How to Choose a Good Nursing Home

An excellent question. It's a terribly difficult decision to make and often, one feels guilty. Empower yourself and your family. Choosing the best nursing home takes time and research.


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    Go on the internet or use your phone book and find five nursing homes close to you.
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    Call the homes and make arrangements for a tour of the facility. Be aware of the way the staff answers the phone, your questions, and their demeanour. It says a lot about possible stress levels.
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    Write out a list of your questions regarding the level of care of your loved one. Take your time, think about what your specific concerns are.
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    Upon entering the facility, note your first impressions. Is it bright? Clean? Airy? Comfortable? Welcoming?
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    Note how you are received by the reception staff (I used to be one!) Are they courteous? Do they immediately welcome you? Give you eye contact? Do they ask if you'd like a cup of coffee or tea while you're waiting for your tour guide? Are they accommodating to any special needs?
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    Ask for an information package on the facility. The tour guide should give you one. The tour guide will go into a speech about how "wonderful" their nursing home is. Trust your own eyes and ears.
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    Be aware of surroundings, Residents, family members, staff, odors, sounds... it's all important.
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    Notice the atmosphere on the units; is it calm? Are the staff busy? Note how the staff are speaking to the residents.
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    Look at the floor in the corners; look at the walls, under beds at the furnishings. Are they clean and well maintained?


  • Take a pad of paper and a pen. TAKE NOTES! You might forget what you liked and disliked about each one as you tour several places.
  • Do a search, if you can, on praise and/or complaints about the nursing homes. If there has been trouble, someone somewhere will have complained about it.
  • If you see or hear something that disturbs you, ask about it! Bring it to someone's attention and make sure you get a satisfactory answer.
  • Really LOOK at the Residents and Staff. Is everyone content? Are there smiles? Are there call-bell lights over the doors on constantly? (this is a sign of possible over-worked staff or short-staffing which means the Resident might have to wait for response to their call).
  • Don't be rushed through the facility. If there's something you wish to see, they should accommodate you and show you. Ask to see all units. Ask to see the room where they would house your loved one.
  • If there is hospitalization involved, ask the nurses for their opinions, if any. Ask if they'd heard anything good OR bad about specific homes.
  • If you happen to know someone or recognize someone living in the nursing home, make a note of it. Drop by another time for a little visit so you can see if the tour and the unexpected visit match up.
  • Talk to friends who have been in this situation. What were their findings? Are they happy with their results? Do they have a recommendation?
  • Talk to family members you see in the hallways or rooms. Are they happy? Are they pleased with the service and care?
  • If at all possible, bring your loved ones in to view the facility with you. They might just get a good feeling from the place and choose for themselves!


  • Make sure you know who has Power Of Attorney! This is imperative for moving in and those who have it do have the ultimate say.
  • HOWEVER, if this has come up suddenly are you have very little time, you should still tour facilities and talk to people before-hand. You should find the staff at the facility sympathetic and open to helping you in any way they can.
  • It is imperative that you check the facility’s most recent annual Public Health survey results. You should be privy to those areas that have been noted as problematic for the home. Additionally, you must view those citations in light of how they may impact your loved one. Always choose a nursing home based upon your loved one’s needs, and not simply the appearance of the facility. For example, if your loved one has pressure ulcers (bedsores), you will want to check the survey results to ensure that the home did not receive this citation. You will never know whether the facility has a problem with bedsores by merely touring the site. Be aware that Federal Regulations require all nursing homes to post their most recent survey results. Do not be afraid to ask for them, and be sure to read them thoroughly! If you do not, you may have regrets after placement. An excellent resource is the book, “Choosing a Good Nursing Home.” Visit for more information. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) website also has a very good research tool - “Nursing Home Compare” that enables you to compare and contrast important nursing home care information regarding the facilities that you specify.
  • Don't rush the process. Really take your time and do your research.
  • Revisit facilities at different times of the day and evening.
  • Make sure the entire family is on the same page with the decision. Often, siblings will leave it up to one individual. Make the tours an open invitation to all family members so no-one can say you moved in and took over.
  • When you've chosen the facility, ascertain that all appliances and equipment necessary to care for your loved one are there clean, working, ready and waiting for your loved one's arrival. Ascertain that necessary meds are available and on hand.

Things You'll Need

  • 8 1/2" x 11" pad of lined paper and a pen.
  • List of questions you and the family have put together.
  • List of your specific concerns regarding your loved-one's care and needs and ask about them!

Article Info

Categories: Aged Care