Green Acres Manor Residential Care Home, Kenwood, CA
9020 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, CA 95452    |    Phone: (707) 833-1171    |    Fax: (707) 833-2341    |    License #496801812

Screening Elder Care Facilities in Sonoma County, California

Gain peace of mind by knowing how to visit and screen potential Elder Care Facilities you are considering for the care of your loved one.

Begin by making a visit to the elder care facility

If you have determined that the elder person in your life will need to begin living in an assisted care home, the first task at hand is to make a list of the residential care and nursing home facilities in Sonoma County or the Bay Area. Some facilities have websites which you can visit for a first introduction, but the next essential step is paying a visit of inspection to the places you are considering. Most residential care homes and nursing homes will have a specific procedure for this which should include giving a tour of the facility and grounds and having a sit-down consultation with the family to answer questions. Remember, this is not the time for you to be bashful, or concerned about offending the care provider's feelings by asking direct questions. Professional elder care providers are accustomed to discussing the difficulties elders face, and should be willing to provide you with thorough and concise answers to all of your questions about the services they offer to their residents. During this meeting, materials should be provided to you regarding fees, policies and enrollment. This is also the time to ask for a list of references you may contact.

During this important visit to the facility, there are a number of things you should ascertain. We advise bringing a notebook along, so that you can make note of specific things at each care elder home you visit. By taking notes during the visit, you will have something to look over later and compare with your impressions of the other facilities you tour. There are currently well over 100 residential care homes in Sonoma County, and your decision may be based on a number of things including convenience of location, the appeal of the home and grounds, or types of medical or special services provided. By all means, if the elder person is able to give a preference, his or her comfort should be your top priority. However your final decision is reached, the following things are what you should take special note of on your visit to each facility:

Living quarters and communal space
Whether the facility you are visiting offers apartments, private rooms or semi private quarters to their residents, a careful inspection of these areas are necessary. Are the beds comfortable? Is the temperature in the room comfortable? Does the air smell fresh? Is the ventilation good? Take note of whether a button is provided at bedside for contacting the staff in case of emergency. Inspect the bathroom. Is it clean? Does it seem easy to get around in? As with the bedroom, is there a button by the toilet in case help is needed? Ask how the resident would notify the staff if he/she needed assistance.

If communal social areas are part of the facility, examine them for cleanliness and comfort. Are other residents making use of the social rooms? Do they look as though they feel at home there? View all of the rooms that are made available for residents' use including dining room, kitchen, etc.

Just as you would if you were looking to purchase a house, be sure to view the grounds. This is a good time to ask about the time the residents spend getting fresh air and exercise, if appropriate. If your loved one is disabled physically, how often will he or she receive assistance each day to go outside for fresh air and sunshine? Ask what the facility's policy is on indoor/outdoor time. Are residents with Dementia allowed outside alone? If so, are the grounds secure, or could the resident accidentally leave the grounds and find themselves in a dangerous situation? What types of outdoor supervision are provided? Note whether the grounds look well maintained, or seem to have safety hazards that residents might trip on, such as broken pavement. Be sure, while outside, to take a look at the structure of the facility. Does the roof look in good repair? Are there signs of exterior water damage from flooding, if the facility is located near a creek? Overall, does the facility give you a feeling of being well-maintained and comfortable? If your loved one is able to give an opinion, how do they feel about the facility?

Basic Services
Ask for a list of the facility's complete basic services provided to all residents such as housekeeping, laundry, linen, meal preparation, help with bathing and personal grooming, supervision of medicines, etc. Ask about times of sickness, such as when a resident catches a cold or flu? Is bedside service provided? What about transportation to doctor's appointments? What is done in case of an accident or serious change in the resident's health? Which hospital would the resident be taken to? How quickly would you be notified?

Ask, too, about additional services provided such as flower delivery, cable TV or Internet services, magazine subscriptions, etc. Make note of everything the facility provides for the comfort and enjoyment of the residents.

Because nutrition is such an important issue, it will be important for you to view menus provided by the facility. Examine them carefully for both appeal and nutritional value. Again, inspect the kitchen. Find out who does the cooking. Are snacks provided in addition to the three meals a day? What is the policy on residents having their own food? Would they be allowed to keep special foods they purchased in the refrigerator or cabinets? What about food in the rooms? What provisions does the facility provide for special diets their residents may need to be on? What type of supervision is in place to see that residents are eating the food provided? Does it seem that the food is prepared with care and thought for the dining pleasure of the residents? Are fresh fruits and vegetables part of the daily menu? Are ample beverages available throughout the day to prevent dehydration? Ask to be allowed to view a prepared meal.

