Nine ways to evaluate the quality of a seniors' residence

Things to look for when considering the quality of senior living residences

Three residents enjoying conversation and white wine at table in residence dining room

Let’s be honest: most of us aren’t health-care experts but we want to get the sense from a senior living residence that the staff there will competently look after Mom’s needs. But as adult children, we also want staff that will truly care about our loved ones. When you tour a residence, how do you look past the sparkling amenities and beautiful lobby to evaluate the quality of the care? We asked Paulette Kinsella, a Regional Director of Wellness at Amica, a registered nurse and a leader in senior care, how she judges whether a residence meets her high standards. Here are nine points she watches for.

How's the ambiance?

“If I were a family member, the first thing I’d look for as soon as I walked into a residence is the ambiance,” says Kinsella. Is it vibrant? Do the residents seem engaged? Is there a variety of both organized and informal activities taking place that would enrich the lives of the residents physically, cognitively and socially? “I want to see life happening in the front lobby, people having a coffee and conversation. I want to hear some laughter.”

How do the residents look?

Are the ladies dressed and wearing earrings and makeup? Are the gentlemen shaved and is their hair combed? Do they appear happy? “If they’re content and well put together, it shows me someone has taken extra time to help with that, and the staff is working there for the right reasons,” says Kinsella. “Caring for seniors isn’t just a task: anyone can get the resident out of bed and into a chair. If someone is dressed and carefully groomed in a way that is typical for them, it tells me the team is treating that resident with the utmost respect and they actually care about the service they provide to that person. That’s part of the Amica Difference: others may be performing a task. We pride ourselves on providing exceptional service.”  

How stable is the management team?

How long have they been in place? A stable management team makes for a stable residence. “Frequent turnover would concern me and is sometimes very hard for the residents,” believes Kinsella.

Are the frontline team members working for passion of a pay cheque?

Ask various staff members how long they’ve worked at the residence or what brings them back to work every day. “If they’ve been there for a considerable time, it shows they’re happy with their career,” says Paulette. “This isn’t just a job—they do actually find joy in serving seniors.” Amica residents tell us that they find comfort in having the same staff look after them because of the familiarity it brings. “The staff get to know residents on a personal level and get to know their likes and dislikes and what makes them happy. They incorporate those personal preferences into every interaction.”

What's happening in the dining room?

Visit during a meal if you can, and watch or partake in the dining service in the main dining room. Is there a healthy amount of choice, is the food well presented, and is the service prompt and courteous?  In residences that have on-floor dining for those who require oversight during meals, there should be team members in the dining room for safety and peace of mind. Do the residents in this dining area get treated to the same dining experience as in the main dining room, including linens and menus on the table, a variety of delicious choices on the menu, residents enjoying themselves, maybe sipping a glass of wine? Are dishes clattering with staff rushing around, or is it fine dining with food served in courses like at a restaurant? Learn more about the truth of dining at Amica by booking a personal visit today.

Is the recreation calendar truly engaging?

How diverse are the activities offered: Is it bingo all the time or are there a variety of options? For a resident who will be living in Assisted Living, ask if your parent is welcome to take part in all activities offered within and outside the residence, including bus outings, dinners, trips to the theatre, etc. For residents who are not able to leave the Assisted Living neighbourhood of the residence, make sure the programming offered in that part of the residence is engaging. “I’d want to see evidence that someone has canvassed the residents to find out what interests them,” says Paulette. “If they love to sing, is someone leading a choir? If they’re history buffs, is there a guest speaker coming in for a talk? For those residents who aren’t inclined to participate in group activities at Amica, team members can spend one-on-one time visiting that resident to chat, read or play cards or whatever they enjoy. Our residents aren’t just a suite number: we are staffed at a level that we can take our time and offer personalized attention.”

How's the landscaping?

Is there an inviting green space where residents can relax in nice weather? Are there patios that are easy for people with mobility challenges to navigate? Are there good walking paths? Do you notice any raised flower beds, which would be accessible to someone in a wheelchair who wanted to indulge their love of gardening? Is there a BBQ for fun outdoor meals? Are there properly shaded areas and is the furniture in good repair?

What's the building like?

Look for cleanliness and signs of good building upkeep in both common spaces and individual suites. Does the paint look fresh? Are the carpets or furnishings worn? Is anything broken? “I want to see pride in how someone keeps that residence,” says Kinsella. “And don’t forget to follow your nose. “Does the building smell fresh and clean? This is a home: whatever you smell is what your mom will be smelling every day. If I noticed any unpleasant odour, that would really concern me,” says Kinsella.

What does the average resident say about living there?

Many residences have ambassadors, which are designated residents who meet with visitors and tell them about the location. In addition to this person, Kinsella would also randomly select a resident or two and politely introduce herself. “I’d say, ‘I’m looking for a home for my mum, do you mind if I ask a few questions? Can you tell me how long you’ve been living here? What are some of the good points about living here? Anything you have concerns about?’” Speaking to a few seniors can give you a more candid and honest portrait of a residence.

Paulette Kinsella has over 40 years of nursing experience and has specialized in retirement care since 2005. Her focus as a Regional Director of Wellness is to ensure all Amica residents receive professional, high-quality care personalized to their needs and preferences.

Find out how residents are enjoying great amenities, activities, flexible dining and personalized service at Amica residences. Book a personal visit today.