Choosing a nursing home for a senior is one of the toughest decisions that family caregivers face. Moving into a long-term care facility involves major changes in an elderly person’s life—and yours.

Use the following list of questions as a guide while touring prospective nursing homes. To make it easy, print out a checklist for each facility you visit so you can record the answers you receive from administrators as well as your own observations. Then, compare the lists to help you select the nursing home that best fits your loved one’s needs and preferences.

To find skilled nursing facilities and other types of senior housing in your local area, visit the Find Senior Care Directory.

Questions to Ask When Touring Nursing Homes

  • Is the nursing home certified by Medicare and/or Medicaid?
  • Is the nursing home accepting new residents?
  • Is there a waiting list? If so, how long is the waiting period for admission?
  • How many beds (residents) does the facility have?
  • Does the nursing home specialize in or have experience with the condition(s) that your loved one has? (e.g. dementia, stroke, Parkinson’s disease)
  • Does the facility have a specialized memory care unit on site for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients?
  • Does the nursing home offer physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology or other rehabilitative services on site?
  • Is the staff licensed and certified?
  • Are background checks conducted on all employees?
  • Does the facility measure staff turnover and, if so, what is the turnover rate?
  • What is the staff-to-resident ratio at the nursing home?
  • Does the facility offer an abuse prevention training program for employees?
  • Are employees required to complete any kind of continuing education or ongoing training?
  • Have any complaints been made about the nursing home?
  • Have any inspection citations or lawsuits been filed against the facility?
  • How does the facility prevent and detect abuse?
  • Can residents make choices about their daily routine (if they are mentally capable)?
  • What kind of activities and amenities does the facility offer?
  • What are the visiting hours?
  • Does the nursing home meet your loved one’s cultural and religious needs?
  • Can residents bring their own furniture and personal items to decorate their rooms?
  • Are the common areas clean, pleasant and comfortable?
  • Is there an outdoor area for recreation?
  • Is the dining room comfortable and quiet?
  • What menu options/special dietary offerings are available?
  • Does the food look and smell good?
  • Is food served at proper temperatures?
  • Can residents continue to see their personal doctors while living at the nursing home?
  • Do residents have the same direct caregivers, such as nurses, therapists and aides, on a daily basis?
  • Is the facility fully staffed at nights and on weekends and holidays?
  • Is there regular communication between families and administrators?
  • How often are care plan meetings held?
  • Does the nursing home have a resident and/or family council to propose and discuss unmet needs and improvements?
  • Are there doctors and registered nurses on staff? What hours do they work?
  • Does the nursing home have an arrangement with a local hospital for emergencies?
  • How does the facility handle falls?
  • Are there handrails and grab bars throughout the facility?
  • Are exits clearly marked?
  • Are spills and accidents cleaned up quickly?
  • Are hallways well-lit and free of clutter?
  • Are smoke detectors and sprinklers installed throughout the facility?