Critter Corner: How to Assess if Your Senior Loved One Is Being Well Cared for in Assisted Living

Dear Oakley,

My mother has been in assisted living for a few months. I don’t hear much about how she is doing and due to my hectic work schedule, I don’t visit as much as I would like. I am planning on going with the family this Saturday to see her. Are there any good ways you can recommend to gauge if she is being well cared for there?


Welker Daford

Dear Welker,

When a senior loved one moves to assisted living, it’s only natural to be concerned about whether they are being well cared for and adjusting well. Luckily, when you visit your mother, there are some questions you can ask her and the staff, and signs to look out for, as I will describe.

Listening to Your Loved One in Assisted Living

When you are visiting your mother this weekend, be sure to ask her if she is comfortable and if she feels that the staff members respect her. Bonds with staff members are a positive sign that she is getting acclimated and that staff are making an effort to reach out to her.

Some additional questions to ask a senior loved one can include:

  • After you call for a staff member, how long does it take them to arrive?
  • Are you worried about anything?
  • Do you find the meals enjoyable?
  • Have you made friends with any other residents?
  • Have you participated in any activities that you enjoy since my last visit?
  • When was the last time you had a bath?

Don’t rush your loved one through these questions like a checklist or make it seem like an interrogation. Instead, work them into your conversation. Starting such conversations with your parent are a great way to help you assess their care.

Questions to Ask Assisted Living Staff

If your senior loved one is short on answers, it may be because they can’t remember due to a condition such as Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, not necessarily because they’ve been mistreated.

In this case, you’ll have to have conversations with staff to determine if your parent is getting the care in assisted living that they need.

Some questions to ask assisted living staff can include:

  • Does my mother eat most of her food at mealtime?
  • Is she easy to wake up in the morning?
  • Is she social and does she enjoy any activities
  • Are there any reasons to consider changing her medication?

Conversation not helping? There are physical signs you can use to assess your loved one’s situation

Here are some additional things to check to see how your mother is faring in assisted living:

  • Check her weight: If possible, ask a nurse for your mother’s records or have her briefly stand on a scale. If your mom is at her normal weight, then she is likely eating regularly.
  • Look at her clothes: When your mother is well-dressed, it shows that the staff is taking their time with her in the mornings and helping her look her best.
  • Look for bruises: Keep your eye out for bruises, cuts, and scrapes when you see your mother.
  • Stop by unexpectedly: If you visit when the staff and your mom aren’t expecting you, then you can see if they are sitting in front of a television or actually participating in engaging, rewarding activities.
  • Watch her with other residents: Does your mother engage with the people around her and not just the staff?

Keep in mind that some of these changes may represent the inevitability of the underlying disease and not poor care.

Hope this is helpful and that your mother is doing well!


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.