What You Need to Ask About Senior Community Staffing

Last Updated: June 17, 2019

When you’re helping your parents find a senior community, there’s so much to consider — the condition of the buildings and the services available, location and prices. Perhaps the most important element, however, is the senior community staffing. After all, these are the people who will be helping your parents and senior loved ones each day.What You Need to Ask About Senior Community Staffing

According to a recent SeniorAdvisor.com survey of adults with parents in senior care, here’s what you need to ask about senior community staffing before you sign on:

1. 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.

2. How do staffers protect residents’ dignity and 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?

3. 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?

4. What background checks do staffers go through?

Ideally, the senior care community will screen all potential hires through state and national law-enforcement databases. In some communities, a yearly check is required for all current employees.

5. What is the employee turnover rate?

Turnover rates have been high for senior care communities 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.

Some Additional Questions to Ask About Senior Communities

Depending on the type of senior community 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:

  • Are patients cared for by a consistent group of CNAs and RNs?
  • Are staff members trained in dementia care?
  • Do all staff members wear clearly visible nametags?
  • Do staff members routinely help residents with personal care, grooming, dressing, bathing, toileting, etc.?
  • Do staff members treat seniors with dementia as individuals and afford them the respect and dignity they deserve?
  • Does the facility have a full-time social worker?
  • Does the skilled nursing facility have a staff doctor?
  • How many CNAs and RNs are on duty during each shift?
  • Is a medical doctor on-call 24/7?
  • Is continuing education available to staff members?
  • Is on-site medical or nursing care provided? If so, is it available 24 hours or just part of the day?
  • Is the staff open to communication with family members and responsive to their input?
  • Is the staff trained to spot signs of elder abuse and neglect?
  • What is the patient-to-staff ratio?
  • What is the policy for reporting suspected abuse?
  • Will the staff help residents get to and from meals and activities, if needed?

You can find more information on choosing a good assisted living community or dementia care home at SeniorAdvisor.com.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

1 Comment

  1. Cynthia Hintz January 26, 2017 Reply

    Thank you. It’s so overwhelming just looking at facilities and counting the costs, it’s easy to forget these important factors.

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