Sunday, June 21, 2009


Late last week, I called several sub-acute short term skilled nursing facilities, spoke with admissions people and either made appointments or learned the tour policies for our visiting day on Saturday. We only had one day to do hit the facilities and we had to make the most of our time. I was hoping that we would have at least one major contender by the end of the day. Having never toured a skilled nursing facility before, and now being in a position of vetting them for mom, I've collected some really helpful tips over the past month from several kind and generous people that we've met.

Don't tell them when you are coming. If you already did, you can always call and "cancel", then show up anyway. Or, keep your own appointment, and then have another family member pop in unannounced at a later time. Also --  if, for instance, you call on a Friday, but they can't give you a tour until Monday, that is not acceptable. Off the list.

Open-door policy is a good indicator of a well-run facility.
After our visits, I noticed that the places which had the open-door policy regarding tours were the places I got the best feeling about over the phone before even visiting. Then, after the visit, they turned out to be the places that I felt were the most clean, organized and pleasant.

Other things to consider...
• Is there a pleasant place to spend time outdoors on the grounds? Are family pets allowed to visit?

• Find out how many nursing staff per patient ratio (days, nights, weekends). Similarly, find out the Doctors' and/or Nurse Practitioner's general schedules. Find out the titles of the people who are on the Care Team of each patient.

•What condition are the gym(s) in? How many OT's, PT's, and Speech Therapists are on staff? Do they have staff therapists, or do they contract out the therapists who work there? Make sure to see the gym and the equipment.

•Ask about the meals everyday, what the alternates are. Ask to see a sample menu.

•Look for the OT/PT/Speech appointment board plans for patients. Look to see how often they get each therapy. Ask how long each appointment is. Ask how many days a week therapy appointments are scheduled.

•Ask about pet programs, music therapy, and any other extracurriculars or extra services (such as beauty salon) that may be available.

•What are the facilities' affiliations and accreditations? Do they serve as a clinical site with hands-on learning, for any universities or schools? In what other types of learning partnerships or other programs are they involved?

• Do the people who work there seem happy and well-adjusted, or disgruntled and grumpy (or even gossipy)? Is your tour guide pleasant and helpful and with a smile, no trace of defensiveness? Your tour guide (the Nursing Supervisor, often) is under the microscope, sure, but this is part of their job. They should welcome the opportunity to show off their facility for you and answer any and all questions you may have with a smile.

Ask as many questions as you need to. If your tour guide cannot answer your questions, they should be able to speak to the proper person to find out the answers for you.

And last, but in no way least... here is one of the best pieces of advice I've gotten to date. So simple, but oh, so important...

• If it smells, turn around and leave!!!


  1. Thanks so much for compiling all this wonderful info here in one tidy place. I hope it can be a useful resource for anyone else who may find themselves in our situation.

    And remember...'if it smells, run like hell'

  2. Great info! I am the Marketing Director for a skilled nursing facility in Frederick MD (see and I do my best to educate, educate, educate. I NEVER promise perfection. I do carefully go over our policies for making concerns/complaints known and how we strive for continuous quality improvement. I am proud to work in a SNF, and proud to be part of our residents' and families' lives!

  3. Margie, YES! Your job is so important!! I'm SO glad you posted. And I am so glad you are proud. You should be!! :)