Most seniors who plan to enter elder care in either an independent or assisted living home know that they have several different options to keep in mind. From non-profit assisted living that covers the basic medical needs of older people to for-profit homes in independent senior housing communities, now more than ever there exist a wide variety of alternatives for the million-plus seniors who rely on these options. Additionally, most senior living guides focus on the amenities and care options that these places provide, but they leave out one crucial detail: the human side of senior living.

Finding the right skilled nursing care facility for yourself or a relative can take time and several visits to area homes. However, by knowing what to look for when you meet with staff and residents, you can be prepared to find the best option for your lifestyle. Here are three things you should expect from senior care to get the most out of this experience:

1. A dedicated team of nursing professionals: Skilled nursing care professionals shouldn’t only be accustomed to gauging the needs of seniors. They should also know how to handle any situations that arise and be friendly while doing so. Make sure to meet with the doctors, nurses, and assistants in the facility that you’re visiting to get a good idea of how they can help you. You should also ask about how many of these professionals are on the staff compared with how many residents are in that particular home. No matter how dedicated your skilled nursing care team is, they can’t do their best when they are overworked and understaffed.

2. A friendly and approachable support staff: Although nursing professionals in assisted living homes typically aid residents with an average of three or more daily tasks, there are others in these facilities who help out residents. Many senior care homes have more than a receptionist and manager onsite. They also include staff members who act as a concierge service, offer transportation assistance, and serve meals. Seniors in such homes should be able to get help from these employees whenever they need it, and management should have an open-door policy for any issues that come up.

3. A community of vibrant residents: Finally, when you go to visit a senior care facility, you should also have a chance to meet with current residents. Although the median length of stay for a senior in assisted living is around 22 months, many of these residents will have lived in these homes for a longer time and should be able to tell you about the community. Seniors should have plenty of common areas to use for socializing, and the home should have events and activities that promote mingling. Keeping in touch with other seniors is one of the best ways to maintain both physical and mental health and is proven to reduce the effects of depression.

What kinds of features do you look for in senior living? Let us know in the comments.