Start by asking your local Area Agency on Aging for a list of the facilities in your area. Once you have your list, call your local ombudsman for long-term care and ask if complaints have been filed against any of the facilities. Not all ombudsman programs will supply this information, but it's worth a call to find out.
Next, determine your price range so you can eliminate those homes that are beyond your budget.
Spend some time browsing the websites of any assisted living facilities that seem like possibilities. This takes some time, yes, but it's something you can do on your lunch break or after the kids are in bed.
Many sites include a floor plan or an online tour. Look at the layout and think about your mom's mobility. If she uses a walker, is the home too big or spread out? If she has always loved lots of open space, is it too crowded or too compact? Is the facility located close enough to family or friends? To your mom's doctor? If the location seems inconvenient, scratch that facility off your list.
You can usually look at the activity calendar online, too. Does the facility have lectures, occasional parties, or hobbies that would interest your mother? Is there a van that provides transport to local houses of worship or other events? Think about your mom's personality: how much stimulation does she need?
If you're really short on time, another time-saver is to hire a geriatric care manager who's familiar with the price ranges, amenities, and staff of all the local facilities. A care manager, who usually charges between $60 and $150 per hour, will talk to you and your mom about what you're looking for and what you can pay, and will then find the best options for you to visit in person.
Keep in mind that you really can't pick a place sight unseen. The point of all this initial research is to settle on a minimum of three places to tour. Seeing a facility in person will give you a much better picture of the staff's personalities, the daily routine, the ambience, and how content the residents seem to be.