Find out what the visiting policy is of the facility. Nursing homes are more likely to have set visiting hours. Residential care homes may provide preferred hours for visits. Ask where guests may socialize with the resident and what the policies are on taking your loved one on outings away from the facility.

It's very important that you obtain all necessary information regarding the financial policies of the elder care homes you are considering. All fees and policies should be documented for you in writing, so that there are no surprises. Be clear on when payments are due, and what forms of payment are acceptable to the facility. Inquire whether Medicare or third party insurance assistance apply.

Medical Care
Some elder care facilities, such as nursing homes, provide round-the-clock, licensed medical care, but this is generally not the case in assisted-living residential care homes. It is vital to ascertain what types of medical services, if any, are available at each care home you visit. If nursing care is provided, is it basic or skilled? Ask about the professional backgrounds of all care providers at the facility. Determine their previous experience with the needs of elder people.

Be sure to ask to view their residents' bill of rights. Inquire as to how residents are able to make their needs known, make complaints. Some residential care facilities have an ombudsman office where residents may go to have their complaints investigated. Does the facility you are visiting provide this?

Find out what the facility provides in terms of recreation and socialization. Is there a schedule of planned outings you can see? What about games and crafts? Will the resident be able to pursue beloved hobbies such as quilting, gardening, or building models? What provisions will be made for their needs in this? Is television or radio provided in the rooms or communally? What are the policies regarding this? How are birthdays and holidays observed at the facility? Is there any outlet for the residents to interact with the larger community through charitable, religious or educational venues? Take note of what activities you see the residents enjoying during your visit. Is the atmosphere pleasant and cheerful?

Ask about transportation policies for both necessary travel to medical appointments, as well as recreational transportation. Is there a limit to how far the facility will drive the resident? Do fees apply to mileage? Be sure you understand the policy.

It is very important that you ascertain the emergency and safety plan of any facility you visit. The facility must have established, written guidelines and policies regarding resident security, safety, transportation and emergency procedures. Ask to see documentation of these plans, and documentation that the staff is regularly drilled in the proper execution of these plans. Ask to see proof of proper insurance as well as proof of state and city inspections finding that the facility is up to code. Ask for photocopies of all of the above documents to take home with you.

Make a careful review of all your notes

After you have visited all of the facilities you intend to, make a careful review of all your notes. If a spouse or other family members accompanied you on your tours, it can be very helpful to discuss the general impression that each facility gave you. Make a checklist of your loved one's exact needs and determine which of the facilities meets these requirements. It is especially important, in the case of those with degenerative illnesses to understand at what point the resident might have to leave the facility to receive more intensive care. Be very clear about whether the facility you are considering is staffed to meet the needs of declining health, or whether it is intended as a dwelling for elder people who do not have degenerative conditions. Narrow down your list to only those elder care facilities which seem best to you.


Don't miss this last important step in the process of choosing an elder care home in Sonoma County. Any facility you are considering should provide you with a list of reference families you may contact who currently have, or who have had, loved ones staying at the care home. Ask the contact person what their experience has been with the facility, and for what duration they used their services. Ask what the resident's experience is or was. Ask if there was ever any cause for concern about activities or care provided by the facility. It is important to remember that the care home is likely to have chosen reference families who are likely to give a positive referral. Because of this, should the contact person mention any complaints about the quality of service provided by the home, be sure to take it seriously. You may also wish to contact the following local agency to get a second opinion about any Sonoma County elder care facility or nursing home you may be considering:

Sonoma County Area Agency on Aging
2250 North Point Parkway
P.O. Box 4959, CA 95402
Santa Rosa, CA 95407
(707) 565-5900

We understand that for the families of elder people, the decision may be one of the most difficult they have ever made in their lives. By completing the above process step by step with care, by taking tours and making notes, and by checking references, you will be doing all that you can to ascertain the good or bad qualities of any facility you are considering. After you have narrowed your options down to the residential care home or nursing home of your choice, you will be able to contact the facility for enrollment forms to secure a place for your loved one.

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9020 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, CA 95452 | Phone: (707) 833-1171 | Fax: (707) 833-2341 | License #496801812
Green Acres Manor Residential Care Home, Kenwood, CA
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