Assisted Living

The COVID-19  pandemic has affected almost everything we do. Even trips to the grocery store, outings to restaurants, and visits with friends are either drastically different or unfeasible. And if you’ve been paying attention to assisted living facilities recently, you know that the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed their visitation policies to protect residents and staff. This includes visits from prospective residents, too. But the need to move into assisted living persists, even in a pandemic.

So, if you’re researching senior residential options for a loved one or yourself, how can you choose if you can’t visit and tour them? Here are some tips for researching an assisted living facility now, during COVID-19.

Narrow Down Your Choices

Start by visiting the websites of assisted living facilities in the area. Most facilities will provide general information about location, amenities, and services on their websites. Some facilities may have links to social media on their sites, too, so you can check out their Facebook pages to see what kinds of information or events they post there.

Talk to family and friends on the phone. Find out if they have recommendations or opinions on facilities you’re considering. If they’ve had family members at a facility, and have visited often, they probably have an opinion of the facility, and would most likely love to share it with you.

You can also request brochures and other printed informational materials through the mail. You can often do this on the website, or you can call the facility and request them. Some facilities send out email newsletters. You can get a feel for the types of programs and services the facility provides through a newsletter.

Call and Ask Questions

After you narrow down your choices, call several of your top picks. Prepare a list of questions to ask. These can be straightforward questions, such as:

  • What types of rooms are available?
  • Do rooms have kitchens or kitchenettes?
  • How many rooms does the facility have?
  • Are special services, like memory care, available?
  • Does the facility have different levels of care available on the same campus, if the need arises?
  • How much are monthly fees, and which extra services require additional fees?

In addition to standard questions like these, also ask about how the facility is handling COVID-19. You’ll want to know that the facility is taking all precautions necessary to keep their residents and staff safe. Consider questions like

  • How have the facility’s cleaning procedures changed since the pandemic hit?
  • Has anyone at the facility, residents or staff, had the virus?
  • What is the protocol if someone does have a confirmed case of COVID-19?
  • What are your screening procedures for staff, residents, and visitors?
  • How can residents communicate with loved ones when visitation is restricted or limited?
  • What are the procedures for screening, testing, and isolating new residents during the pandemic?

Book a Virtual Tour

Many assisted living facilities are offering virtual tours. Check the facility’s website to find out if they offer this way to see the facility without actually going there. Some tours are pre-recorded videos, but some are live virtual tours led by facility staff. These tours may be over FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, or another virtual communication tool.

Some assisted living facilities have started hosting regular virtual events. For example, Fair Haven in Birmingham, Alabama hosts live virtual events on Facebook. One event features live interviews with current residents to let prospective residents and their families see what life is like inside the facility. Hearing actual residents talk about the facility – the food, the social life, the garden – may not be quite the same as visiting in person, but it may provide a pretty good idea of what the facility is like.

Find Out If You Can Schedule an Outdoor Visit

Facilities in some states are allowing visitors in outdoor spaces. Call to find out if facilities you are interested in are allowing this type of visit. You’ll have to book an appointment ahead of time, and be escorted through the outdoor spaces by staff. While it may not be a comprehensive tour, it can let you see what some parts of the facility are like and let you meet staff in person. It also may not be a long tour, as the facility will probably have time limits on visits. Make sure to follow all of the facility’s rules about hand sanitizing and social distancing. Even for an outdoor visit, wear a mask and expect a health screening or at least a temperature check.