Visiting/Questions to Ask the Nursing Home

After considering the key factors in choosing a nursing home, a next logical step (if you have the time) is visiting a few homes. Ensuring the comfort and care of your loved one is important; but whatever decision you make regarding the nursing home selection process needs to be tailored to what you feel is the right fit. There are some factors that may be more important than others for you, and that is okay.

Some people may know exactly what they want to ask a nursing home, but not everyone does. We came up with some sample questions to not only ask the staff, but also to ask yourself when you visit nursing homes.

You do not need to follow these questions exactly – you can add and subtract from them based on what you find to be most important. These are just a list of possible questions to ask – and to consider – when you visit, thought of by those who have gone through this experience before.

Things to Notice

  1. Is the home convenient for you, family and/or friends, to visit your loved one?
  1. Are the building and grounds well-cared-for?
  1. Is it noisy or quiet?  Is there a lot of overhead paging?
  1. Are the halls and common areas spacious, well-lit and clean?
  1. Are there unpleasant odors?  (Of course, there may be at times, but if you go a second or third time and there still is, that tells you something.)
  1. Is there a quiet area where you can visit with your loved one privately?
  1. Is there a friendly receptionist upon entering to assist you?
  1. Are the rooms well-lit for the resident?
  1. As you walk through, are the residents clean, well-groomed and appropriately dressed?
  1. Are residents sitting alone in the hallway or are they engaged in activity?
  1. Are staff members conversing with residents as they pass by?
  1. Do staff members look happy, pleasant?
  1. Do you have a sense there is activity happening or does it feel like a library with no one moving around or talking?

Things to Ask

  1. How does your facility ensure the mandate that family visits are allowed 24/7, assuming the resident approves?
  1. Please tell me about the units/stations?  Are there specialized units or do residents with various levels of ability live in the same unit?
  1. How many people to a room?  Can we pick the room?
  1. How do you determine what diet my loved one will have?  Can my loved one choose what he/she wants to eat? What’s the process?  May I see a typical menu?  Can we join a meal with our loved one?
  1. How often does the attending physician see the residents?  How much time does the attending physician spend with each resident?
  1. How often does the nurse practitioner see the residents?  How much time does the nurse practitioner spend with each resident?
  1. Does each unit/station always have a nurse on 24/7, as mandated by law?  Is that nurse a registered nurse (RN), a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or both?
  1. Who runs activities and what is his/her background?  Can you show me an activities schedule for the week/month?
  1. Do you run activities so residents can enjoy events in the community?
  1. Are there weekend and evening activities?
  1. How often do outside people (e.g. singers) come in to entertain the residents?
  1. What is the process if we have a concern or complaint that needs attention by nursing home staff?
  1. Please tell me about resident care plan meetings.  How often do they occur?  How long?  Who from the nursing home attends? Can residents and family/representatives attend?
  1. If a resident has a medical issue and needs to see a doctor outside the home’s attending physician, how do you recommend where the resident should go?  Do you have relationships with specific doctors, hospitals?  What can you tell me about them?
  1. What security measures are in place so a resident does not wander outside without supervision?
  1. What’s your process for applying for a bed in the nursing home?  How long does it typically take?  Should we apply now?
  1. May I review the latest Federal survey reports on your facility?
  1. Are there written materials that explain the types of care available at the nursing home and their costs?
  1. What type of rehabilitation services are available?
  1. How often does the resident get to take a shower?
  1. Is there a hair stylist/barber available?  Do we need to schedule?  Cost?
  1. Do you have a full-time social worker on staff? How does that person interact with residents?  Family and loved ones? [Federal law mandates FT only for 120+ bed facilities.]
  1. What kind of staffing patterns do you have?  How many certified nursing assistants (CNAs) work in each unit/station for day, evening, overnight shifts?  What is the ratio of nursing staff to resident?
  1. If our loved one needs to apply for MassHealth (Medicaid) to pay for services, do you provide assistance with the application?
  1. Does your nursing home follow the guidelines and philosophy of Person-Centered Care (PCC)?  If so, how?  If not, why not? (See next section for further information on PCC.)

→ Next: Person-Centered Care (PCC)