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Selecting A Nursing Home For A Loved One

May 31, 2012

According to AARP, two-thirds of all people age 65 and over will require nursing home care . Thus, at one point in time, most of us will be faced with the decision of selecting a nursing home for a loved one. Below are some helpful tips on how to select a nursing home based on a variety of considerations.

Research Nursing Homes And Get References

Although not always possible, it is very important to research extensively before selecting a nursing home for a loved one. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service website,, is a good starting point. There, you can compare nursing homes utilizing the government's five star quality rating system, use their nursing home checklist when visiting a nursing home, and access other helpful information on nursing home selection matters. Choose a nursing home that is Medicare certified is critical. These nursing homes are inspected every year. Any complaints must be investigated by the Medicare. Inspection reports available through state health departments are also valuable sources of information on patient safety, including matters related to patient falls, bed sores, assaults, and other personal injury matters.
There is a lot of information that can be learned online regarding nursing homes. However, the internet should not be your only source of information. Personal references on nursing homes from doctors, nursing, friends, and family can be invaluable.

Try Choosing A Nearby Nursing Home

One of the biggest predictors for quality nursing home care is how often the patient receives visits from friends and family. For this reason, it is important to choose a nursing home location that allows friends and family to visit the patient as often as possible. Although there are many important considerations, the ability of friends and family to visit your loved one frequently should be at or near the top.

Pay Attention To Nursing Home Staffing

Inadequate staffing and/or poor staffing can and will drastically impact the quality of resident care at a nursing home. When checking staffing ratios, do not simply rely on what the nursing home says. Some nursing homes can be creative with their staffing ratios in terms of what they claim versus what is actually provided. Unfortunately, accurate information on staffing is not always easy to assess. However, frequent visits to the nursing home can give an indication on whether the nursing home appears properly staffed. Having handled nursing home liability cases which have involved both personal injury and wrongful death, poor staffing or inadequate staffing is usually a major factor in these cases. For this reason, it is critically important to pay close attention to all matters related to staffing before choosing a nursing home for your loved one.

Visit The Nursing Home Frequently

As should be apparent by now, dropping in frequently is an excellent way to assess a nursing home's quality and safety before making a final decision. Along the way, take notes and ask questions. Closely observe the staff and the patients, as well as how they interact with each other. Does the nursing home feel peaceful or hectic? Does the nursing home seem clean or dirty? Does it appear safe or dangerous? Any nursing home should allow you to stay for lunch so you can sample the food, although there may be a small charge. In addition to a scheduled visit, stop in unexpectedly and observe if the nursing home seems to operate any differently than when the visit was scheduled. If a nursing home is hesitant to allow you to do any of these things, be leery.

Nursing Home Costs Considerations

Although it would be nice if cost were not a factor in choosing a nursing home, cost consideration is a reality for most families. In 2011, the average cost of a semi-private room in Texas was $46,000. In Alaska, the average cost was $225,000. To reduce long term costs, consider keeping your loved at home a little longer by utilizing a combination of family support, health aids and/or adult day care. Also, check with your state's Medicaid program. Medicaid can provide some assistance for people with limited finances. For more information on nursing home prices per state and other helpful information, visit

Ask A Lot Of Detailed Questions

Before making a final decision, ask a lot of detailed questions. These questions should involve any topic that could impact your loved one's happiness and safety at the nursing home. Does the nursing home provide a library, free internet access, engaging activities, and other things that will help keep your loved one happy? What security measures are in place to keep resident's safe? If you get an answer that seems vague or suspicious, inquire further.

In choosing a nursing home, you can never ask too many questions or make too visits. After selecting the nursing home, continue to visit frequently and assess how things are going. If the nursing home is not meeting expectations, consider discussing this with nursing home management if it is something that might be fixed. Otherwise, consider moving your loved one to a different nursing home. There are plenty of nursing homes options in every state to choose from.

Sources Used:
Reuters, Tips To Pick The Best Nursing Home For A Loved One, May 23, 2012.

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