Tips to pick the best nursing home for a loved one

by | May 23, 2012

Finding the right nursing home for an elderly loved one is a daunting task. And it’s one most of us will face, as two-thirds of people over 65 will need nursing home care, at least temporarily, according to AARP.

It’s best if you can research facilities in advance, but that’s not always possible. A sudden illness or injury may force you to confront these concerns sooner than you expect.

Either way, here are several key considerations:


The biggest influence on the quality of care nursing home patients receive is often the frequency of visits by friends and family. Make sure you’ll be allowed to visit when you want — from early morning to late evening — to fit your schedule and enable you to monitor care at different times.

Once your loved one is in a nursing home, drop by frequently, sometimes without notice. In the afternoon, see whether residents are enjoying interesting activities together or watching TV alone. At meal times, note how much your mom or dad eats. Stay late sometimes. After your loved one has fallen asleep, remain until he or she wakes up to go to the bathroom. If no one responds quickly to a ring for assistance, that’s a serious problem, says Amy Goyer, AARP’s caregiving expert and blogger. Residents forced to get up and go by themselves risk serious injury.


There are several sources for referrals. Your local Area Agency on Aging or hospital discharge planners can provide listings of nearby nursing homes. Medicare caseworkers, at 1-800-MEDICARE, also can help.

Stick to facilities certified by Medicare. They’re inspected every year, and any complaints are investigated. Read recent inspection reports, usually available through the state health department. One patient accident isn’t a big deal, but frequent reports of patient falls, bed sores and the like are a red flag, says Edward Mortimore, director of nursing home evaluations at CMS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The CMS website provides a tool to help users compare nursing homes. The site includes links to its five-star ratings system, complaints against nursing homes, links to local ombudsmen and other health advocates, a detailed guide to choosing a nursing home and much more; visit


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