Interviewing Assited Living Administration and Staff

Unfortunately, my mom was very weak and sick when she moved to assisted living. As such, she was unable to participate in the selection of an assisted living residence. While many will have their loved one with them during the selection process, the process is still the same.

My older sister Teresa, whom I deeply admire and trust, came out from Baltimore to evaluate potential communities and add some emotional stability to what I knew would be a draining process.

I had several high-level criteria in moving my mom to assisted living:

  • Close enough to visit regularly and quickly respond in the event of an emergency
  • Physical and occupational therapists who would aggressive rehabilitate my mom from her stroke, muscle loss and weakness
  • Community administration who had extensive experience and low staff turnover
  • A clean community with amenities that would provide my mom pride in residency
  • A first impression that residents were happy and well cared for

While our final decision had much more detail that you’ll identify on your own, we used these five objectives as screening tools for the 10+ properties we visited.

For the first round of visits, we followed a pretty simple plan that we felt would expose us to the above criteria in a time-efficient manner. We took the following plan of action at each community:

  • Met with the admissions coordinator to get a tour of the community, activities calendar and price schedule.
  • Toured the community to verify amenities, cleanliness and get an overall impression of the happiness of the residents.

(NOTE: Since then, I’ve heard from many in the industry that many residents are afraid to say anything bad about staff or a community due to fear of retribution. You may find this technique less than beneficial for getting good feedback.)

  • Spoke personally with the physical therapist and occupational therapist in the therapy room to understand the course of treatment they would take with my mom. The physical and/or occupational therapist(s) must have several years of geriatric experience.
  • Spoke personally with the nurse to verify medication management and basic procedures in place in the event a resident becomes ill. This includes verifying the medication room was clean and organized, as we wanted to avoid medication mix-ups.
  • Spoke personally with the executive director to verify experience, staff turnover, hiring procedures with background checks and to validate the health and safety inspection record.

It took us several hours per community to follow our above plan above and validate whether the community met our high-level criteria. With each new community we visited, we picked up some little detail that we applied to the ones we’d already visited.

We narrowed the list down to three communities which we felt satisfied our criteria, ranked in order of preference. For each of those three communities, we did the following:

  • Visited the community during lunch or dinner to check the quality of food and observe the residents in a more casual environment. We paid close attention to the interaction between residents and staff and residents and each other.
  • Shared my mom’s medical records with the admissions staff to ensure they had the capabilities to support my mother’s specific issues.
  • Had unscripted discussions with the admissions director and executive director to get a better impression of the staff and their ability to provide for my mom.

After this round of investigation, the decision became clear. All three communities met our criteria. But through longer conversations, we ultimately developed a sense of trust with the admissions director and executive director at one of the communities. They had a sense of emotional attachment to the residents that I didn’t feel at the other communities.

When I laid down that night, I was calm. I knew that we had executed a thoughtful plan.

Photo Credit: TheBusyBrain


  • Richard Peck

    I think the emotional sense you mention is key. Part of this is keeping an antenna up for a sense of staff morale. Are they engaging and forthcoming? Do they seem distant and reserved? A powerful guide, in my experience

  • Ryan Malone

    Thanks Richard, glad you liked it.

  • Chris Gutierrez

    Love the article Ryan. I like the fact that you were proactive with the process and not reactive. At the end of day, I think that it comes down to whom you trust during and after the tour. The staff is so vital to the whole experience of your mother and you and your entire family. Great advice…..

  • Ryan Malone

    Glad you like the article, Chris.

  • VirtualHealth1

    The aging period for seniors can be a difficult time for family members and caregivers, too, but with the appropriate considerations, the right environment can be found. As Ryan mentions in his posting, it is important to find experienced medical staff, a clean community that has the necessary amenities and a sense of trust with the doctors there. However, it takes time to develop an emotional attachment with the other people living in Assisted Living communities, and leaving family members behind can be difficult. The services offered by Virtual Health allow seniors to stay at home and still have their health needs monitored, until they feel like they are ready for an institutional setting. It’s important that seniors make the right choice, whether it’s trusting that your health is cared for while you remain at home, or having faith in a new Assisted Living community. Perhaps the most important factor is to be comfortable with your decision and to have the support you need during your transitions.