Moving to a Retirement Community

Comparing Communities

The best way to begin to compare facilities is to go and tour them. Visiting in person gives you the chance to talk with the residents and/or their family members, meet the staff and ask questions, and get a feel for the atmosphere.

We asked people who made the decision to transition to a retirement community or helped loved ones make this decision what to ask when evaluating a community. This is what they said:

Play Video placeholderImportant Things to Ask.

Important Things to Ask. Transcript is below

Here, the residents run the situation. So we have control over what activities go on, what rules are made, and that sort of thing. And we have a management that is very transparent. They tell us about what the budget is. They tell us what their plans are. We know a lot about what they're doing.

And in helping other people transition to retirement centers, I did a little research after I had gotten here and found out that those are the two most important things you should know about a transition. I think they should find out if is it a nonprofit, or is it a for profit? I have strong feelings about that.

The nonprofit world is so much more adept at making things happen for the residents. I have a friend who moved to a community and she was very disappointed because the management is not at all clear about what their budget is and how much money they are making from the center. And here we know everything that's going on. That's very important.

So those are the two things that I think I would advise people to look for. And I think people need to look at the openness of the other residents. Do they look happy? Are they around the community, or, are they in their rooms all the time? Here, you see people in the hallway. There are so many people here I still haven't met because there's so much going on.

Play Video placeholderStay the night.

Stay the night. Transcript is below

There's not gonna be one deal breaker. Some of these are businesses, let me put it that way. And they of course have to survive economically. A couple of the places we visited, I just, I felt the high pressure sales, which I didn't appreciate 'cause this is the final decision, a very important decision.

And every place we looked at, we did take 'em up on their offer. I'm not sure all places offered this but mom and I stayed a couple of nights at the facility she ended up moving to and I feel like it's important that a loved one be there with them. Because again, I think it's a really difficult transition. Again, this is the last move of your life and people realize that.

And the other place we went to, I also spent a couple nights there with her to kinda get a sense for the place. And I'm just saying, who knows what happens? Maybe nothing happens but something, just because you're there, you may pick up on something that you just feel uncomfortable with.

The deciding factor for us is the other facility. Once you move from independent living to the next level of assisted care, you went to a totally different building and you stayed there. You could not even go back to the original place and have dinner or lunch with the people you lived with. And so that isolation kind of bothered me.

I don't really have any like, here, you know, a checklist, but again, the more time you can sample, the more you'll have opportunities to come across situations you may be very comfortable with or uncomfortable with. And the longer you can have that transition period last, where the person that's gonna be moving becomes more and more familiar with the facility, the easier it may be for them.

The U.S. government administers a website called Care Compare. You can enter your zip code and see a list of facilities near you.

Care Compare has a quality rating system that gives each facility a rating between 1 and 5 stars. Facilities with 5 stars are considered to have above average quality and facilities with 1 star are considered to have quality below average. The rating system uses information from health care surveys (both standard and complaint), quality measures, and staffing. Details are available for each facility so you can see why they earned a particular rating.

The Medicare Nursing Home Checklist is a helpful document to take with when you visit a community. You can use it as a guide during your visit and a reference for comparison as you consider your options.

You can also take the results from your Priorities & Preferences for Living document with you to discuss your needs and preferences with the community staff.