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5 Steps to Choosing an Assisted Living Community

At The Annapolitan, we understand the challenges faced by families making care decisions for their senior loved ones. The decision to find help can be emotional – but necessary – for seniors and their families.

That’s why it’s important to be prepared. We recommend that families learn as much as possible about the care options available to them – including visiting communities – before having “the talk” with a senior loved one. Being able to answer a loved one’s questions thoroughly and confidently can help ease fears and uncertainty.

We’re here to make it easier with our five-step process.

  1. Determine the type of care your loved one needs.
  2. Understand the costs of assisted living, and what your loved one can afford.
  3. Research assisted living communities.
  4. Visit: What to look for when touring an assisted living community.
  5. Having “the talk.”

A free, printer-friendly version of the “5 Steps to Choosing an Assisted Living Community” guide is available to download here.

1. Determine the type of care your loved one needs.

The good news is that there are more resources than ever for seniors who need support. That means it’s possible to find exactly what you need, but the choices can seem overwhelming. It helps to understand the most common available options, and consult with your loved one’s physician.

Assisted Living/Senior Living

Assisted living communities (also called “senior living”) are residences where seniors receive help with tasks of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and medication management. Assisted living communities provide meals, housekeeping, and entertainment, with care staff available 24 hours a day. See our full list of services here.

This is the most practical choice for seniors who have difficulty managing at home alone, but do not require skilled nursing care.

In assisted living, seniors may have their own apartment with a private bathroom, or share a bathroom with another resident.

Assisted living is the best choice for seniors who need support with daily tasks, help managing medications and medical care, but do not require skilled nursing care.

Understanding the Difference Between Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing Care

Here are a few examples of the difference in services between assisted living and skilled nursing care. These are examples of services that are typical of many assisted living residents or skilled nursing residents. This is to serve as a guide only. Placement is based on a thorough evaluation by a nurse or physician.

Assisted Living

  • Assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, and using the restroom.
  • Assistance with managing medications.
  • Blood pressure monitoring.
  • Continence care.
  • Reminders about daily activities.
Skilled Nursing

  • Use of a feeding tube.
  • Intravenous medications.
  • Stage III and Stage IV wound care.
  • Need for a hoyer lift.
  • Psychiatric outbursts that require physical intervention.


Memory Care

Memory care refers to residences specifically designed for seniors with significant memory impairment, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. Memory care residences are secure environments with programs specially designed to maximize independence for those with memory loss.

Not all seniors with memory loss require a memory care neighborhood. A regular assisted living community can be an ideal solution for seniors with some age-related forgetfulness. Learn more about how we determine whether memory care is the right choice.

Skilled Nursing

Skilled nursing (nursing homes) are residences for seniors who require acute medical intervention and assistance, such as regular intravenous injections or ongoing Stage III and IV wound care.

Home Care

Home care refers to assistance brought into a private home. Home care staff may be care aides or nurses, depending on the client’s need. Home care is typically provided by agencies charging an hourly rate. Home care is often considered a short-term or temporary option before around-the-clock support becomes necessary.

2. Understand the cost of assisted living, and determine what your loved one can afford.

Assisted living costs can vary widely. Many families experience “sticker shock” when researching the cost of assisted living.

However, it’s important to consider all of the expenses that are reduced by moving to assisted living, such as meals, home maintenance, utilities, and property taxes. Plus, should your loved one’s needs change, the cost of care will be far more predictable than it would be with home care.

To determine what your loved one can afford, consider all assets and income including social security, pensions, VA benefits, and proceeds from the sale of a home.

Many assisted living communities do not publish their rates online, so this will likely require some phone calls during your research process. We DO publish our rates to make it easier for our prospective residents and their families to make informed decisions.

If you have any questions about our rates (or when you’re ready to schedule a tour), please feel free to call us at 410-757-7000 or email us here.

Questions to Ask About Assisted Living Fees

  • How are levels of care determined? What is the highest possible cost for care?
  • Is there a community fee or entrance fee, and are these fees refundable?
  • What other expenses might you encounter, such as pet fees or telephone?
  • How often and on what basis are rates increased?

3. Research Assisted Living Communities

There is a lot to consider when researching assisted living communities, in addition to cost. As you begin talking with peers, searching online, and scheduling tours, here are some factors to consider:

Additional Factors to Consider When Researching Assisted Living

  • Location. will you be able to visit your loved one as much as you like?
  • Reputation. Seek out online reviews, and talk with peers and your loved one’s physician for recommendations.
  • Availability. Before scheduling a tour, check the community’s availability to make sure it matches your needs. Some communities have waiting lists.
  • Fit. Consider whether the community is a good fit for your loved one’s physical and emotional needs. Of course, the community should be able to accommodate any special physical needs. For the best possible experience, also consider whether your loved one would be most comfortable in a smaller or larger community, and whether the community’s programming and atmosphere meet their interests.

4. Visit: What to Look for when Touring an Assisted Living Community

When visiting an assisted living community for a tour, you’ll likely see resident living spaces and common areas like dining rooms and lounges.

Here’s what you should look for to gauge the quality of the resident experience.

  1. How were you greeted? Were the staff friendly?
  2. How do the staff interact with residents? Do they know them by name?
  3. How is the food? We suggest having lunch at a community during the touring process.
  4. Is there activity in the community?
  5. How do the residents look? Are they well groomed? Do they look happy?
  6. Is the community in good repair?
  7. Has the community been forthcoming with their rates and policies? Are they willing to give you a copy of a contract? We strongly recommend reviewing a contract before deciding on a community.
  8. Did the person leading your tour take time to ask questions about your loved one?

5.    Having “the talk” with a senior loved one.

Talking with a senior loved one about making a move can be an emotional experience. It’s important to create an atmosphere in which your loved one feels supported.

After helping many local families through this process, this is what we recommend to make the conversation as smooth as possible:

  1. Be prepared. Research and visit communities ahead of time. This will help you to answer your loved one’s questions and speak to their concerns.
  2. Talk to family first. It’s important for family members to feel that they have a say in the process. Make sure everyone is on the same page before talking with your senior loved one.
  3. Plan who has the conversation, and when. Every family is different. Some may do best with a one-on-one conversation, and others do best with everyone present. Consider enlisting outside help, such as a physician, clergy, or trusted family friend. Choose your timing thoughtfully. Talk at a time when everyone is at their best and has plenty of time.
  4. Listen to your loved one’s concerns. Make sure that they feel that they are heard and are part of the decision.
  5. Be patient. It may take many conversations to arrive at a decision. Your loved one will need some time to ask questions and think things over. It’s okay to revisit the subject from time to time.

A free, printer-friendly version of the “5 Steps to Choosing an Assisted Living Community” guide is available to download here.

We are here to help! Please contact us with questions about choosing the right assisted living and memory care in Annapolis.


Get To Know Us

We are currently welcoming new residents.

For a private tour and personal conversation about The Annapolitan's services, please call Jim Thompson, Executive Director, at (410) 757-7000.

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Did you know?

The Annapolitan is the leading independently owned and managed assisted living community in Anne Arundel County.

For over twenty-five years, we’ve led the county in providing superior assisted living and memory care. Come see our unique, friendly community!