Red Flags When Looking for Senior Living

Red Flags When Looking for Senior Living

Making the decision to move a loved one into a senior living community can be stressful for the whole family. Your aging parent or family member may be sad and frustrated to be giving up some level of independence and moving out of the home they love. The search for a new home can be overwhelming, and can exacerbated by anxiety and fear of the unknown. The rest of the family may have valid concerns about safety, cost, and their loved one’s overall health and happiness in a senior living home.

While many facilities provide wonderful, safe, and stimulating environments for their residents, it is an unfortunate truth that assisted living, nursing homes, and senior living communities can sometimes attract people who want to take advantage of the vulnerabilities of their residents. Choosing the right senior living community is an important decision, but you should be aware of red flags that may indicate a bigger issue. As you research and compare options, you’ll start to notice the slight and significant differences in senior living communities.

Recognizing The Signs of Good (and Bad) Living Conditions in Senior Communities

The signs of poorly-run, unsafe, or negligent facilities can vary, but you will start to recognize red flags as you evaluate and tour new potential homes for your loved one. Take notice of the following signs that may indicate the quality of care provided:   

  1. Interaction between staff and residents. When you first tour a senior living community, observe the relationships between the staff members, administrators, and, of course, the residents. The rapport between the staff and residents of a living community speaks volumes about the overall environment. Consider these questions to ask when visiting assisted living facilities:
  • Does everyone seem friendly and familiar with each other?
  • Are residents relaxed and comfortable?
  • Does the staff engage with the residents regularly, or do they seem disconnected and aloof?
  • Are administrators involved in activities and conversations with residents?

Residents rely on these staff members every day for some of their most basic needs. The nurses, coordinators, and aides should be invested in the welfare and comfort of the seniors who live there. If the staff appears frustrated and irritated, imagine that their response may be even less acceptable without you there to witness it. 

  1. Smell. It’s hard to avoid unpleasant odors, but as you walk through the halls, take note of anything unusual or consistent. Assisted living and nursing homes may have occasional scents from spills or a patient’s incontinence, but if the bad odor is consistent throughout, it may be an indication of the overall care level and cleanliness.
  1. Listen carefully. If the community seems loud and chaotic, with blaring announcements, televisions, and a lack of concern for noise sensitivity, it might not be the best choice for your loved one. Some assisted living and nursing care facilities may have patients that suffer from confusion who may exclaim loudly and frequently. How does the staff respond? If there is a sense of agitation in the air, the residents will likely feel it. Continuous loud noise can have adverse effects on the health of the residents, causing anxiety and stress.

Of course, the sound of laughter and chatting is always wonderful to hear, and upbeat music can set the tone for the community. Pay attention to the sounds as you explore common areas, dining rooms, and resident rooms.

  1. Cleanliness. Take note of bed linens, used towels, dirty dishes lingering in rooms, and bathrooms. Spend some time looking around and check the following:
  • Are the trash cans overflowing?
  • Are the floors clean, aside form normal use and wear and tear?
  • Do the nurses wear gloves during medical interactions with residents?
  • Do the aides and nurses dispose of their gloves and any medical supplies in the appropriate manner?

Proper hygiene protects the entire community from sharing illnesses and keeps everyone safe and healthy. When a senior living facility includes skilled nursing care with patients suffering from chronic illness, appropriate cleaning and disinfecting is essential. 

  1. Safety and security. Family members take the safety of their loved ones very seriously, and there are several things to think about as you explore the options of senior living:
  • Are patients safe as they move around the community on their own and with walkers or wheelchairs?
  • Are there ramps, handrails, and easy access in and out of buildings?
  • Do you notice anyone in need that isn’t being attended to?
  • Do the facilities utilize alarms or alerts in case of falls?

 Ask for details regarding security measures taken during the evening hours and overnight and review the facility’s protocol for emergency situations. 

  1. Activities and events. Make sure the community offers a calendar of events, social activities, educational opportunities, and access to religious services if it’s important to your loved one. Depending on the mobility of the residents, does the community organize day trips, excursions, or local shuttles to malls, libraries, or other places of interest? Are there outdoor activities offered, like gardening, walking groups, or yoga on the lawn? Is it a non-smoking facility?

Note that if the staff relies on television as the main source of entertainment and stimulation for the residents, it is a good idea to keep looking. 

  1. Staff turnover. Ask staff members how long they have worked at the facility. If there is a high level of turnover, it may be an indication of poor working and living conditions. On the other hand, happy long-term employees reflect the positive spirit of the community.
  1. History of violations. Do your homework. With the help of The Assisted Living Foundation of America, you can and should contact the state agencies responsible for inquiries regarding assisted living facilities. Of course, a facility without any documented violations can still have issues that haven’t been reported, but it’s important to have the facts before making such an important decision.
  1. Unanswered questions. If the staff is unwilling to answer questions, move onto the next option. Staff should be transparent – after all, if you are going to trust them with your loved one, they should be more than willing to give you all the information you need to feel comfortable.
  1. Trust your instincts. More than anything you see, hear, smell, or experience, it’s likely you will get a “gut feeling” that tells you what you need to know. 

Involving Your Loved One in The Process

Make sure your loved one feels respected and involved in the process of finding a living arrangement that will make them feel safe, secure, and even excited for the future. Moving into a senior living community is a big change and can be scary process. Depending on the health and lifestyle of your loved one, they may have personal concerns and priorities that must contribute to the ultimate decision. Take the time you all need to feel secure about your decision.

Related Articles:

Different Types of Home Care and What to Consider

Technology Products to Help Seniors Age in Place

Important Reasons to Plan Ahead for Long-Term Care Now