Informed Choices: Top Questions to Ask When Touring a Nursing Home

Elderly woman in wheelchair at nursing home

With the ever increasing statistics of abuse and neglect at nursing homes, finding the right nursing home has never been more important. 

When selecting a nursing home for a family member, it’s natural to have many questions and concerns. Asking the right questions when touring can sometimes be enough to differentiate the good nursing homes from the bad ones. 

We have provided these questions to help you learn about the services, staff, amenities, and overall environment of the facility. Armed with this knowledge, you are in a better position to make informed decisions that will help keep your loved ones safe. 

Comfort and Safety in Nursing Homes

In the search for a nursing home or assisted living facility for a loved one, it’s important to find a place where they feel at ease. The environment should be welcoming and supportive, creating a sense of security and well-being. Comfortable surroundings contribute to emotional, social, and physical well-being, leading to a better quality of life. So, when choosing a facility, it’s important to consider not just the physical amenities but also the less tangible aspects that contribute to a sense of comfort. To find out more about the facility, consider asking questions such as:

  • What are the visiting hours and policies?
  • Is the facility clean and well-maintained?
  • How often are the rooms cleaned?
  • What types of rooms are available (private, semi-private)?
  • Is there enough storage available in each room?
  • Are there outdoor spaces available for residents?
  • What safety and security measures are in place?
  • How often are safety drills conducted, and what procedures are in place for emergencies such as fires, natural disasters, or medical crises?
  • How many residents live there?
  • Have there been any assaults or complaints of assaults in the last 12 months? If so, were the complaints validated? 
  • Are the doors to the outside locked? 
  • Do guests need to sign in? 
  • Are there security cameras in the building? 
  • Are background checks conducted before hiring staff?

Quality Care for Nursing Home Residents

The significance of staff and care in a nursing home or assisted living facility cannot be overstated. The care quality directly impacts residents’ well-being and overall experience. Compassionate, trained staff not only address physical needs but also offer emotional support, companionship, and a sense of safety. They create a nurturing environment where residents feel valued and dignified. Attentive staff, responsive to residents’ preferences, contribute to a better quality of life and increased satisfaction. It is important to become familiar with the staff and care at a nursing home or assisted living facility. These are some questions that can guide you toward your decision:

  • What is the staff-to-resident ratio?
  • Are all staff members trained and certified?
  • Do any staff members have any advanced certifications in conditions your loved one had, for example, dementia, diabetes, wounds, spinal conditions, etc. 
  • What is the staff turnover rate?
  • Is there a registered nurse on duty and in the building at all times?
  • How does the facility ensure that residents receive individualized attention and care?
  • How often will my loved one be bathed?
  • How often are my loved ones’ bed sheets changed?
  • When and how will I be updated if my loved one’s condition changes? 

Comprehensive Medical Care

Many residents have complex medical needs that require constant attention and care. Having access to skilled medical professionals like registered nurses, doctors, dieticians, and therapists ensures that residents get the right treatment when they need it. These professionals manage everything from medications to wound care, helping residents with chronic illnesses and preventing complications. Access to medical services on-site also adds to residents’ safety and gives peace of mind to both residents and their families. Providing comprehensive medical services is crucial for maintaining the highest standard of care and improving the quality of life for nursing home residents. To ensure your loved one will be receiving proper treatment,  it is important to ask questions such as:

  • What medical services are available on-site?
  • How are medications managed and administered?
  • If my loved one needs additional medical assistance, who contacts the doctor?
  • Will my loved one have access to mental health counselors, if needed?
  • How often does a doctor visit the facility?
  • Do you create individualized care plans?
  • How often are care plans updated? 
  • If my loved one is admitted to a hospital, how long will their bed at the facility be held?
  • How do you keep track of medical records, and how often are they updated?
  • Do residents have access to dental care?
  • Do residents receive preventative vaccinations such as the flu shot?

Proper Nutrition in Nursing Homes

Ensuring that residents in nursing homes receive healthy food is extremely important for their overall health and happiness. Providing them with the right nutrition is not solely about filling their stomachs; it’s about keeping their bodies strong, their minds sharp, and their emotions steady, especially as they continue to age. In places like nursing homes, where people might have different health issues and food needs, it is crucial to ensure each individual receives meals that are designed for them. This may include making personalized meal plans, educating residents on healthy habits, and assisting them while eating if needed. Questions to ask potential nursing homes may include:

  • How do you assist residents who are unable to feed themselves due to physical or cognitive limitations?
  • Are staff members trained in specialized feeding techniques for residents with swallowing difficulties or other challenges?
  • Are meals supervised by trained staff members to ensure that residents receive the assistance they need?
  • How do you communicate with families about their loved one’s eating habits and any changes in appetite or ability to eat?
  • How is weight loss identified and tracked?
  • How are meals planned, and are they tailored to individual dietary needs and preferences?
  • What are the meal times, and is there flexibility for residents who may not adhere to regular meal schedules?
  • Can residents request snacks or small meals outside of regular meal times?
  • What efforts are made to create a pleasant and sociable dining environment?
  • How do you monitor residents’ hydration levels, especially those who may have difficulty communicating their needs?
  • Are hydration stations readily available throughout the facility, making it easy for residents to access water or other beverages?

