42 Questions to Ask a Skilled Nursing Facility


If you’re in the process of researching skilling nursing facilities for yourself or a loved one you’ll want to consider asking the questions below. If you have additional questions, or specific questions regarding River Valley Nursing Home, feel free to contact Mary Coleman, Administrator, by calling 859.472.2217 option #6, or by email at Mary.Coleman@kyrvnh.com.

Are you Medicaid certified?

The answer to this question will depend on the facility. At River Valley Nursing Home, all 60 beds are both Medicaid and Medicare certified.

Does the nursing home smell and look clean?

Every nursing facility should look and smell clean. Usually, if there is a foul odor people assume it’s because housekeeping isn’t doing their job properly, however, this isn’t the case. If the facility has an odor, it’s a problem with the caregiving staff. The nurses and assistants are not properly attending to the residents.

Do you have a rehabilitation department onsite?

Facilities with an onsite rehabilitation department allow you or your loved one to avoid having to be transported to another location for treatment. With an onsite rehabilitation department, you or your loved one will receive convenient, quality care. In addition, the rehab staff can quickly attend to any changes in the resident’s condition.

Do you offer personable and individual treatment plans?

Every resident should have a file and individualized game plan detailing their current health and future well-being. This documentation may also be referred to as a Care Plan, every direct caregiver and responsible party should be familiar with the latest information concerning the resident.

Can the residents have their own personal items in the room?

Yes, the resident should be able to bring items from home to make them feel more comfortable. However, no items should be brought in that may interfere with other residents, or with the facility’s general safety guidelines.

Can family and friends visit at any time?

Family and friends should be able to visit at any time during normal visiting hours. If guests need to visit outside of visiting orders, arrangements should be made with the staff and nursing facility in advance. It’s important for facilities to have certain visiting restrictions outside of normal hours in order to maintain a peaceful environment for residents.

Is the interaction between staff and patients warm and respectful?

It’s important for each nursing facility employee to be a people person first and foremost. If they truly enjoy being around people every aspect of their job will fall into place. The nursing facility should ask and investigate this with each new hire. If the new hire is not a people person, regardless of their qualifications they have no business being employed by a nursing facility.

Can residents make choices about their daily routine?

Your loved one had a routine prior to coming to the nursing facility. Many nursing homes will say new residents have to conform to the homes routine, but why? Why not make the transition as comfortable as possible by learning the resident’s routine they had at their home most of their life and find a way to adopt that into the nursing home environment? At River Valley Nursing Home, we strive to help residents stick to their routine.

Do you have abuse prevention training?

All nursing facilities should have abuse prevention training. If you have had children you know they can be very stressful with their requests at times – the elderly can at times be in the same position. With abuse prevention training the staff can fully understand how to deal with difficult situations, and keep their cool and demeanor at all times.

Do you have family and resident advocacy programs?

A strong advocacy program means the staff adopts residents and gets to know them better. They pay close attention to the resident’s wants and needs. They act as the resident’s voice, they are the resident’s support, and they help them out as a personal attendant.

Is the home and current administrator licensed?

The nursing facility must be licensed and the administrator must be licensed. Ask to see a copy of the latest inspection and see if the facility had any deficiencies. Look at the deficiencies, how critical were they? Did any of the deficiencies put residents at risk?

Do you have an onsite hair salon?

With an onsite hair salon, residents don’t have to leave the facility. Having access to an onsite hair salon helps bolster residents’ self-confidence and well-being.

Are you Medicare Certified?

The nursing facility should be Medicare Certified and in good standing with local, state and national boards.

How many activities do you have per day?

This is a very important question! Time ticks by slowly for someone who doesn’t have stimulation or activities to do. Look for an average of three activities per 24-hour period.

Is your daily rate all inclusive?

Much like hospitals, some nursing facilities will charge for literally every consumable. There are some items that most facilities will charge for such as medications, therapy, laundry services, incontinence products, and hygiene products.

How often do the doctors visit?

Doctors should regularly visit nursing homes to check on their patients. While one might assume doctors visit regularly, this isn’t always the case. If the facility has a strong belief in being a place for people to come to live and not come to die, they will make sure doctors attend to their patients on a regular basis – it’s a frame of mind. Also, look for strong working relationships between the nurses and the doctors, open lines of communication are vital to resident care. Doctors should be local to the facility.

On average, how many years of experience do your top eight managers have?

The answer to this question will vary from facility to facility. At River Valley Nursing Home, our managers have more than 177 years of combined experience.

What is your ratio of staff to residents?

The national average is 3.2 hours per patient a day. At River Valley Nursing Home, we run 4 hours per patient a day. So, nearly one more hour per day is given to our residents versus the national average.

What’s the total number of staff members?

The answer should have a direct relation to the number of residents in the facility. If the total number is higher, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is better. It needs to be related to the residents’ care needs.

