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20 Interview Questions To Ask A Nursing Home

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Looking for a residential care option for your loved one can be an emotional journey. It’s important to find a residence that will be a good fit for your loved one’s physical and emotional needs.

In this guide, we’ll explore the important questions to ask when interviewing a nursing home for your loved one

What is a Nursing Home?

First, it’s important to understand what a nursing home refers to. Nursing homes are also referred to as skilled nursing facilities or long-term care facilities. Nursing homes can provide a high level of physical care and nursing care for residents including tasks such as:

  • Personal care assistance

  • Assistance with transfers (including the use of Hoyer lifts) 

  • Medication management including IV medications or injection medications

  • Dementia Care

People living in nursing homes may often have advanced chronic conditions such as dementia, COPD, or diabetes. Their physical needs may make it difficult or unsafe for them to live independently at home. 

Many nursing homes can be paid for by Medicaid if and when the resident is eligible. Medicare may cover the cost of care for a short period of time if it follows a hospitalization. 

 

Finding the Right Fit For Your Loved One

It’s important that you can trust the individuals providing care for your loved one. Below are questions to ask when exploring nursing homes to help you find the best fit for your loved one

 

Emotional Needs of Residents

Finding a residence that suits your loved one’s values and preferences is key to their successful stay. Below are a few questions to help you understand how the residence will address your loved one’s emotional needs. 

1. What’s included in the care plan assessment? 

It’s important to make sure that the nursing home not only assesses your loved one’s medical history and physical needs but also their social history and preferences. 

Make sure the care planning meeting includes a well-rounded team. Some participants might include the director of nursing, engagement staff, registered nurses, social workers, nursing assistants, and therapists.

2. What kind of activities does the facility offer? 

Review the calendar to see what activities are offered.

Ask the nursing staff if there are opportunities for individual engagement if someone does not want to participate or is unable to participate in group settings.

3. Does the facility have any citations? 4. Will your loved one have a roommate?

Ask if you can review the inspection report for the most recent state assessment of the facility. This report will show if there have been cases of abuse or neglect.

You can review how nursing homes compare to others in regards to CMS guidelines by checking out Medicare’s Care Compare.

4. Will your loved one have a roommate?

Some nursing homes have double rooms. Find out how they match roommates and how adjustments can be made if needed.


Staffing

You need to be able to trust the individuals caring for your loved one. Ask questions about the staff and the staff’s relationships with the residents. 

5. What’s the staff-to-resident ratio?

It’s common for staff to be spread thin at nursing homes. Ask what the staff-to-resident ratio is and how they ensure that it is met.

6. What is the staff turnover rate for nursing staff?

A happy staff will take good care of the residents and form strong relationships with them. If possible, talk with some members of the nursing staff as well as the nursing assistants (also referred to as nurse’s aides)

7. Will the staff assist with Medicaid applications? 

Some nursing homes offer support with Medicaid applications for nursing home residents who enter the facility as private pay residents. 

8. What is the interview and background check process for new staff members

With recruitment being difficult at times, it is still crucial that all nursing staff members are chosen with care and for the experience they have. 

9. Do staff take time to answer your questions?

Trust is key both between your loved one and the staff and you as the caregiver. Make sure you feel good about the staff you meet with.

If they take the time to make you feel comfortable, this is a telling trait of their personality and the type of care they'll show your loved one in the future.

Physical Care

Physical care is likely the reason your loved one is making this transition. Because of that, it’s crucial that they receive the physical care they need. Below are a few questions to help understand how the residence will address your loved one’s needs now and in the future. 

10. Can residents receive additional services? 

Find out if your loved one can access physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy. You may also ask if your loved one can receive hospice services if needed.

11. How frequently is care reassessed? 

As your loved one’s needs change, it will be important to update their care plan to reflect their level of care. Ask how frequently the facility plans to review the care plan and if you will be involved in the care plan meeting.

12. Who is the ombudsman?  13. Does the facility have any citations?

The ombudsman works as an advocate for residents of nursing homes. They are not staff of the facility. Find out who the contact is, and see if you can chat briefly. 

13. Does the facility have any citations? 14. Can dietary needs be accommodated?

Ask if you can review the inspection report for the most recent state assessment of the facility. The inspection report will show if there have been cases of abuse or neglect within the nursing home.

14. Can dietary needs be accommodated? 

If your loved one has specific diet needs, ensure that the residence has the capacity to accommodate these needs- whether it’s a vegetarian diet or a heart-healthy diet.

COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic brought many changes to the day-to-day operations of nursing homes. Nursing homes responded to the pandemic with varying success- ask the questions below to identify how the residents handled the crisis, and what regulations are still in place. 

15. What are the current COVID-19 precautions and regulations?

The COVID-19 pandemic has unsurprisingly been challenging for nursing homes to navigate. As the caregiver, be comfortable with the current regulations and find out what regulations have looked like in the past as the pandemic peaks.

16. How have residents stayed connected to family and other residents during the pandemic?

Does the community offer video chat visits with family members and loved ones? Do they offer socially distanced activities? Can loved ones visit in person?

 

Observations

 

As you’re touring the facility, look around. Think about some of the things below:

17. Is there an outdoor area?

18. Are common areas clean? Living rooms? Dining rooms? Therapy rooms?

19. Are residents engaged?

20. Are staff members interacting well with the residents?

These questions come largely from your own observations but can tell you a lot about the residence. If possible, take a visit at another time of day to see if there are differences in engagement and cleanliness. 

Overall, finding a nursing home that will embrace your loved one and focus on providing a high quality of life for them is crucial.

However, keep in mind that while your role as a caregiver may be shifting- you will still be your loved one’s advocate to ensure that their preferences and needs are being met.

Laurel McLaughlin

Laurel McLaughlin has over a decade worth of experience in various sectors of the elder care field- home care, senior living, and non-profits. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is a certified dementia practitioner.

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