
b. Can special meals be prepared due to dietary restrictions? Is a nutritionist involved?
c. Can a resident eat meals in their room?
d. Do apartments have a kitchen or kitchenette?

5. Safety and cleanliness of the facility:

a. How clean do the building and grounds appear? Is the building free of odors?
b. Are there fire sprinklers? Can residents easily see exit signage?
c. What is the facility’s policy on smoking?
d. Do apartments have heaters and air conditioning that can be regulated by the resident?
e. Is the facility locked for dementia patients?
f. Are there hazardous chemicals on site? Where are they stored?

6. Be sure to contact your state’s community care licensing division to find listings of facilities in your area and what complaints, if any, have been registered. For California,

By staying in touch with your loved one and the community serving him or her, a lot of tragic outcomes can be avoided just by knowing what is happening.

What do you think about assisted living facilities? I’d love to hear from you.


This post was written by Peggy Martin, MSFS, ChFC, CASL. Peggy is a financial advisor with The Family Wealth Consulting Group and a contributing author to this blog.


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3 Responses to “The Guide to Choosing Assisted Living: For Caregivers and Loved Ones”

  1. Margaret August 8, 2013 at 2:50 PM #

    This is extremely informative and very well written. Now I have a list of questions to give to my children should I need assisted living in the future.
    M. Wotherspoon , San Jose.

    • Hilary Martin August 8, 2013 at 3:29 PM #

      We’re so glad you found the piece informative, Margaret! Thanks for reading, and yes, definitely pass it along to your children.

      • William August 13, 2013 at 9:50 PM #

        Hi Hilary, thanks for sharing this post with us. Most of the people who are not getting care from their loved ones are tending to move to the home cares. Sometimes, it’s a painful thing for them, but gradually they get habit of this and mange themselves in those home cares. And these points that you have covered here are the best example for the people to understand the importance of assisted living.

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