How to Find a Good Nursing Home

How to find a good nursing home

Finding the right skilled nursing facility for yourself, a family member, or a friend can be a major task, but it’s not impossible. There are lots of factors that will go into making a decision, and taking things one step at a time will make the process easier and possibly faster as well.

Decide where the nursing home should be:

For short-term stays, it usually makes the most sense to choose a nursing home near the patient’s home. For chronic conditions that require long-term care, it may make sense to relocate the patient to a facility near family members who are involved in the patient’s care. The impulse to keep parents or grandparents in their home town is understandable, but if the only relatives live far away, visiting could be difficult, impossible, or unaffordable. A major move may be inconvenient in the short run, but it might be best for everyone involved over the long term.

Also, if your loved one currently lives in a part of the country where skilled nursing care costs much more than average, such as New York, New England, or Hawaii, a move to be near family in another part of the country could have the added advantage of more affordable care as well as more family visits.

Decide which nursing homes to consider:

If Medicare or Medicaid will cover any of the nursing home costs, then the next step is to find out which retirement homes in your chosen area are Medicare or Medicaid certified. Medicare offers a Nursing Home Compare tool that can give you a list of all the certified skilled nursing facilities in your region.

Depending on the patient’s condition, you may also need to seek out a specialized nursing home—one that deals specifically with dementia, rehabilitative physical therapy, pain management, or hospice care.

Find out which nursing homes have the best reputation:

Once you’ve decided where to look and found the homes that meet your insurance and specialty requirements, start asking around. Talk to friends, neighbors, and co-workers to see if they’ve had any experience with the homes on your list. Be sure to also ask the patient’s doctor and hospital social worker for their recommendations. Take notes on these conversations—you’ll thank yourself later.

Check SeniorAdvisor’s reviews of the retirement homes on your list to see what other people have to say about them, and call your state’s department of aging or department of health to see what information they have about the homes you’re considering.

Start making appointments:

Once you have a sense of which homes you’d like to visit, it’s time to call and request appointments for tours. Ideally, you will have time to visit each home on your list at least twice to see how things are at different times and to ask questions of the staff. If you’re unable to visit the skilled nursing facilities or can’t get to them all before the patient needs to be admitted, then a friend, relative, or a hired eldercare concierge service may be able to visit some or all of them and give you a report on what they find.

Whether you or someone else makes the visits, be sure to ask lots of questions of the staff—and of patients, if they’re willing to chat with you. Seeing how people respond to your questions is as important as the answers they give you. Look for a place where the staffers can have time to talk with you, know the answers to your questions, and treat their patients with respect.

The big decision:

After you’ve made your visits, it’s time to make a decision. Get input from the patient, the patient’s doctor, family members, and use all the information you’ve gathered from online reviews, friends, and in-person talks with the staff. With all of this research behind you, you’re in the best possible position to make a good choice for yourself or someone you love.

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.

15 Comments

  1. BR Valentine February 1, 2015 Reply

    There are a number of good resources that consumers should review when evaluating nursing homes, doing as much homework on your own is important, it’s best to use rating systems as a starting point, but should not be taken at face value when making a decision.

  2. Carole June 9, 2015 Reply

    What are the good resources? I have visited, read reviews! The problem for most seniors is money, nursing homes are horendeously expensive. What is the average price for Denentia care?

  3. Many thanks for sharing valuable information for selecting a nursing home. I’m sure people would find very helpful information from this blog.

  4. Sarah - Nursing Home May 13, 2016 Reply

    These are really great tips and I’m pretty sure the ones who are searching for a good one would find this very valuable. Visiting a nursing home, I believe, is the best of them all as you can personally see for yourself whether the seniors are happy where they are.

  5. Kyle Wayne June 3, 2016 Reply

    The point that you shared about finding a nursing home that has the best reputation made a lot of sense to me. We are trying to find adequate placement for my grandfather and I would prefer the facility we choose is reputable and takes good care of him! I will be sure to keep researching living options for my grandfather so he will enjoy our choice of nursing home for his stay.

  6. Eva Bell July 2, 2016 Reply

    Nice Blog. I feel that the tips that you have mentioned can prove to be really helpful for people looking for aged care nursing homes for their families.

  7. Derek Mcdoogle August 16, 2016 Reply

    My mother has had a lot of accidents lately and needs someone to watch over and care for her on a regular basis. You mentioned that for chronic conditions that require long-term care, it may make sense to relocate the patient to a facility near family members. Do most nursing homes allow family members to come see them on a regular basis? It seems that this might be a good option for her.

  8. Skylar Williams August 29, 2016 Reply

    In your ‘big decision’ section you listed some great ways to make sure you choose the best place. I never knew how hard it would be to make a decision like this with my mom. I’m confident that if we do what we can, everything will work out.

  9. Jade Brunet September 8, 2016 Reply

    My grandmother is getting older and we are considering the thought of having her live in a nursing home. It is good to know that one should consider reputation when selecting a service. Something else to think about would be if the home is sanitary and clean.

  10. Luke Smith October 20, 2016 Reply

    I appreciate your advice on how to decide where the nursing home should be. We’re looking into picking a home for my mother-in-law and I assumed that keeping her close to her home would be best, but assisted living in her area is so expensive! I think we could find her an equally nice/respectable facility for much cheaper if we expanded our search area. I imagine she would appreciate our trying to be frugal as well since we will be able to use the money we save to take her with us on family vacations.

  11. Ben Proctor October 27, 2016 Reply

    My family just started looking into nursing homes for my mother. I really liked your advice that you gave and I especially liked how you talked about where should the nursing home should be. Since we started our search we have looked at reputation and price and other things like that, but we never considered the distance. This advice will greatly influence my decision in the coming weeks. Thank you for posting.

  12. Ashley Turns August 22, 2017 Reply

    My grandfather has started deteriorating due to his age so we all believe it is time to find him a long term Medicaid service to take care of him. So thank you for mentioning that you may want to visit each home twice so that you can see how they operate at different times and ask the different staff questions. I will definitely try to make at least two appointments at the long-term service facilities we take a look at for my grandpa.

  13. Maxine Wilson September 29, 2017 Reply

    My grandmother is getting older, and I think it would be so nice to get her into a nursing home. I like what you suggested about finding a home with a good reputation.

  14. Theodore Winston October 9, 2017 Reply

    My wife and I are very busy with our work and barely have enough time to spend with our kids. As much as I wouldn’t want to take my mom to a nursing home, we have to. I agree that location and the quality of care are important. My kids are very fond of their “gramma” and would want to visit her often. I also want to make sure that my mom gets the best care she deserves especially late in her life. Thanks for the great tips!

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