Touring a Community: Hidden Factors That Can Spell Trouble

If you are considering moving into an assisted living community, or if you are the adult child of an aging parent who is providing support and help in such a process, due diligence is vital. Part of the due diligence process is touring prospective assisted living communities. The fact is that you can glean a good deal of information by touring assisted living communities. However, there are some elements of an assisted living community that will not be evident on a tour. In fact, there are some hidden factors that can spell trouble down the road if they are not otherwise fleshed out and your mother or father ends up moving into a particular assisted living community.

  • Inadequate staffing
  • Sensory issues
  • Boredom
  • Medication management issues
  • Wrong neighbors
  • Erratic menu planning
  • Lax cleaning 

Inadequate Staffing

One of the hidden factors that might lurk within an assisted living community that cannot be detected on a general tour of a facility is inadequate staffing. Inadequate staffing of an assisted living community most commonly comes in one of three forms:

  • Inadequate number of staff members in an assisted living community
  • Improperly trained staff in an assisted living community
  • Decently trained staff, but placed in the wrong positions in an assisted living facility

You really cannot effectively detect inadequate staffing by physically touring an assisted living community. However, through a thorough questioning of an administrator, you can glean a better idea of staff adequacy. 

In addition, if you know people who live in an assisted living community and their families, you definitely should reach out to family members in order to obtain more information about staffing in a community. You might find that overall staffing has been adequate on all fronts, but currently there is an issue. If a facility is up front about an issue relating to staffing and has a plan to remedy a potential or actual problem, that can be helpful information. 

Sensory Issues

A particular assisted living community might have an array of different types of residents. For example, an assisted living community might be home to residents who have dementia. As a consequence, in order to appropriately accommodate these residents, adjustments might be made to the environment to ensure their wellbeing and safety. Conversely, the preferences of the community at large in regard to environmental issues may impact negatively a potential resident with mild dementia.

The bottom line in regard to sensory issues is that you may not be able to identify potential issues during a tour of an assisted living community. 

Understanding whether or not there might be some environmental issues surrounding other residents that might cause sensory problems for a parent should he or she decide to move into a particular community can probably best be identified by talking to staff and other residents. Even that information may be limited, highly subjective, and perhaps not even that helpful. 


The risk or boredom among older people can be a significant issue. The risk of boredom can occur within an assisted living community. Whether or not residents are experiencing unusual levels of boredom in an assisted living community is not something that is apt to be detected on a physical tour of a facility.

A key to ensuring that your parent has activities and programming available in an assisted living community is to do a close interview with a community administrator. Through that process, you should be able to obtain specific information about the types of activities, events, and programming that occurs at an assisted living community on a regular and consistent basis.

Medication Management Issues

Unfortunately, medical management issues and problems occur with greater frequency in long-term care facilities of all types. There is no way you will be able to ascertain medication management issues during an assisted living facility tour. Confidentiality issues alone prevent this from happening.

You do need to obtain the protocols an assisted living community has in place for medication management. It is also fair to question administration about the efficacy and effectiveness of that medication manage protocol.

Wrong Neighbors

Ultimately, you will be able to identify what apartments or rooms are available to your parent if you identify an assisted living community that appears to meet his or her needs. At that point, you will have the ability to identify who direct neighbors will be in a particular community.

In fact, even when touring an assisted living community, you really will be unable to effectively evaluate other residents. You might be able to make some observations if you enjoy a meal with your parent in the dining room while on a tour. In the end, however, there is no easy way of ascertaining whether or not there any other residents that might be considered challenging or problematic.

Erratic Menu Planning 

Unfortunately, another oftentimes hidden factor that can spell trouble at an assisted living community is erratic menu planning. In other words, while meals might seem decent on the surface, menus aren’t created with real regard to the dietary and nutritional needs of residents. Simply put, menus and hence meals served are pulled together on the fly.

Erratic menu planning really isn’t a problem that can be identified by eating a meal – or even a few meals – at an assisted living community as part of the due diligence process. A prospective resident really needs to dive deeper into the meal planning and preparation process. This includes finding out who is responsible for menu and meal planning as well as how meal preparation is undertaken.

Lax Cleaning

Finally, a problem with an assisted living community that might not be evident from a tour of the premises is lax cleaning or inadequate cleaning. Even if public areas look up to snuff, private resident apartments or rooms may not be properly cleaned on a consistent basis. 

Lax cleaning can be a truly problematic matter if a person moves into an assisted living community without knowing that is an issued. The reality is that if a person knew there is an issue with inadequate cleaning at a particular assisted living community, that individual would not consider moving into that facility.

As was stated at the outset of this article, generally speaking these types of issues cannot be identified during the touring process when an elderly person is looking to move into an assisted living community. This fact highlights the importance of asking detailed questions about the operations of an assisted living community as part of the due diligence process. 

When possible, an individual interested in a particular assisted living community and their families should inquire as to whether it might be possible to talk about life in a facility with a couple of residents that already reside at that location. Some assisted living communities already have a process in place to make this happen. 

Of course, the community staff may have handpicked people to field questions from prospective residents. While that may be the case, having that type of access is nevertheless better than nothing at all.