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.