10 Questions to Ask on a Nursing Home Tour

Feb 17, 2023 3 min read

If your family member is no longer able to safely live on his or her own, it may be time for a higher level of care. Choosing the right assisted living facility is no easy feat, but a little preparation can go a long way. Here’s what to look for when planning for a move to assisted living.

  1. Is the facility certified and accredited?

The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) is a non-profit organization that inspects, accredits and certifies health care organization and programs across the country. If a facility you’re considering has been accredited by JCAHO, it means that it has satisfied a strict set of quality control and safety guidelines, making this one of the most important questions to ask a nursing home. Medicare also provides another important certification, which is crucial if you’re expecting this financial assistance, as Medicare only pays for facilities that it has certified. Even if your loved one has long-term care insurance, it’s still a good idea to look for one that meets the Medicare standards.

  1. What are the official policies?

Just because one facility has an open-door policy for visitors, don’t assume they all do. Ask for a print-out of all the facility’s policies. 

  1. What are the facility’s security and safety precautions?

Do your best to find out the facility’s plan for keeping your loved one safe and secure. For example, does it have its own hospital transport? If not, what is the average time for an ambulance to reach them? What is the approach to vaccinations for staff members and how do they manage sickness outbreaks? How do they help avoid infections in general? What is the protocol in case of an emergency and where could you find your loved one in the event of a building evacuation?

  1. What are the staffing ratios and turnover rates?

You can see state-by-state staffing data for individual facilities on the Long-Term Care Community Coalition website. You’ll want to be sure that staff have the capacity to provide the level of care your family member requires. In many ways, the staff at a nursing home becomes a surrogate family, so it would be beneficial to talk to as many nurses and aides as possible to find out their attitudes toward the residents and how they work together. 

  1. How long do nurses and aides spend with residents each day?

You want the best care for your loved one and this is a critical question to ask. In addition to time spent with residents, find out who comprises the staff. Is there a social worker? How many RNs are on duty? Does the nursing home have its own doctor or one who is always on call?

  1. What kinds of activities are available?

Find out what the daily schedules are like and ask about any unscheduled activities. For example, can residents use an arts and craft room even when something isn’t scheduled? What about a gym or pool? Understanding what is available will help you find a place that will appeal to your loved one’s interests.

  1. What type of preventive care is offered?

Not only do you want a nursing home to care for your loved one’s current condition, but you also want to make sure they’re doing all they can to keep a resident’s health from declining. Ask about preventive care programs, like a program for flu and pneumonia vaccinations.

  1. How does the food look and taste?

Quality food is another important thing to look for when touring a nursing home. Ask to enjoy a meal yourself in the cafeteria to get an idea of how the food looks and tastes. Just because the meal meets the dietary requirements doesn’t always mean it’s palatable. Can residents order off a menu daily, or does the kitchen only prepare a couple different recipes a day? Does the facility cater to not only dietary restrictions but also preferences and cultural norms?

  1. Do you provide special care for people with dementia?

Memory care means much more than just a locked unit to prevent residents from wandering. Staffing ratios should be higher in this area. These facilities should include around the clock care by caregivers who have special training in dementia care, and the awareness and sensitivity to address these needs.

  1. What is the fee schedule?

After quality of care, cost is probably the next biggest factor in choosing a nursing home. That’s why it’s important to understand what is and isn’t included in the fee structure. Don’t assume that things like meal choice, gym access or physical therapy are included in the monthly rate. And be sure to ask about the types of insurance each facility accepts — and how far that coverage extends — to ensure your out-of-pocket cost remains feasible for your family.

Do You Need Long-Term Care Insurance?

Research suggests that if you celebrate your 65th birthday, you are likely to need long-term care at some point in your life. To find out if its right for you or your family, talk to your Farm Bureau agent today

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