35 Questions to Ask When Searching for a Care Facility
…….in no particular order

by Shelley Webb and Tonia Boterf

Exactly what services are offered?


How often does the staff change or turn over?  How many R.N.s are available on each unit and on each shift.  Do they utilize LPNs /LVNs ?  Who administers the medications?
What levels of care are offered and what are the fees?
If your loved-one has any form of dementia, is there a separate facility or area?
If so, is it secured so that residents don’t wander?
(Check the state or province’s past reviews of the facility if available.)
Is the facility on a busy street?  If so, this could be dangerous and also just plain irritating.
Do you or your loved one KNOW anyone who is already a resident there?
What and how often are activities offered?  Are there off-site excursions? Look at the calendar of events that is often posted in the lobby or eating area.  If it’s not there, then it may be in the director or social worker’s office.  Ask to see it.
Is physical therapy available and if so, is it an additional charge?
What are the financial and medical requirements to qualify for the facility?
Can money be left in a safe in the facility for use by your loved one?
Check the appearance and maintenance of the place…..again, trust your gut.  How does it smell?
Do they have any pets on site?  (Does your loved one LIKE pets or have any pet allergies?)  Can pets come to visit?
If your loved one is religious, are religious services available?  Is there a chapel?  Is there transportation available to an off-site place of worship?
Is there a cafeteria where family members can come to eat a meal with your loved one? Would YOU eat the food that is being served?
What kinds of things can be brought from home?  (Be aware that things often “disappear”. I just had a friend tell me that her Mom’s iPod disappeared within an HOUR of her leaving it at the facility.)
Do the rooms have a television?  Is there an extra charge for that?
What are the rules regarding visitation or going out of the facility for an overnight stay? 
Watch how the staff is treating the current resisidents.  Are all the residents strapped into wheel chairs and sitting at the nursing station?  Are they all in bed? 
Is the staff washing their hands and/or using sanitizer between residents?
Is the facility close enough that you and your loved one’s friends or relatives could come to visit? ( People who have frequent visitors do better.)
Be aware that you’ll probably have to change your loved one’s physician.  You may want to call the current physician to discuss the fact that you’re considering a residential placement and whether or not the physician can and will make visits there.
Be sure to have all your legal paperwork in order BEFORE your loved one transfer there as many patients decline after being admitted to a nursing home.
Is there a place where residents can go outside by themselves SAFELY?
Are there security systems in place? Must visitors check in and  wear nametags? Does the staff have nametags?
Will your loved one’s room and his/her belongings be protected from those patients (generally the ones with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s) who wander?  Are dementia patients kept on a different ward?
If this is a facility for those with dementia, are there visual cues (such as photos, items from home) to remind them which room belongs to them and to help calm them?  (For instance, some facilities will hang a photo holder at the entry to each room where personal photos can be placed or a locked curio shelf where treasured mementos can be placed.)
Is there air conditioning?  Is there enough heat?  Do they have an emergency generator?  Are there fire alarms located along the hallways?  If the facility is of the larger variety, are there fireproof doors interspersed throughout the facility?
Do they offer services such as salon care (hair cut, wash, manicure, etc.) on site? If so, how much do these services cost?
Are snacks and drinks available at all times or only at scheduled times?
Are there any up-front deposits or fees?
Do they have internet access (if your loved one would like to learn that sort of thing)? 
How close is the facility to the nearest hospital?
Is smoking allowed (if your loved one smokes….or if he/she hates smoke)?
Can you take your loved one out of the building without being accompanied by a staff member?  (When my father was in skilled nursing for a few days, I was allowed to take him by wheelchair around the block and this helped to settled him down.)
Do the other residents appear happy?
Is this a place that you or your loved one are interested in? (Trust your gut.)
Would YOU stay here?

Tonia Boterf is a licensed clinical social worker.  Several of her e-books (and her brand new print book) can be found on our website under products.



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