There are a number of factors that contribute to a nursing home resident’s quality of life. When choosing a facility, the standard of care can be measured using various nursing home questions. It’s important to make sure that the home has certain certifications, adequate staffing and training to prevent life-threatening complications like bedsores. 

Always do your research before scheduling a visit with a potential home. For individuals who already have family members living in a nursing home, take the time to reach out and confirm that the facility has the characteristics that will keep patients safe and secure. 

Nursing Home Questions

1. Does the nursing home hold any certifications?

A certification from the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) non-profit shows the facility has been properly inspected and evaluated. A JCAHO "Gold Seal of Approval” shows that a facility has satisfactorily met a set of safety and quality guidelines, such as infection prevention and medication distribution. Additionally, if you need financial help, a Medicare certification illustrates that the facility meets government standards and will be subsidized. Additionally, conduct a search of any local certifications specific to your area. 

2. Does the facility have restrictions on visitor policies?

Visitation rights are extremely important when it comes to ensuring a family member is being properly cared for. If the facility doesn’t allow regular and reasonable visitation, it may be a sign that something is wrong. Check the facility’s visiting hours and be sure you’ll be able to check up on your family member multiple times a month. 

3. What safety measures are put in place? 

There are a number of safety items a nursing home should have. Living areas, bathrooms and other common areas should be wheelchair accessible with railings installed throughout the facility. Nursing homes should have regular fire drills and planned evacuation routes, in addition to smoke detectors and sprinklers. It’s also important to be sure the facility has back-up generators in case of an emergency or natural disaster. Additionally, nursing homes should have guards to keep patients with Alzheimer's disease from wandering during the night. 

4. How many staff members are present in the facility? 

As Baby Boomers approach old age, nursing homes will experience an increase in the number of individuals they care for. The staff-to-patient ratio is an important indicator of the quality of care. When determining if a facility has an adequate number of staff, a good question to ask is the minimum number of employees each shift. While it makes sense for there to be fewer people clocked in at night, facilities should schedule enough staff members to care for multiple patients in the event of an emergency. Be sure to ask if a doctor is on call and how many registered nurses are on duty, too. 

5. What is the atmosphere like in the nursing home? 

Assessing the atmosphere of a nursing home is the number one way to determine if it is a good match for your family member. Ask the staff and other residents about the daily routine of the patients, the range of moods and the frequency of check-outs. If the staff members seem stressed or too busy to answer questions, that indicates that the facility isn’t running smoothly. 

6. Does the nursing home maintain preventative care methods? 

Residents should be getting a balanced meal, exercise opportunities, and regular testing and vaccinations. Elderly patients receive flu vaccinations, assistance with personal hygiene, and mental health evaluations. The staff should engage in regular and frequent cleaning and sanitation of all common areas. Additionally, if the staff members have received training on abuse prevention and bedside manner, it will lead to a more warm and welcoming atmosphere. 

7. Does the facility work with the local ombudsman?

An ombudsman is a patient advocate who helps to ensure the safety of residents in a nursing home. An ombudsman will be the first person to investigate facility sanitation, food safety, and staff care. An ombudsman is an official who follows on patient complaints too, which is important for accurate and complete evaluations. 

8. Are the patients in the facility inspected for bedsores?

If the facility is understaffed or the staff members do not work with compassion, it is common for residents to develop bedsores. Ask the staff members if bedsores are a frequent occurrence in the facility. Because patients must be turned or moved every few hours, bedsores can be a key sign of neglect. If left unnoticed or untreated, bedsores can be life-threatening. 

9. How much freedom do the residents have? 

There are no right answers to this question. While some elderly citizens thrive with structure, others are comfortable with more freedom. Check to see if residents are able to choose their meal and mealtimes, furnish and decorate their rooms, go outside for a breath of fresh air, or watch TV and engage in other activities. Depending on a patient’s status or medical conditions, the level of freedom can also be directly related to safety. 

When you’re deciding between more than one facility, be sure to check out Medicare's Nursing Home Compare website. Additionally, showing up without an appointment can reveal how a nursing home operates without plans for scheduled visits. Print out our list of nursing home questions and be informed!