Selecting a Nursing Home

The decision to place an elderly relative in a nursing home is challenging, causing feelings of fear and guilt for both the patient and the family. Involving the patient in choosing the facility can help alleviate these emotions.

There are three types of nursing homes:

  1. Skilled Nursing Facility
  2. Health-related Facility
  3. Combined Facility


When choosing a nursing home for a loved one, several factors should be carefully considered to ensure the best possible care and living environment.

Here are some key considerations:

  • Quality of Care:
    • Look into the nursing home’s reputation and quality of care. Obtain references from current residents’ families.
    • Check the results of the most recent Health Department inspection, typically displayed on a Consumer Information System poster.
  • Location:
    • Choose a facility that is conveniently located for family and friends to visit regularly. Frequent visits can help reduce feelings of loneliness for the resident.
  • Unannounced Visits:
    • Visit the nursing home unannounced at least once to get a more accurate picture of daily operations and cleanliness.
  • Cleanliness and Atmosphere:
    • Observe the cleanliness of the facility. A well-maintained environment often reflects the overall quality of care.
    • Assess whether the atmosphere is homely and comfortable, rather than overly institutional.
  • Staff Interaction:
    • Observe how staff members interact with residents. Friendliness, responsiveness to calls, and personal grooming are important indicators.
  • Activities and Engagement:
    • Check the availability and quality of activities for residents. Engagement in activities can contribute to a more positive living experience.
  • Food Quality:
    • Assess the quality of the food by taking up any dining invitations extended by the facility. Ensure that residents receiving assistance with eating get proper support.
  • Consumer Information System Poster:
    • Look for the Consumer Information System poster summarizing the findings of the most recent Health Department inspection. If not displayed, inquire about it.
  • Financial Considerations:
    • Discuss financial matters, including whether the nursing home accepts Medicaid. Clarify Medicare coverage and inquire about additional charges for services.
  • Medical Services:
    • Check if physicians are on staff and how emergency care is handled. Inquire about the process for choosing a doctor and the proximity and quality of nearby hospitals.
  • Patient Involvement:
    • If possible, involve the patient in the decision-making process. Describe the facility to them and provide an opportunity to review literature without pressure.
  • Early Planning:
    • Plan early, especially if the placement may arise from an acute care hospital. Long waiting lists for desirable facilities may necessitate early planning.
  • Flexibility and Transfers:
    • Keep in mind that nursing home placement doesn’t have to be permanent. Transfers can be made to other facilities if necessary.

By considering these factors, you can make a more informed decision and ensure that the chosen nursing home is a suitable and comfortable place for your loved one.

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