Research is essential in choosing care facility
September 30, 2019

Q: My 94 year old mother lives out of state in her own home. Her trust has been paying for 24 hour care for over two years. Funds will only last a year or so longer since it is very expensive to keep her at home.

Her attorney thinks within a year it will be necessary to place her in a facility and sell the home to cover the cost of her future care. He and I have agreed it would be best to move her to a facility near where I live so I can oversee all of her needs. How do I go about finding a long term care facility that would be right for her?

A: Individuals or families often find themselves in a situation about choosing a skilled nursing facility on an immediate or fairly rapid basis. You have an advantage… time is on your side.

The decision will be easier if you do your homework.

Give some thought to what is important to both you and your mother. The obvious is quality of care but beyond that it could be a religious connection, level of activities, ambiance or size of rooms.

The first step is to obtain a list of all facilities within a select geographical area.

There are numerous ways to do this; call the national Eldercare Locator 800-6771116, contact your local Area Agency on Aging, go on-line at or use numerous other search engines. If it is going to be important for you to visit frequently look for a home in close proximity to where you reside. Once you have a list make a schedule for personally visiting all facilities you are interested in. Call to set up an appointment with the Administrator or Director of Admissions.

During your visit have a list of questions to ask and pay attention to everything you observe while you are in the facility. Ask to see the current inspection report and certification (you can also find this on website). If there have been any recent violations ask if these have been resolved or what the plan is to remedy the situation. Inquire about the staffing ration of staff to residents. Find out if there is a consistent assignment of aides to the resident or are they constantly changing.

Ask how long key department staff have been employed at the facility. If there has been a frequent turnover this could indicate a problem.

Use your observation skills during the visit. Do the residents look well cared for? Are staff paying attention to the residents or off to themselves socializing?

Do the staff address the residents in a respectful manner? Is the facility clean and without strong odors? Is the facility environmentally in good shape or do things look shabby and in need of repairs? Inquire about nutrition services. Is there a set menu for meals or are the residents offered a choice? What are the options if the resident doesn’t like the food and starts to lose weight? Are families allowed to bring in food or supplements such as Ensure/Boost (if this has been previously recommended by their physician)?

Don’t forget to talk with neighbors or friends who currently have or had family members in a facility nearby to get their feedback.


Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.

Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore.

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