Are residents clean, appropriately dressed and well groomed?

Residents should be attended to multiple times a day. Proper grooming makes anyone feel better. Residents should be changed into clean and laundered clothes daily.

Do you conduct background checks on the entire staff?

Every nursing facility should do background checks on every person hired at the facility. The reason is simple, we must hire upstanding individuals that will take care of and not jeopardize the safety of you or your loved one.

Has the facility won any awards?

Skilled nursing facilities are judged and evaluated multiple times a year. Facilities that actively participate in contests and judging have exposed themselves to greater scrutiny. Why would they do this? When you are judged by your peers you naturally want to make a good impression. When you choose to be judged, you raise the bar and you make the standards higher for your staff. As a result, everyone gets on board and works harder to make the facility the best it can be for the residents.

Can residents keep medications in their room?

The department managers will determine if medication can be safely kept in the resident’s room. The medication would have to be kept in a lock box so that no other person would have access to it. It’s rare that a resident would have the need to keep medication in their room as the facility should be readily available to administer medication at the time the resident needs it.

Does every resident room have a window?

Every resident room must have a window. Exceptions would be made at the family’s request for a resident in a severely declining health situation.

Are bathrooms located in the resident’s room, or are there community bathrooms?

Look for facilities that have bathrooms in each of the resident’s rooms. This is much more convenient for both residents and staff members.

How often are residents bathed?

Personal hygiene is important to making anyone feel better, so residents should be bathed daily.

Do you provide wheelchairs and/or other assistive devices (i.e. walkers, splints, canes, etc.)?

Facilities should provide these assistive devices and have them readily available as conditions and situations change with residents.

Can you identify the staff with uniforms and name tags?

The answer must be yes. The staff has chosen to be in a professional career and professionals dress accordingly. Uniforms and name tags must be worn at all times.

How many staff members do you see actively working when you visit the facility?

It is one thing to have staff members and quite another to have staff members that are actively engaged in working. If the staff is sitting around idly then there is a management issue. Are the residents being attended to? If the answer is, “Yes” then the facility is over staffed. If the answer is, “No” then management needs to be focused on directing and training everyone to attend to the residents.

Does the staff meet and greet you when you enter the facility?

The staff at a skilled nursing facility needs to be aware at all times – aware of the surroundings, aware of the residents and aware of everyone’s needs. When you walk into a facility the staff should recognize you immediately and greet you with a friendly smile. If you’re not welcomed with a warm friendly smile, your loved one will not be getting one either.

Do you have a security system?

A security system and auto-locking doors are a must. When a resident has a tendency to try and unsafely roam outside the building, auto-locking doors will keep them safe and at the attention of the staff.

Do you provide personal hygiene products?

The facility should provide everything the resident needs and ensure the products are being used.

Do you have another outdoor area for resident use and do you help the residents get outdoors?

Residents need to go outdoors as often as possible. Having a garden area or even an actual garden where the residents can grow flowers and vegetables is a wonderful activity for the residents. Also, having scheduled field trips to other destinations is equally as important.

Do you have volunteer organizations that come to the facility?

Any town will have volunteers that are willing to help the elderly. Make sure the facility actively pursues volunteers and gets them involved in various activities at the home. In many cases, the volunteers can help by just sitting and talking with the residents. Again, it’s very important for the facility to have a good working relationship with the community it is located in. If the facility is seen as a bright spot or a positive part of the community it serves, volunteers will want to be a part of it.

Are the nursing home and the dining area generally quiet?

The environment your loved one lives in should be controlled to allow for a peaceful experience. This happens though different sources. The staff needs to understand that they need to keep the chatter and kitchen noise down to keep the environment quiet and peaceful. Visitors must also be mindful of their level of volume while they are in the facility.

Are the meals prepared onsite or offsite?

Onsite meal preparation just means the food tastes better! Also, onsite meal preparation means residents can make choices regarding their eating habits, and the meals can be catered to the resident’s likes and dislikes.

Do you have a therapeutic whirlpool bath?

A therapeutic whirlpool bath helps to alleviate muscle soreness and promotes better circulation throughout the body which is critical to residents that are susceptible to circulation problems.

Do you have nursing care available 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

Nursing care must be available at all times.

Do you have facility transportation available for outings and events?

Some residents just need to get out! The facility should have quality transportation available to take residents to special outings or events. Residents shouldn’t be limited because of their disabilities.

Do you have pharmacy, lab and X-ray services available?

With additional services available, onsite critical changes in a resident’s health can be attended to quickly, possibly even life-saving. At the very least, a resident’s discomfort can be addressed in a timely manner.

Are there enough staff members available to cover nights and weekends?

If you ask this question, obviously the person is going to say, “Yes.” Visit the facility on a night and/or weekend to see if residents are being attended to properly. Also, pay attention to how available the staff is, and that will answer your question.