Finding Nursing Homes

how to find a nursing homeFinding nursing homes for an elderly patient is a process that involves research and repeated visits to each adult care facility. Most elderly patients start with a long list of nursing home options that is slowly narrowed down to their top choices. It is important to visit the final choice on different days, during different hours, to get a good feel for daily life at that nursing home.

How to Find a Nursing Home

Finding a nursing home typically begins with searching online, then visiting each potential nursing home facility. During every visit, the elder patient is given an opportunity to socialize with the other nursing home residents. In addition, the elderly patient will speak with the nursing home staff and doctors to ensure all medical needs are met. The elderly person can tour the facility and make an educated decision based on social, medical, and physical needs.

When Does an Elder Need a Nursing Home?

Figure out if the elderly person is actually in need of a nursing home. There are a variety of adult care options, and there may be a retirement community or in-home caregiver service that is better suited for the elder patient. The elderly patient may still be able to live with family or loved ones.

Many people view nursing homes as a last-resort option. While this is wise for financial and emotional reasons, it is important to identify the circumstances that would require nursing home placement. These defined circumstances are personal and may be different for each family.

While deciding whether or not the elderly patient requires the level of care provided in a nursing home, consider the following steps:

  1. Arrange an evaluation of the elder patient, to be conducted by a medical professional. This should include a physical and psychological evaluation. The medical professional should take all medical records into account.
  2. Incorporate and consider personal insights from within the family or other loved ones. Perhaps there is a member of the family that is in a great position to care for the elder patient at the time. Some loved ones may be completely against nursing home placement. Other family members may have experienced situations with the elderly patient that are exceptionally difficult, such as persuading the elder to take a shower. These personal insights should be included while debating if the elder person is a good candidate for nursing home placement.
  3. Look for help within the local community. The elder patient may be able to continue living at home with a little assistance. In some states, volunteer programs provide elderly patients with rides to grocery stores or medical appointments. Perhaps the elderly person could benefit from a weekly maid or lawn service to help with caring for their home. An in-home nurse service can be a great option, where a nurse might visit the elder once a week to check on the patient.
  4. Consult a professional patient advocate. Families that are having difficulty with a nursing home decision can hire a medical professional, such as a geriatric care manager. This person can temporarily act as a patient advocate in determining the best adult care option for the elder.


Best Nursing Home Options

While visiting nursing homes, it is important to keep some primary qualifications in mind. First and foremost, always make location a priority. The number-one way to prevent nursing home neglect or nursing home abuse is to ensure that loved ones visit the patient frequently. It will be much easier to visit the elderly patient if the nursing home is close to friends and family.

Check with nursing home rankings that are compiled with data collected through government agencies. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) gather and analyze nursing home information for quality purposes. The best nursing homes will have a high ranking on Medicare, state, and federal lists. These highly-ranked nursing homes should be considered first. To visit Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare page, click here.

Be sure to check both federal and state nursing home information. While visiting nursing homes, pay attention to how many nurses and patients there are. Take note of how attentive the nurses are and how long it takes elderly patients to receive care. Ask the nursing home for information regarding the nurse-to-patient ratio. When in doubt, seek the advice of a trusted medical professional or patient advocate.

Visiting Nursing Homes

An elderly person should always visit nursing homes while accompanied by a patient advocate, family member, friend, or other loved one. Look for a nursing home that has a clean facility, even if it is not the most luxurious. While parking, check to see how full the parking lot is. A good nursing home will encourage visiting with family and friends, so the parking lot will be busy during day time hours.

Pay attention to the senses. Watch how the other elderly patients eat and interact with one another. Sights, sounds, and smells can be an indicator of the care in a facility. Incontinence is a major factor that sways families to move an elderly person to a nursing home. If the nursing home smells of urine, patients with incontinence issues probably aren’t receiving prompt attention. The nursing home facility may be providing inadequate laundry services as well.

Without previous warning, but in a friendly manner, quiz the nursing home administrators with the following questions:

–      Ask about the nurse-to-patient ratio and the turnover rate of the staff.

–      Ask how the nursing home conducts their hiring process. Do they perform the required state background check, or are they extra careful to perform a national background check?

–      Does the nursing home regularly need to hire temporary nurses or staff members?

–      Request the state’s inspection reports on the nursing home. The nursing home is required to supply access to the most recent 2567 incident report form. If the nursing home supplies access to older 2567 forms, that is a good indication that the nursing home is safe and well-cared for.

–      Ask for further details regarding any violations described in the 2567 form.

–      Discuss the elderly patient’s specific needs, involving all medical, physical, mental, emotional, and social aspects.

–      Discuss any of the elderly persons’ preferences. For example, some nursing homes offer specific religious services or volunteer programs. If the elderly person enjoys a certain activity, look for a nursing home that can easily offer that activity.

–      During any discussion with the nursing home staff, take note of the overall demeanor of the nursing home employees. A good nursing home will have friendly, reliable staff that is well-versed on each patient’s preferences and medical needs.

Speak with other Patients’ Families

When the nursing home selection process has been narrowed down to a few optimal facilities, ask the nursing home for references. Speak with the nursing home’s references in person or on the phone. While visiting the nursing home, candidly ask other patients and families for their opinion of the nursing home. This will provide insight that you cannot find on paper or in a list of rankings.

After Moving to a Nursing Home

Once the best nursing home is selected and the elderly patient moves in, it is important for loved ones to visit the elderly person. Schedule several follow-up visits with the elder and the nursing home to see if anything is not going as expected. Ask the elderly person if he or she is comfortable in the nursing home.

If there are any severe changes, in health, disposition, or appearance, the nursing home might not be the right fit. Keep in mind that there is an adjustment period after an elderly patient moves into a nursing home. This should only last a few weeks. Any prolonged adjustment period might also be a sign that the nursing home is not the right fit for the elder.

Other tactics to ensure a safe and friendly living residence for a nursing home patient involve:

–      Visiting the elderly person as often as possible.

–      Paying attention to medications and alertness of the elderly patient on subsequent visits. Many nursing homes have come under fire for prescribing excessive medications to keep elderly patients subdued.

–      Remain as involved in the medical care of the elderly patient as possible. Speak with the nurses to find out if there are any new medical developments.

–      Figure out exactly which nurses will be attending to the elderly patient. Ensure that they have any special skills required to handle the elder. Watch for any shifts in nursing home management or staff.

–      Ask if there is any way to help the nursing home staff care for the elder. Ask about any problems the staff may be experiencing with the elderly patient.

–      Share personal insight on the elder, including personal stories and preferences, with the nursing home staff.




“Finding the right nursing home, step by step: Detailed guide spells out how to secure quality care for your loved one.” Today Health. NBC News: 19 Mar 2009. Television.

United States. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Nursing Home Compare. Medicare, 2013. Web.

United States. Department of Health and Human Services. Elder Care Locator. Department of Aging, 2013. Web.