Many considerations go into choosing senior living arrangements. Just as important as knowing what you want from a community is knowing what you don’t want. Keeping an eye out for these eight warning signs can help you make informed decisions when evaluating retirement communities.
1. Lack of cleanliness
Overflowing trash cans, unlaundered linens, dirty dishes on display and lingering bad smells may indicate lack of care for community members. While occasional spills and odors are inevitable, pervasive issues suggest that housekeeping efforts may be inferior or inadequate.
2. Unfriendly staff
If staff members are unwelcoming and unhelpful when visitors are present, can you expect them to behave any better when they aren’t under observation?
In addition to paying attention to how the staff treats you during your visit, also pay attention to how they interact with each other and with residents.
As National Center for Assisted Living spokeswoman Rachel Reeves told Bankrate, “A big part of senior housing is the social aspect because some people get lonely at home and being around other people helps them stay mentally engaged.”
The takeaway: Kind and courteous staff can make a senior living community a much happier place for residents.
“A big part of senior housing is the social aspect because some people get lonely at home and being around other people helps them stay mentally engaged.”
3. Safety issues
Safety should be a top for senior living communities. In addition to looking for evidence of safety threats, such as lack of security and trip hazards, inquire about safety protocols for emergencies. “Every senior housing community should have an emergency preparedness plan,” continues Reeves.
4. Unengaged residents
When you visit a senior living community, are the majority of residents in their rooms or do they appear to be “parked” in front of television sets with little to no interaction with other residents or staff members?
These may be signs that a community doesn’t have enough programming for residents. Ask about whether the daily schedule includes a variety of events and activities aimed at appealing to the diverse interests of residents and whether you can find the schedule online (see Deupree House’s activities calendar here). If possible, ask residents whether they’re happy with the programming.
5. High turnover rate
While some amount of turnover is natural, too much may be a symptom of a systemic issue. Care.com vice president of senior care services Jody Gastfriend told Bankrate: “You won’t always get a straight answer if you ask directly about staff turnover, but facilities that have a lot of turnover tend to have problems that could impact residents. You can ask how long the director of nursing, the top administrators and some of the nurses have been working there. It’s a huge red flag if all of them have only been there for six months.” This is also a good opportunity to ask about staff training and qualifications.
“You won’t always get a straight answer if you ask directly about staff turnover, but facilities that have a lot of turnover tend to have problems that could impact residents. You can ask how long the director of nursing, the top administrators and some of the nurses have been working there. It’s a huge red flag if all of them have only been there for six months.”
6. Restricted visiting hours
While some communities have hours designated for rest and quiet, visiting hours should never be limited. Look for communities with 24/7 open door policies, including during meals and activities.
7. Negative reviews
Living in the digital age means we have access to more information than ever before. Use this to your advantage by checking review sites for prospective senior communities. While a bad review or two may mean nothing more than a disgruntled family member or former employee, multiple bad reviews suggest a troubling trend.
8. Unwillingness to discuss fees
Different senior living communities have different payment structures. If administrators are unwilling to disclose this information up front, including any add-on fees, new residents may be in for an unpleasant surprise when they get the bill at the end of the month.
On a related note, if a community is not a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), as Deupree House is, this may mean trouble in the future if your needs change or if you outlive your financial resources.
Says the AARP of the tiered approach to senior living offered by CCRCs, “These communities give older adults the option to live in one location for the duration of their life, with much of their future care already figured out.”
While many of these warning signs are tangible, others may be more instinctive in nature. If you get the vibe that something is “off,” you may be right. As Portland State University Institute on Aging assistant professor Paula Carder told Bankrate, “The residence should have the right look and feel to the person who will live there, so visiting more than once is a good idea.”
At Deupree House, we welcome you to visit as many times as you like as you consider which retirement community is the best fit for you. Click here to schedule your visit or to request more information. We look forward to meeting you and answering your questions!