How to Choose the Right Senior Living Community

When health and safety issues make is unwise to stay at home, families and seniors have to make big decisions. Fortunately, Charlottesville offers many choices of senior living communities—so many that decisions can be overwhelming. Learn what others have discovered before “shopping around”.

Try not to rush a decision.

Often, families postpone the inevitable until the need has become critical. While it’s only human to avoid difficult family discussions—especially when roles are reversed and the adult child has become a caregiver to the parent—making an important decision under stress is far from ideal. It’s better all ‘round if seniors and their families do their homework long before it becomes necessary. Given time and research, the best decision becomes very clear.

Look ahead to how needs may change.

As we age, our care needs will change. Rather than make a decision based on current conditions, seniors and families must look ahead. Does the senior living community maximize independence at all stages of life? Are the resources and staff in place to meet changing needs? Will the transition from one level of care to another be seamless?

Learn more about Branchlands’ continuum of care, including senior independent living, assisted living, and memory care communities.

Consider location relative to family and activities.

Depending on family dynamics, seniors may choose to move closer to their children. This is a reality check moment: is convenience the decisive factor? Are expectations of frequent visits realistic? Can family and friends easily “drop in”? Centrally-located senior living communities enable easier access for visits and opportunities for excursions.

Similarly, look for communities located near shopping, entertainment, and your loved one’s preferred activities. Communities that offer both quality care and rich opportunities for remaining active and taking off-site trips are win-wins for seniors and their families.

Establish an all-inclusive budget.

All-inclusive base monthly fees cover rent, meals, local transportation, and regular housekeeping—a preferable arrangement if a resident intends to make use of all that is available. In “fee for service” contracts, residents incur costs as services are accessed—an option for individuals who only seek certain services. It’s a good idea to do the numbers—assets available against services needed and their related costs—to establish realistic parameters.

Enlist a senior living professional’s help.

Local agencies on aging can refer families to senior advisors who help navigate the many life care options available. These professionals know what questions to ask, can lay out costs and care options, and can recommend “best fit” communities for families to consider. Overall, they are well worth the time and—when provided as a paid service—the relatively modest investment.

Get up close and personal.

Nothing takes the place of feet-on-the-ground first-hand experience. Narrow the choices down and visit finalists. Be sure to tour the whole facility and not just the major shared spaces and model suite. As you tour, ask yourself:

  • Is the environment warm and welcoming?
  • Are the facilities clean and in good repair?
  • Can you smell offensive odors?
  • How are safety and security concerns addressed?
  • What activities are in evidence?
  • Are there day trips and planned entertainments?
  • Is the community pet-friendly and does it offer pet care services?
  • Do staff members appear engaged and responsive to residents (or too busy)?
  • Is the food nutritious, tasty, and well-presented and are mealtimes sociable?

Also, talk to the residents. Ask them what they like most and least? Above all, ask yourself: would you or your loved one want to live here?


Even with plenty of advance planning and confidence in the choice of senior living community, the move can be emotionally trying all around. Take the time to understand your loved one’s feelings. Especially for those who have lived in their homes for many years, leaving can be wrenching. This is a time to sort through treasured mementos, share stories, cry, laugh, but, most of all, celebrate all that has happened along the way to this new destination.