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11 Questions to Ask Nursing Homes

caretaker attending to a woman at a nursing home

In 2023, more than 1.2 million Americans live in nursing homes and it’s estimated that almost 70% of seniors turning 65 today will need long-term care services at some point in their lives.


The decision to move into a nursing home can be difficult by itself, but choosing the right nursing home can be just as stressful. Online research and a quick tour won’t provide all the information you need, you’ll want to come prepared with questions to determine will be a good fit. Whether you’re moving into a nursing home or choosing a nursing home for a loved one, make sure to ask the following questions to administrators and directors during your visit.

1. What is the staff-to-resident ratio?

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, many nursing homes are facing staff shortages which can reduce the quality of care. A low staff-to-resident ratio means caretakers may be responsible for attending to an unmanageable number of residents, resulting in rushed care and delayed response times. States may have laws about the staff-to-resident ratio. For example, Texas has a requirement of at least 1 licensed nursing staff member for 20 residents or a minimum of 0.4 hours (24 minutes) of care per day. By comparison, Florida’s minimum ratio is 1:40 while Maine’s is 1:5 during the day, 1:10 during the evening, and 1:15 overnight. If you’re concerned about a low quality of care, aim for a nursing home with a ratio around 1:5 or near that range.

2. What is the staff turnover rate?

A caretaker who attends to the same resident for an extended period of time will be better equipped to care for their needs from a deeper understanding of their situation and preferences. In addition to a higher level of care, the resident will also be able to get more familiar and comfortable by interacting with the same person on a consistent basis. When looking at nursing homes, ask about the turnover rate to see if caretakers stay long-term.

3. How many hours a day are staff with residents?

Residents with minor conditions may be mostly independent and only require occasional assistance or care. On the other hand, residents with severe conditions may require someone to be with them at all times. Consider the condition of the person who will be going into a nursing home, and what level of care they’ll need. With that in mind, you can ask about how much time will be spent attending to their needs and determine if that level of care is sufficient.

4. What is the daily schedule like for residents?

Asking about the day-to-day schedule is a great way to get an idea of the living experience at a nursing home. When visiting a facility, ask staff members and residents what a typical day looks like. Ask if the nursing home plans activities to encourage engagement and physical activity among residents, and if residents have flexibility to make their own schedules.

5. Does the facility have specialized equipment and services?

For residents that require specialized care, you’ll need to make sure the nursing home has the right equipment and services. For example, some facilities may have an occupational or physical therapy room to help with rehabilitation. Others may offer counseling to help residents with mental conditions or emotional support.

6. Which services are charged as extras?

While facilities may offer extra services like occupational and physical therapy, it’s important to find out if utilizing these services will incur extra charges. This may also apply to services like cleaning and meal preparation, or even things you may have thought were included like phone, internet, and cable television. Some nursing homes may also offer access to additional leisure and entertainment facilities for an extra cost, so check what’s standard and what costs extra.

7. Will the facility arrange transportation for medical appointments?

Nursing homes may have on-site physicians, but patients may prefer to see their regular physician or need to see a specialist on a regular basis. Ask the facility if they’ll arrange transportation for the resident to these visits as-needed, or if that’s something the resident’s family would need to plan for.

8. What are the nursing home’s policies on prohibiting and reporting neglect or abuse?

When your loved one is in a nursing home, you may have little insight into how they’re being treated outside of your visits. As a result, it’s important to check if the facility has any cases or allegations of neglect or abuse. You should also ask what the reporting procedures are for residents to notify other staff members of these issues. Consider if the procedures are thorough enough to ease any potential concerns.

9. What measures do staff members take to prevent infections?

Infection prevention and control is crucial at a nursing home where residents may be at a higher risk due to a health condition or old age. Ask about the procedures employees take to limit the spread of infections and how the facility responds to an outbreak. 

10. How do staff members make residents feel comfortable and at home?

A nursing home should do its best to make residents feel at home and enjoy where they live. Beyond basic care requirements, find out what caretakers do to help residents feel more comfortable in the facility. Are they allowed to decorate their rooms? Can residents walk around freely, and leave the facility as they please? Ask about how the facility makes residents feel at home.

11. Does the nursing home accept Medicare or Medicaid?

The cost of a nursing home can be over $9,000 a month, a cost few people are able to pay out of pocket. Some facilities are certified to accept Medicare and Medicaid, which can help cover some of the costs. However, if the benefits you receive still don’t cover the full bill, you may have to look at other ways to pay such as cashing out investments, renting or selling a home, or selling your life insurance policy. To find out how much your policy is worth, contact us for a free estimate.

Avery Logan

Avery Logan

Avery Logan is a writer for Harbor Life Settlements with expertise on insurance, finance, and senior care. He specializes in breaking down complex subjects in a way that's easy for people to understand so they can feel informed about what they're reading.

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