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Scouting Assisted Living and Nursing Home Options: What to Look For and What to Ask

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edbb473309b63cb90a201352eb980dc9_w640If you are scouting living options for a parent who can no longer live alone or whose care requires more than a family member can provide, assisted living might be a good option. Bethany Village offers a comprehensive continuum of care that includes independent cottages, villas, and apartments; assisted living apartments, rehabilitation care, and long-term nursing care.

But all assisted living places are not the same; it pays to visit as many as you can to see everyday life in action. Sometimes what you actually see when you make a scouting visit is more revealing than answers you receive to your questions. Here are a few things to look for:

  • Do the residents and staff seem happy? Are they smiling?
  • Are the grounds nicely landscaped and well kept?
  • Are the interiors – living spaces and common spaces – clean and tidy?

If you are visiting a nursing home in anticipation of your parent needing to move from assisted living into a place that offers long-term medical care, you can make the same observations I mentioned above. In addition, look at how the residents live. Yes, they are there for medical reasons, but does the facility look more homelike than clinical? I like to say, “Remember the ‘home’ in nursing home.” Do residents’ rooms look inviting? Do residents look “put together” – face clean, hair fixed? (Don’t be disturbed if you see residents sitting in the hall. Chances are they are passing the time by people watching – an activity that you probably enjoy, too!)

Here are some important questions to ask your nursing home tour guide:

  • Do your employees enjoy working here? Can you show me current employee satisfaction survey results? What is your turnover percent compared to the average?
  • What do you do to ensure the facility follows all state and federal regulations? Do you have committees that oversee quality? Do you perform regular audits to ensure quality care?
  • Do you have current resident and family satisfaction survey results you can share with me?
  • What is the ratio of nurses to patients? How does it compare to other facilities?
  • Do you use agency nurses or have your own employees? The organizational commitment and consistency of care that comes with having employee nurses is important.
  • What do you do to keep residents as independent as possible?
  • How is toileting handled for those who are not mobile on their own?
  • Are rooms private or semi-private?
  • What furniture and décor items can I bring in to make my parent’s room more like home?
  • Can residents select their own meals?
  • Do you have an onsite laundry?

As you can see, there is a lot to consider when you are investigating assisted living or long-term care for a loved one. Visit for information on nursing homes in your area and to compare facilities using Medicare’s Five-Star Quality Ratings, health inspection results, nursing home staff data, quality measures and fire safety inspection results.

Here is my last piece of advice – and it’s probably the most important of all: look for a facility or community that is based on a “social model,” not a “medical model.” A social model focuses not on what residents can’t do, but on what they can do. Feeling empowerment, independent and able to make ones own decisions is the best medicine of all.

We welcome your comments and questions about how to find the appropriate level of care for your parent(s).

Written by Bethany Village

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