Fostering Social Well-Being for Nursing Home Residents

Social involvement is essential for the well-being of nursing home residents. This provides them with opportunities for companionship, engagement, and a sense of belonging. For many elderly individuals, transitioning to a nursing home can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Participating in group activities, such as games, crafts, or outings, fosters social connections and helps residents build friendships with fellow residents and staff members. These interactions not only combat feelings of loneliness but also contribute to a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Additionally, social involvement can enhance cognitive function, stimulate memory recall, and promote overall happiness and quality of life. By prioritizing social engagement within nursing home settings, residents can lead more vibrant and fulfilling lives. To ensure your loved one will be receiving access to social involvement, it may be important to ask these questions:

  • What activities are available?
  • Can activities be tailored to accommodate varying levels of cognitive ability?
  • What methods do staff members use to motivate seniors to take part in activities?
  • Are residents provided with opportunities to go on outings away from the nursing home?

Navigating Nursing Home Finances

Finances in nursing homes encompass a range of considerations, including the cost of care, payment options, and financial assistance available to residents. The expenses associated with nursing home care can vary depending on factors such as location, level of care needed, and amenities provided. Many individuals rely on a combination of personal savings, long-term care insurance, and government programs such as Medicaid to cover the costs. Understanding the financial aspects of nursing home care is crucial for families to make informed decisions about the affordability and sustainability of long-term care arrangements for their loved ones. Questions to ask regarding finances:

  • How frequently do you adjust your rates?
  • Is my loved one’s health insurance or long-term care insurance plan accepted at your facility?
  • What is your billing process for residents, and what are the associated fees?
  • What additional charges or fees might arise unexpectedly in the future?
  • If we encounter difficulty in covering the bill, is there financial assistance offered?

Insights from the Inside: Engaging with Nursing Home Staff for a Deeper Understanding

It may also be a good idea to reach out to staff at the nursing home to gain their perspective. Speaking directly with caregivers, nurses, and administrative staff can provide valuable insights into the day-to-day operations and atmosphere of the facility. Staff members can offer firsthand accounts of their experiences working with residents, the level of support available, and any challenges they may face. Engaging with staff allows families to assess the dedication and compassion of the individuals responsible for caring for their loved ones. Additionally, building a relationship with staff members early on can establish open lines of communication and foster a sense of partnership in ensuring the well-being of residents. Questions to ask may include:

  • How many residents do you take care of? Do you think it’s too many?
  • How much time do you dedicate to each resident?
  • Do you participate in training and continuing education programs?
  • Do you enjoy working here?

Gaining Insights: Conversations with Current Residents and Families in Nursing Home Selection

You should also request to speak with current residents and their families, as they can provide valuable insights into what it’s truly like to live in a particular nursing home. Observing residents who appear alert, clean, happy, and relaxed can be indicative of a high-quality facility. Additionally, families can share their experiences and satisfaction with the care provided, offering a more comprehensive understanding of the nursing home’s environment. These firsthand accounts can help you make a more informed decision about the best place for your loved one. It may be helpful to ask questions such as: 

  • Are you satisfied with the nurses and aides?
  • Do they assist you with going to the bathroom, and is help provided promptly when you need it?
  • Are you satisfied with the food here?
  • Do you ever need assistance with eating, and if so, is help provided promptly?
  • Do you find yourself thirsty often?

Families may also be able to answer questions about their loved ones. Questions that may be important to ask families are:

  • Does your loved one feel secure with the nursing staff at the nursing home?
  • How confident are you in the staff’s management of your loved one’s prescriptions? Have there been any issues related to medications?
  • Is your loved one receiving sufficient and appropriate care?
  • Is your loved one receiving sufficient and regular bathing? Is their hair kept tidy, and are their nails trimmed regularly?
  • Have you ever found your loved one in need of assistance with toileting or sitting in soiled clothing upon arrival?
  • Is there any information about this nursing home that you believe would assist me in making my decision?

Balancing Inquiry with Intuition:

When touring a nursing home, it’s essential to ask the right questions to ensure that your loved one receives the best possible care. However, beyond the checklist of inquiries, it’s equally important to trust your instincts. Pay attention to the atmosphere, the interactions between staff and residents, and the overall feeling you get while visiting. Your intuition can often provide valuable insights into whether a particular nursing home is the right fit for your loved one. By combining thoughtful questioning with intuitive judgment, you can make a well-informed decision that prioritizes your loved one’s comfort, safety, and quality of life.

Disclaimer: This information is provided for informational purposes only. Nothing in this article should be construed as providing legal advice or the creation of an attorney client relationship. Laws are updated frequently and change from state to state. If you desire legal advice, you can contact Michael Hill Trial Law at, send an email to, call (800) 659-2712 to begin an investigation, or contact another attorney.