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How to Fill Your Assisted Living Facility

By April 16, 201310 Comments

There are few assisted living facilities that operate at 100% occupancy. I’ve visited hundreds and managers at nearly every one are looking for ways to fill beds.


Someone recently asked me if I had any tips on trying to fill the open units in their small owner-operated assisted living facility. Like many others, this facility was owned and operated by a person with a great background in healthcare but no experience in sales and marketing. This owner was learning quickly but still looking for more ideas.

There is a long list of tips – and I may add to this list later – but here were my questions in response to the question I received.

1. Have you worked with a A Place For Mom or a similar company?  If you don’t have time or expertise in marketing, then one of these companies can help with your marketing.  Yes, they take a fee that can be substantial – but how much does vacancy cost?

2. Does every possible referral source know you personally and what your home does? If not, stopping by for a sales call to drop off a brochure and maybe some home-made treats, is a good way to spread the word and increase your network.  I realize that many in our industry come from a health care background and don’t want to spend time making sales calls.  But that’s not how I would look at it – it’s stopping by for a visit with friends to thank them for past referrals and to find how you can help them in the future.  Every discharge planner at every hospital, skilled nursing facility, clinic and other health care facility should know you by name.  If not, start making some cookies and go for a drive.

3. Is your sales team working for you?  Oh, you don’t think you have a sales team?  Of course you do!  Your entire facility staff, your suppliers and even your residents are all part of your sales team.  We all know that word-of-mouth is the best type of  advertising for an assisted living facility so help your sales team be more effective.  At your next staff meeting, share ideas on how staff can tell others about their facility, create a competition for the most referrals or even give incentives and bonuses.  Make sure your sales team is helping fill your facility.

There are dozens of things you can do to help fill your assisted living facility.  This list just scratches the surface.  How about sharing your favorite tip?  Just leave a comment and start a conversation on how you keep your facility full.


  • Thanks for sharing these tips! These are great ways to make sure that people know about your assisted living business. I think it’s important to also have good customer service. The people who interact your business can either help or hinder your reputation.

    • Mike says:

      Thanks Delores. You’re so right – good customer service is some of the best marketing you can do – and bad customer service cuts just as sharp in the opposite direction.

  • Melpitiye Wimalakitti says:

    Dear mike
    I went through your ideas. thanks for that. I also will open a ALF in Murphy dallas with three beds.Can you halp me please to fill my vacancies.
    Admission open from 15 april 2016.

    • Mike says:

      Here’s my short list of the top three ways to fill your empty beds: #1 Get to know the staff at your local senior center, and make sure they know you and your facility. Spend some time at the senior center and offer to volunteer to make connections. This can be a great source of leads for new residents. #2 Make sure that you are connected with social workers and anyone planning discharges at area hospitals, nursing homes and similar health care settings. #3 Check out A Place For Mom – they’re online. While they cost a bit, they cost less than ongoing vacancies. And here’s a bonus, make sure your current staff and residents and their families are sharing your story with their circle of influence too – they can be your best sales team. Hope this helps for now. Mike

      • Kellie Jacobson says:

        What about a Open house to invite the community.

        • Mike says:

          Great comment Kellie! Open houses are a great way to showcase your facility and help people understand what you have to offer. It’s an easy way for prospective residents and their families to ‘check it out’, even when someone is reluctant to consider assisted living. Incorporate some food and entertainment, along with a visit from your local newspaper, and you can get some great promotion and maybe a few new residents, too.

  • Jeff says:

    is there a management company in AZ that manages homes?

    • Mike says:

      Jeff – Yes, I’m sure there are many. I could connect you with a few but you may be better served asking that same question to staff at Arizona ALFA, the trade association serving assisted living providers in Arizona. You can visit their website here: Tell Karen I said hello! And check back here if she doesn’t have some ideas for you. Mike

  • Mary says:

    Is there an average industry standard for AFH vacancy rates ? Trying to do projections for a new AFH in Wisconsin.

    • Mike says:

      Mary – I’m not familiar with a good resource for vacancy rates of AFH’s in Wisconsin. There is some industry data for vacancy rates and other operating metrics at but nothing as granular as you’re seeking. If there is something out there, I’d love to see it too and perhaps a periodic survey of providers is needed. I am very involved with the Wisconsin Assisted Living Association and that’s an idea I may pass along to them. Mike

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