How to Evaluate a Residential Care Facility for the Elderly

People frequently ask for a recommendation to a “good” nursing or residential care facility. It’s a question that is difficult to answer, other than to state that the style of the building or the cost of the care is rarely a good indicator of quality of care. I have sued nursing and residential facilities that look like the Ritz Carleton, and I know that smaller, “mom and pop” facilities are capable of providing excellent care.

The first step is to find a facility that suits your needs. In may be its location in relation to family or friends, or one that offers a specific service such as dementia care. Once you have narrowed it down to a few, visit the facilities and speak with the administrator or the admissions director, and ask for a tour. While on the tour introduce yourself to other residents and ask them about the facility, the things they like and don’t like, and ask if you can speak with the privately. Frequently your first impression is the most accurate, so trust your instincts.

After the tour, return unannounced to the facilities you like best a few days after your tour, and visit at various times of the day so you can see the program it runs throughout the day. It’s important that these visits are unannounced so you can see the “real” facility and not the one portrayed on the official tour (hopefully they are the same).

Once you’re close to deciding, go visit to the nearest office of the Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing and take a look at the facilities’ public file. The file will contain the facilities most recent inspection report, and complaints of abuse or neglect made against the facility over the last two or three years. While you’re there, you may want to ask to speak to an evaluator for advice or recommendations, or to see if the facility you are interested in has a good reputation.

After doing all of this, if you’re satisfied with your findings, then you’ve probably chosen a facility that’s right for you. There are never any guarantees of course, but by doing the foregoing, you will greatly increase the odds that you will find a facility that works for you.

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