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Choosing a Nursing Home

An Important Life Decision

Choosing a nursing home may be one of the most important life decisions you may have to make for yourself, family member or friend. Often the decision will need to be made during a crisis or immediately after a serious illness or injury. Learning as much as you can about a facility is important to the health and well being of the potential resident.

Aid Your Search

What can you do to aid you in your search? First, speak with people you can trust and who may be able to provide valuable information about a particular facility as well as the needs of the potential resident. Such people include family, friends, health professionals, social workers, and hospital discharge planners. If you are helping someone find a nursing home, be sure to get him or her involved in the process, when possible. If the person is unable or unwilling to become involved, keep his or her preferences and values in mind when making your selection. Planning ahead will make the job of finding the right nursing home for you or your loved ones much less stressful.

Gather Information

Begin gathering basic information about the nursing homes you are considering. Keep in mind that location is important. Choosing a facility located close to family and friends will allow more time for visiting. Determine whether a bed is available or if there is a waiting list. Check on the ratio of staff to residents. If Medicare or Medicaid will be a consideration, be sure the facility will accept Medicare or Medicaid payment.

Visit Multiple Facilities

After obtaining the information you need, the next and most important step is to visit one or more facilities. This will give you the opportunity to go on a formal tour, and talk with nursing home staff and residents. After choosing a facility, visit again at different times of the day and on different days of the week to see a complete picture of the services and activities offered to residents. Take special note of how staff interacts with residents and the quality of life of the residents. Are the residents receiving services and care that will allow them to achieve the highest practicable level of physical, social, and mental well being?

Before Making a Final Decision

Before making a final decision, be sure to obtain a copy of the nursing home contract to take home with you to review. Ask the nursing facility about parts of the contract which are not clear to you. If you still have questions, you may want to consider having an attorney review the contract prior to signing. Be sure the contract is fully completed at the time you sign it. Obtain a full, and exact copy of the original document after both you and the facility have signed.

A Check List for Facility Visits

Use the following brief checklist to help you compare and evaluate the nursing homes that you visit. You may want to take a copy of the checklist with you to each facility you visit.

  • Facility Name
  • Facility Address 
  • Date of Visit

 Items Checklist - Mark yes or no

  1. Medicare certified.
  2. Medicaid certified.
  3. The nursing home is licensed.
  4. Current Administration is licensed.
  5. The nursing home conducts criminal background checks on all staff.
  6. The nursing home has policies to safeguard resident possessions.
  7. The State survey is available at the nursing home.
  8. The last two surveys show no deficiencies.
  9. Interaction between staff and residents is warm and respectful.
  10. The nursing home smells and looks clean.
  11. Nursing home staff respond promptly to call bells.
  12. Activities listed on the nursing home's activity schedule actually occur.
  13. The nursing home posts a weekly menu which includes alternate choices.
  14. Current residents are satisfied with their meals. (Ask several residents at random.)
  15. Corridors are free from obstructions.
  16. Staff knocks on residents' doors and asks permission to enter.
  17. Residents have freshly filled water pitchers/cups within their reach.
  18. Residents are well groomed and dressed appropriately.
  19. Care plan meetings are held at times that are easy for family to members to attend.
  20. The nursing home has flexible visiting hours.
  21. The nursing home has an outdoor area for residents to use.
  22. The dining room environment is pleasant.
  23. Nursing home staff is adequate.
  24. There are handrails in the hallways and grab bars in the bathrooms.
  25. Resident rooms are comfortable, well lighted, and afford some degree of privacy.

Totals: Yes____  No____

Revised June 12, 2012

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