Finding Senior Services 4/21/16

Most communities have programs targeted specifically to benefit senior citizens. Those programs or services might include:

  • Senior Centers (many offer health screenings, education programs, social activities and more)
  • Adult Day Care
  • Assistance with Financial and/or Legal Questions
  • Help with Meals (like Means-on-Wheels)
  • Senior Transportation (for shopping/medical appointments, etc.)
  • Visitation Programs (to check the well-being of and offer companionship to older neighbors)

Your local Office on Again is a good place to learn more about what's available in your community.


Much of the information that follows is specific for choosing a nursing home, but some of the guidelines could be of use when examining assisted living facilities as well.

You're search begins, of course, by looking for the names, addresses, and phone numbers of nursing homes near you. Our Guide provides an alphabetical listing of Assisted and Independent Living Communities beginning on page 103 and a list of Nursing Homes on page 123.

You should also know that Medicare has an online source, called Nursing Home Compare, that helps you locate and compare nursing homes. This useful tool can be accessed at If you don't have a friend of family member who can help you look online, you can try your local library. You can also call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1- 800-633-4227) and request printed copies of their guide for choosing and comparing nursing homes. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.

At Medicare's Nursing Home Compare, you can see details on health inspections, staffing levels, and a variety of other important indicators of a nursing home's quality. Examining this data, as well as visiting the facilities you're considering k, are vital steps to making the choice that's right for you or your loved one.

Medicare's online site and printed guide also provide you with many of the questions you should ask all nursing homes under consideration. These questions cover such areas as:

General and Social Concerns

You or you're loved one will want to know that social, recreational, religious, and other activities are available and if residents may choose or decline participation as they wish. Do residents have a private place to see family when they visit. May residents keep a pet or may their pet visit? What choices do residents have in what they eat and when they eat? What personal space is made available to them and may they decorate it as they choose? Is their primary language spoken by staff? If not, are there procedures in place that will allow them to communicate with staff? May residents follow their preferred religious practice, for example, when they require a special diet? Are there rules which residents are expected to observe and are they provided in writing?

Health Care Concerns

Perspective residents should find out how the nursing home prepares their Plan of Care. Which professionals are involved and is the resident included in the planning process? Can the resident choose which family member participates as well? Can the resident keep their own physician even if that doctor does not visit the nursing home? Can transportation be arranged for office visits? Who will the resident interact with on a daily basis (nurses, other staff) and will these individuals change frequently or remain relatively the same?

You should also know what types of therapy are available on-site. Does a social worker visit? Are a resident's medical concerns relayed to their doctor in a timely manner and by whom?

What preventive health measures are in place? Are flu vaccines and other immunizations offered? Do various specialists visit regularly like a podiatrist, dentist, etc.?

In cases of emergency, does the nursing home have a good working relationship with a nearby hospital?


If you're making arrangements for a loved one who is sometimes confused or may wander, does the facility have safeguards that will protect your loved one? Are personal belongings safe within a resident's room? Are the facility doors always locked? Only at night? Never?

Visit Before You Choose

After you've made sure your possible nursing home choices are licensed by Ohio and certified by Medicare and/or Medicaid; and, after you've compared staffing levels, health inspection results, and other quality indicators on Medicare's Nursing Home Compare, you're ready to visit you're perspective facilities.

The following Checklist comes from the Center's for Medicare & Medicaid's brochure, Your Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home. It's helpful to download or request the printed brochure through Medicare because in addition to the questions, it also provides you with space to write what you learn about the facilities you visit. While you might not feel the need to ask each of these questions, you'll probably find quite a few important ones that you would have overlooked had you not seen the list.

The Checklist

  • Does the nursing home have the level of care I need?
  • Does the nursing home have a bed available?
  • Does the nursing home offer specialized services, such as a special unit for care for a resident with dementia, ventilator care, or rehabilitation services?
  • Is the nursing home located close enough for friends an family to visit?
  • Are the residents clean, well groomed, and appropriately dressed for the season or time of day?
  • Is the nursing home free from overwhelming unpleasant odors?
  • Does the nursing home appear clean and well-kept?
  • Is the temperature in the nursing home comfortable for residents?
  • Does the nursing home have good lighting?
  • Are the noise levels in the dining room and other common areas comfortable?
  • Is smoking allowed? If so, is it restricted to certain areas of the nursing home?
  • Are the furnishings sturdy, yet comfortable and attractive?
  • Does the relationship between the staff and residents appear to be warm, polite, and respectful?
  • Does the staff wear name tags?
  • Does the staff knock on the door before entering a resident's room? Do they refer to residents by name?
  • Does the nursing home offer a training and continuing education program for all staff?
  • Does the nursing home check to make sure they don't hire staff members who have been found guilty of abuse, neglect or mistreatment of residents; or have a finding of abuse, neglect, or mistreatment of resident sin the state nurse aid registry?
  • Is there a licensed nursing staff 24 hours a day, including a Registered Nurse (RN) present at least 8 hours per day, 7 days a week?
  • Will a team of nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) work with me to meet my needs?
  • Do CNAs help plan the care of residents?
  • Is there a person on staff that will be assigned to meet my social service needs?
  • If I have a medical need, will the staff contact my doctor for me?
  • Has there been a turnover in administration staff, such as the administrator or director of nurses, the past year?
  • Can residents have personal belongings and furniture in their rooms?
  • Does each resident have storage space (closet and drawers) in his or her room?
  • Does each resident have a window in his or her bedroom?
  • Do residents have access to a personal phone and television?
  • Do residents have a choice of roommates?
  • Are there policies and procedures to protect residents' possessions, including lockable cabinets and closets?
  • Are exits clearly marked?
  • Are there quiet areas where residents can visit with friends and family?
  • Does the nursing home have smoke detectors and sprinklers?
  • Are all common areas, resident rooms, and doorways designed for wheelchair use?
  • Are handrails and grab bars appropriately placed in the hallways and bathrooms?
  • Do residents have a choice of food items at each meal? (Ask if your favorite foods are served.)
  • Can the nursing home provide for special dietary needs (like low-salt or no-sugar-added diets)?
  • Are nutritious snacks available upon request?
  • Does the staff help residents eat and drink at mealtimes if help is needed?
  • Can residents, including those who are unable to leave their rooms, choose to take part in a variety of activities?
  • Do residents have a role in planning or choosing activities that are available?
  • Does the nursing home have outdoor areas for resident use? Is the staff available to help residents go outside?
  • Does the nursing home have an active volunteer program?
  • Does the nursing home have an emergency evacuation plan and hold regular fire drills (bed bound residents included)?
  • Do residents get preventive care, like a yearly flu shot, to help keep them healthy? Does the facility assist in arranging hearing screenings or vision tests?
  • Can residents still see their personal doctors? Does the facility help in arranging transportation for this purpose?
  • Does the nursing home have an arrangement with a nearby hospital for emergencies?
  • Are care plan meetings held with residents and family members at times that are convenient and flexible whenever possible?
  • Has the nursing home corrected all deficiencies (failure to meet one or more state or Federal requirements) on its last state inspection report?

Thanks to Max Compton, publisher of the Senior Comfort Guide for permission to reproduce this article. See their website,