The Rolling Stones had a point: It can be a drag getting old. As you age, you (or your parents, or other loved ones) might suffer decreased mobility and mental agility, and start having trouble doing the tasks that once came easily. Falls and other accidents may become an issue. Many seniors suffer greatly from loneliness and depression. Whatever their individual stories, older people often need a little (or a lot) of help during their golden years.

There are many options to give seniors the help they need, ranging from moving in with family to hiring home-health aides to aging in place to assisted living.

Assisted living communities offer a wide range of services and function under different operational models, from bare-bones small group homes to plush apartment digs with hundreds of units. But all provide a place to live, some or all meals, and help with tasks from bathing to remembering to take medicines.

As when purchasing a home, choosing an assisted living community requires careful thought and consideration. Because they provide medical and other highly personal services, you must make sure you’re picking a good spot. Plus, while some are rentals, giving you a lot of wiggle room if you choose to move out, some others require hefty up-front payments. So take your time to tour several communities and ask lots of questions—preferably before the need arises.

Our guide to Washington area assisted living communities shares results from our survey of 192 area assisted living communities’ offerings and prices. Along with big differences in number of residents, services, amenities, activities, medical staff, meal options, and more, we found huge cost differences. Despite repeated requests, several communities did not give our undercover shoppers pricing information. We were disturbed that so many of them wouldn’t reveal their fees to interested customers.

When assembling a list of prospective communities to tour, include several at different price points. You’ll find that resident satisfaction and quality of care and surroundings don’t always correspond to prices charged.