When you’re helping your parents find a senior community, there’s so much to consider—price, location, the condition of the buildings, and the services available. Maybe the most important element, though, is the staff. After all, these are the people who will be helping your parents each day. Based on my recent informal survey of adults with parents in senior care and SeniorAdvisor.com’s checklists for choosing a community, here’s what you need to ask about senior community staffing before you sign on.
How do staff members treat others?
You can see this for yourself when you visit (ideally, more than once, at different times of day), but you can also ask staffers what they like about their co-workers, ask the residents what they like about the staff, and ask other visitors how the staff treats them and their loved ones.
What’s the employee turnover rate?
Turnover rates have been high for senior-care facilities for decades, because it’s a hard job with relatively low pay. (The national average salary for CNAs is $24,000 a year.) According to a report by the American Health Care Association, a nonprofit senior-care trade group, turnover rates of less than 40% for CNAs and less than 30% for RNs are linked to better-quality senior care.
What are the health policies for staffers?
Are employees required to have yearly flu shots and tuberculosis screenings? What’s the official policy on staffers coming to work if they are sick, and what’s the actual practice?
What background checks do staffers go through?
Ideally, the facility will screen all potential hires through state and national law-enforcement databases. In some facilities, a yearly check is required for all current employees.
How do staffers protect residents’ privacy and dignity?
What are the community policies on social-media privacy? Are the staffers trained to call residents by their names rather than by generic nicknames like “honey” and “sweetie?” What are staffers trained to do if a resident demeans or harasses others?
Other important senior-care questions
Depending on the type of facility you’re looking for, you may need to ask some of the questions below. You can follow the links to complete checklists to download and print for assisted living, nursing home, and Alzheimer’s care communities.
- Is the staff trained to spot signs of elder abuse and neglect?
- What’s the policy for reporting suspected abuse?
- What is the patient-to-staff ratio?
- How many CNAs and RNs are on duty during each shift?
- Do all staff members wear clearly visible nametags?
- Is continuing education available to staff members?
- Are patients cared for by a consistent group of CNAs and RNs?
- Does the skilled nursing facility have a staff doctor?
- Does the facility have a full-time social worker?
- Is the staff open to communication with family members and responsive to their input?
- Is on-site medical or nursing care provided? If so, is it available 24 hours or just part of the day?
- Is a medical doctor on-call 24/7?
- Are staff members trained in dementia care?
- Will the staff help residents get to and from meals and activities, if needed?
- Do staff members treat seniors with dementia as individuals and afford them the respect and dignity they deserve?
- Do staff members routinely help residents with personal care, grooming, dressing, bathing, toileting, etc.?