What to Know About Senior Living Facilities

by Paul Konrardy

When you’re searching for senior living facilities, there’s more to consider than room size, meal options and on-site amenities. You also need to ask questions about management, certification and other operational aspects.

Here’s a list to get you started. Add more to suit your specific requirements.


  1. Who owns the facility?
  2. Who manages the facility? How long has the manager been in charge of the facility?
  3. Does the manager live on-site?
  4. How do I get in touch with the owners and managers?
  5. May I have a copy of the most recent financial report?
    • The financial report can help you see how your money will be spent. Look at areas like staff wages, food costs, home and room improvements, activity budgets, etc.
  6. What happens if a resident cannot adjust and wants to consider transferring to another facility? Who on-site helps with that?
  7. Who is my contact for additional questions?
  8. What policies/processes do you have for resolving issues? Who is in charge of this? (Get the person’s name, phone number, e-mail, and work hours.)

State Certification

Just like workplace safety or restaurants for health regulations, nursing homes and some senior living places have to be evaluated by state certification boards.

To find out certification information about a certain facility, you can start by using Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare. Please know that this site only lists homes under the Medicare program.

For assisted living facilities, contact your state health department. Assisted living facilities are regulated at the state level.

  1. May I see your facility’s license and/or certification? (Check that it is current.)
  2. What were the results of your last state certification review?
    • What problems were uncovered?
    • Have the problems been resolved? Or is there a plan in place to resolve them?
  3. When is the next certification?
  4. In your last certification, what did you report in terms of the number of staff hours per resident?
  5. Does the facility have a contract with the patient’s insurance company?
  6. Is the facility Medicare-certified? (For more information, read What are my other long-term care choices? and download Medicare’s Your Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home.) If the senior is under Medicaid, read Nursing Facilities.


  1. How many residents are assigned to each nursing assistant for a shift?
  2. Are the night staff members in the home and awake or on call?
  3. How many aides do you have total and per shift?
  4. How many RNs do you have total and per shift? How does that compare with other facilities in the area?
  5. How are new staff screened and trained?
  6. What qualifications do the staff members have? RNs and aides?
  7. What on-site training do staff members get?
  8. In addition to RNs, what other kinds of health professionals are on staff?
  9. Is there a full-time social worker?
    • Get their names, experience and how long they’ve been associated with the facility.
  10. Is there full-time therapy staff?
    • Get their names, experience and how long they’ve been associated with the facility.


  1. How many people (residents) live in the home?
  2. Is there an active resident council? If so, how often does it meet? If not, how do you include residents in decisions regarding their care?
  3. Is there a family council? When does it meet?
  4. How often are care conferences held with the resident, family and friends?

Healthcare/Personal Care

  1. Will healthcare and personal care needs able to be met? (For example, help with bathing, washing, tooth-brushing and going to the bathroom.)
  2. Do male attendants assist female residents, or female assist male, with bathing and toileting? Do residents have the option to request “same sex” CNAs?
  3. How often are residents bathed? Hair washed? Do residents have a choice of when they take their bath or shower? If residents are not bathed daily, how often are their faces and hands washed?
  4. Can family and friends help the patient with personal care?
  5. Do residents have a say in how they are cared for and helped?
  6. Does the patient’s current physician make rounds at this facility or does the facility have a staff doctor? If the latter, how often does he/she make rounds?
  7. Will the patient be able to see a doctor as needed?
  8. Is there a physician available in emergency situations?
  9. What hospital is used if hospitalization is needed? Is that in network with the insurance company? How would the resident be transported and is the ambulance service in network?
  10. Do other health care providers visit the home regularly? (Examples may include dentist, podiatrist for feet, physical therapist, occupational therapist, and physiotherapist.)
  11. How will the resident obtain his/her medications? Does a resident have to use a pharmacy that’s related to the facility?
  12. If the patient’s health gets better, will he/she be able to continue to live in the facility?
  13. If the patient’s health gets worse, will he/she be able to continue to live in the facility?


  1. What types of rehabilitation or therapies does the facility provide?
  2. Are therapies provided by facility staff, or outside contractors? Get names, their experience and how long they’ve been associated with the facility.
  3. Is there a separate room for therapies? May I see it?
  4. Are therapists available seven days a week? If not, when are they available?
  5. Is there a bladder-training program for residents who are incontinent?

Room Arrangements and Policies

  1. If you have to share a room, can you meet your roommate before you move in to see if you get along? Can you change rooms if you don’t get along with your roommate?
  2. Are there screens in shared rooms to give privacy?
  3. Can you bring some of your own things like knick-knacks, pictures or furniture?
  4. Is there a safe place to keep personal and valuable things? Can you lock your closet or drawers?
  5. Does the home have insurance that would cover your personal items that may be lost or damaged? Or do you have to carry your own insurance or a rider?
  6. Can you have your own TV in your room?
  7. Can you have air conditioning installed if there is none?
  8. Is there room for a computer?
  9. How often is the room cleaned? Sheets and towels changed?

WHN TIP – VA Help: If the senior is a veteran, the Veteran’s Administration may have some resources you can use.

WHN TIP – Medicare/Medicaid: Learn about Medicare coverage here and Medicaid coverage here. For more information, read What are my other long-term care choices? and download Medicare’s Your Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home.)

Remember …

The information provided here is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical or legal advice. These tips are from doctors, nurses and people who have shared real-life advice; always check with a doctor, lawyer or appropriate professional you trust before making any legal or healthcare- related decisions.

Thank You …

A special thank you to the industry professionals, lawyers, insurance agents, doctors, nurses, seniors and families who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.

Photo Credit: Vlad Sargu

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