Red Flags to Watch for When Touring Senior Living Facilities

Updated on October 11, 2019

There are often troubling and disturbing stories in the news about elder abuse. This can include financial abuse as well as physical and emotional abuse. 

With the aging population growing, more and more people are charged with caring for their older parents and relatives, but they worry because older people are exploited and mistreated with alarming frequency in the United States. 

Sometimes older people move into senior and assisted-living facilities, so they have access to the necessary care, attention, and social activities. While these facilities and communities can offer many benefits, they can also be a source of potential elder abuse.

Whether you’re looking for a senior living community or facility for yourself or your loved one, you’ll likely take a tour. The following are some of the red flags to watch for during a tour that could indicate problems.

Uninterested or Uninformed Staff

When you’re touring a senior living facility, the staff should be a good indicator of the quality of care or the lack thereof. 

If you’re asking staff members questions and they don’t know the answer, they should be able to direct you to someone who will be helpful. If you’re asking the simplest of questions and any staff member can’t answer them, it could be a problem.

The staff should be educated and engaged in how the facility operates, at least at a basic level.

If the staff seems not only uninformed but also uninterested, it should be especially alarming. 

A big component of a senior living facility is the opportunity for socializing. That includes interacting with staff. 

If the staff doesn’t seem to respond and interact well with the people who live in the facility then it may be a red flag. 

Something to ask about when you’re touring is the staff turnover. If there’s a lot of new staff, it’s a warning sign. 

If there’s extreme employee turnover, it may mean there are some deep-rooted problems going on, plus the staff then won’t be as familiar with everyone who lives at the center. 

Looks or Smells Dirty

There is no part of a senior living community or facility that should look, feel, or smell dirty. 

Of course, there might be a spill or something temporary, but other than that, it should be very clean and feel fresh.

Signs of an unclean facility or community include dirty dishes, full trash cans, or linens that don’t seem washed. 

Even if the facility isn’t super modern and updated, if it’s clean, that can say a lot. Organization is important too. You don’t want a space that feels cluttered. 

Clutter and disorganization can be unappealing, but it can also be dangerous, especially since falls are such a big concern among older people. 

Excessive TV Time

If you tour a facility and everyone is stationary in front of the TV, you might consider going elsewhere. 

The best places for your loved one are going to have staff who are engaging and interacting and encouraging creativity, socialization, and activities. 

Another atmosphere-related red flag to watch for is whether it’s too quiet. You, of course, don’t want it to be chaotic, but a senior living home should feel vibrant and like people are talking and enjoying their time there. 

When you’re touring a community, look at the common areas, the activities going on there, and whether or not there seems to be an encouragement of sociability. 

While you don’t want a community that’s too quiet, you also have to be aware of loud noises that might seem off or disruptive. 

Off-Limits Areas

There really shouldn’t be off-limits areas in a senior living community that you’re touring. This includes the memory care area of the facility

Not being able to see a certain part of the community should be a red flag, as should a center that has visiting hours.

Your loved one will live here, and just as they would anywhere else, they should be able to see you and other family members as they wish. 

Finally, go with your gut. Your gut can’t tell you everything about a senior living community, but it can tell you a lot.

A facility might not have the fanciest accommodations, but maybe you just get a better overall feeling there than you do at another facility you tour. It’s a big decision, and you want to feel completely comfortable and confident in the community you choose.

If the staff is unwilling to answer your questions and be transparent, it’s likely best to consider somewhere else. 

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