When seeking a senior living community, its always wise to pre-plan so that in the event that you or a family member needs to move to Assisted Living or Memory Care, you've already seen a few options and have an idea of one that will be a good fit. No one ever thinks they will end up in the hospital and not be able to return to their home, but it happens frequently, so it's best to have a "Plan B' rather than leave that task to your friends or relatives. It's much easier for everyone if the decision isn't made under stressful circumstances and if possible, that you involve the person who will be moving.
To help you in your search for a community or care home, I recommend using a LOCAL "Placement or Referral" Agency. The local placement agents are professionals who have been in the industry, are familiar with the various options and have resources to help you select a community as well as help make the transition to senior living as stress free as possible. They will preview communities for you and set up appointments to tour and possibly have lunch or participate in an activity if desired. They will ask pertinent questions and help you select the appropriate community not only for your loved one, but one that works for your entire family.
There are many factors to consider when selecting a senior living community or care home such as: budget, location, proximity to a hospital, nursing staff, caregiver to resident ratio, visiting hours, services offered, amenities, quality of food, etc. Most Referral Agents DO NOT charge you or your family for their services, however, if they place you or your family member, then the community or care home pays the referral agency a commission.
Local agents are familiar with the various options for senior living as well as the management teams, which communities have had good surveys, special rates and/or promotions, etc.
Keep in mind that if you go online to search for senior living, often times you end up caught in the web of one of the large corporate companies. These corporate (national) agencies don't operate the same way as a LOCAL referral/placement agency. Their agents are located across the country and handle an entire region. Their job is to answer your call, ask a few questions and then provide you with a list of options in your city that may or may not be close to your location. In most cases the agent has not set foot inside any of the buildings that they're referring you to. They will provide you with a list of their "Partners", meaning the communities or care homes that pay them for referrals. They dispatch your name, phone number and information about your situation to their partners who will proceed to bombard you with phone calls and/or email communication. These large national companies charge their partners upwards of 90% of the first months' rent for providing a list. The agents don't set up appointments or accompany you on tours.
Using a local referral/placement agency or a national one is up to you. If you desire more personalized service and a partner to act as your advocate, then local is the way to go!