How to Choose a Residential Care Home

Time and time again, we are asked this question by concerned families “How do I choose a Residential Care Home? How will I know if it is a good home?”

Prior to becoming an Eldercare Consultant, I was contracted as a mystery shopper of Residential Care Homes. On my undercover missions, I posed as a family member in search of care options. After touring hundreds of different homes, I have seen the good, the bad, and everything in between. I have met some amazing providers who pour themselves into the lives of their residents. There have also been beautiful homes that in the end left much to be desired in the area of social interaction. Here are some key things to focus on when considering a potential care option:

Dignity: Are residents well groomed and dressed? Did the provider take the time to introduce you to the residents? Residents come first so if the provider needs to attend to a resident, you should wait patiently. If you ring the doorbell and they don’t answer right away, be patient. Perhaps they are helping someone in the bathroom.

Cleanliness: Is the home clean? Please keep in mind that it is a home. This means that there may be a load of laundry that needs folded. Perhaps they have just finished a meal and there are some dishes that still need to be washed. Are the bathrooms clean? How about the floors? Does it feel clean and fresh or do you find yourself wanting to reach for the hand sanitize lotion? If you notice any odors, are they from a recent accident or could they be a sign of care issues and unsanitary conditions? This should be questioned and evaluated.

Attitudes and Interaction: How friendly are the caregivers? Are they interacting well with the residents? Are they interacting well with you? I like to tell families that it is important for their loved one to have a good relationship with the staff, but it is equally important to have good communication between the family and the staff. After all, you are all on the same team-striving to make sure that your loved ones needs are met on every level. I have toured some lovely homes that sparkled throughout, only to be disappointed in the lack of interaction between staff and residents. The ideal caregiver has compassion and kindness. They consider care-giving to be their calling, rather than just a job.

Cultural Differences: Many of the Residential Care Homes are owned and operated by people of different cultures. In some countries, the elderly are held in very high esteem and these cultures seek to honor them. They serve their residents with love and respect. Something that you will need to consider is whether or not there is a language barrier? Will your loved one be able to communicate well? When speaking with a potential provider on the phone, don’t rule them out just because of their accent. Many times, if you are face to face, communication is much easier. It is easy for people to jump to conclusions and miss out on a great home. Kindness is a language that is always understood.


State Licensing and Enforcement Actions: Is the home licensed? You will want to check and make sure that the license is current. All providers should be ready to provide you with a copy of their most recent state survey or inspection. Just because a facility has been cited for a deficiency, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t provide good care. Find out what has been done to correct the problem. A much bigger issue is if they have any “Enforcement Actions”. This is when they have been fined or perhaps prohibited from accepting any new residents. Many times, these matters are disputed and later resolved. However, you want to do your homework and see all appropriate documentation.

Listen to your feelings: What was your first impression? What feels like home to one person is completely different for the next person. Will your loved one be comfortable there? Will you be comfortable visiting there? Remember, you are not just choosing a house, you are choosing a lifestyle. Will your loved one have quality of life?

For a complete checklist, ask your Eldercare Consultant for the Graham and Graham “Touring Tips”. It addresses all of these areas and much more. Your Eldercare Consultant can save you time and stress by narrowing your search down to the options that make the most sense based on your loved one’s care needs, location desired, finances, and personal preferences. Our team has visited hundreds of care options and we are committed to helping you find the perfect match!  

Author:  Stacy Gibson, Certified Senior Advisor and Eldercare Consultant with Graham & Graham LLC

Providing Guidance and Care Options for Families