February 22, 2017
7 fundamentals you need to know
A version of this article originally appeared on Angie's List.
In the world of senior living, where many processes can be new and unfamiliar, meals don’t have to be one of them. Dining options are one of many amenities offered in nearly every assisted living community across the country, and while each one likely runs thing a bit differently, you’ll find some common threads. Here’s the scoop on what’s worth inquiring about and what you can expect.
- Meal plan packages: Most communities offer some sort of meal plan package, whether it’s separate from personal care or nursing assistance services or wrapped into one. Based on your current habits, you’ll know if a two meals-per-day plan will work for you or if you’d rather up it to three. If you like to sleep in and have a little bowl of cereal in your jammies, opting to take two daily meals in the restaurant is smart. If you know you might be likely to skip a meal if you didn’t feel like cooking, it’s probably best for you to take three meals per day and know you’ll get hot, nutritiously balanced meals every day. Some communities may have weekly or monthly meal packages, too. The good thing is you can almost always adjust your meal plan if you decide it’s not working for you, so be sure to inquire before you lock into a plan.
- Minimums: Some communities use a “country club membership” type of model, where each resident must spend X amount of dollars per month (or week, or quarter) in a restaurant on campus. Oftentimes, if you don’t spend that X amount, you’ll be billed it anyways, so it’s a good idea to keep track of your receipts or check your statement online, if applicable, to be sure you know where you’re tracking.
- À la carte options: Many assisted living communities offer à la carte meals above and beyond your package or minimum, so you just have to ask. You’ll often find that pricing is set “per meal,” rather than per food item ordered, so be sure you know the scoop on that. Does the lunch special include a trip to the salad bar or a soup of the day, or is that extra? Ask once and you’ll be set with the knowledge you need.
- Billing and payment procedures: Most assisted living communities use a monthly billing or statement system, so there is no worry about carrying your wallet or shuffling around with cash. Dining charges will typically be a line item on the monthly rent bill, along with any other incidental charges you may have incurred for the month, like the beauty shop, outing with the activities group, or convenience shop charges. Your meals will likely be served by caring, charming dining services staff members, and though they’ll probably provide you with excellent service, tipping is usually not applicable in this setting.
5. Room service: Most communities are happy to deliver a meal to your apartment if you’re not feeling up to coming out to eat. There may be a charge or this may be a complimentary service, sometimes limited to a couple times per month. Whether you’re feeling under the weather or just not up to socializing that day, this can be a delightful service.
6. Meals for guests: Since assisted living is home for many, you can be assured that guests are always welcome to visit when the resident see fit. If you’re wondering about inviting guests for a meal, check with the dining services department about if reservations or advanced notice are required. It can be extra enjoyable to entertain when your dining room is already set with beautiful linens, the meal is cooked to perfection, and you just pay the bill at the end of the month without otherwise lifting a finger!
7. Other dining options in your area: If your community doesn’t offer meal services, or maybe the dining rooms, service schedule, or some menu items don’t suit your preferences, don’t forget that there are undoubtedly other food options in your area that you would enjoy. Hop online to a site like Yelp where you can search geographically for dining options in your area. You can even filter by businesses that deliver or serve a certain type of food, for example.
As is true in most topics in the senior living world, when in doubt, ask. If you’re just first considering a senior community, it’s a great time to ask questions about meals. If you’re moving in tomorrow, go ahead and ask now.