Finding an eldercare facility — one which provides quality care for your loved one — can greatly contribute to your ability to address the needs and concerns of all involved. This checklist will assist you in the process of locating a facility for your loved one.

In most states, group homes, assisted living residences, and nursing facilities are registered, licensed, or certified by a state department or agency that issues and renews licenses. You can check with the state to see if there are any complaints about the centers, but you will want to go further in evaluating the programs.

The following guide and checklist will help you gather the information you need to make a well-informed decision about selecting an eldercare facility. Gather as much information as you can, be clear about what is most important, and trust your instincts.

Getting Started: Obtaining Basic Information Over the Telephone

When you have gathered a list of centers that meet your initial criteria, you will want to call each one to obtain further information. Start by determining the director's or admission coordinator's name and setting a time to speak with them by telephone. Below are questions to which you will want to obtain answers.

Admission Criteria

  • Do you need a referral to be admitted to the facility?
  • What is the process for admission?
  • What are the specific criteria for admission to this facility?
  • What levels of care are provided by the facility?


  • What are the initial fees and when are they to be paid?
  • What is the cost per month?
  • How much notice is given to the resident?
  • What services are included in the basic fee?
  • What services are considered extra and what do they cost?
  • Are there hidden costs?
  • How are the fees established?
  • How often can the fees change?

Making On-Site Visits to Eldercare Facilities

Once you have spoken to the center's director or admission coordinator, you are ready to schedule site visits. Be sure to speak with both staff and residents during your visits and gather your information through questions and observations. Use the categories below as guidelines for your on-site visits and assessments.


  • Are meals eaten in a dining room?
  • Is the eating area attractive, clean, and welcoming?
  • What are the hours?
  • Can family members eat with the resident?
  • What is the cost for an additional meal?
  • Does mealtime seem pleasant for residents?
  • Is there a selection of entrees at each meal?
  • Is the food nutritious, tasty, and attractive?
  • Can special diets be accommodated?
  • Is there an additional fee for dietary accommodations?
  • How are residents who are unable to go to the dining room accommodated?


  • Are there "house rules"? Are the rules reasonable or do they seem overly restrictive?
  • Are pets allowed? If so, what are the restrictions?
  • Is smoking allowed? If so, where?
  • Can a resident bring furniture and other personal possessions?
  • If a resident is hospitalized or needs more intensive care for a period of time, will their bed, room, or apartment be available upon their return?
  • Is there a policy regarding visitors? Are overnight accommodations for out-of-town guests available?
  • Under what circumstances would a resident be asked or forced to move? How much notice is given? What is the refund policy?
  • How are complaints registered?
  • What is the complaint resolution process?


  • What is the size of the resident's living quarters? Are there different options available?
  • Are both private and shared accommodations available?
  • Is there adequate storage space?
  • Are there adequate ventilation, heating, and cooling systems?
  • Is the entire facility accessible for individuals using canes, walkers, or wheelchairs?
  • What kind of security and medical emergency systems are in place and what are the related protocols?
  • To what extent does management assume responsibility for personal safety and security of personal belongings?
  • What types of assistance are available in an emergency? Who pays for these services?


  • Who are the primary staff members? What are their roles and responsibilities? What are their schedules?
  • Who would be your primary contact person for questions and concerns?
  • What standards are in place regarding staff qualifications and experience?
  • What is the staff turnover rate?
  • What staff-to-resident ratios are maintained?
  • Does the staff seem open, friendly, professional, and knowledgeable about the residents and the facility? Do they seem to enjoy their work?
  • What is the administrator's philosophy toward residents and family members?


  • What social, therapeutic, recreational, and spiritual programs are available to the residents?
  • Do residents and family members have access to a schedule of activities free of cost or are there additional charges?
  • How are families involved?
  • How does the facility communicate with residents and their family members?
  • Is there a resident's council or other organized means for gaining input from residents?


  • What types of transportation are available to the residents? Is there an additional charge for these services?
  • Is an "errand" service available?

Assessing the Facility's Reputation

If after inquiring about the types of considerations presented above, you are pleased with what you've found, a final step in the assessment process is determining how members of your community feel about the facility. Individuals to ask include friends, associates, and co-workers.