How to Evaluate a Nursing Home

Three Parts:Researching the Nursing HomeVisiting the Nursing HomeChecking on Your Family Member

The decision to place a member of your family in a nursing home can often be difficult. Taking the time to research, visit, and fully evaluate the nursing home will give you peace about your decision and give your family member a better quality of life. The decision to place a member of your family in a nursing home can often be difficult. Taking the time to research, visit, and fully evaluate the nursing home will give you peace about your decision and give your family member a better quality of life.

Part 1
Researching the Nursing Home

  1. 1
    Look for nursing homes online. Start by looking up nursing homes in your area to get an idea of what your options are. Doing basic preliminary research will give you a sense of what is available for your family member. Look on the websites of nursing homes in your area to see what nursing homes offer the medical services and attention that your family member needs. You can use this research to compare prices and decide your price range.
    • Look into information on specialized care. Make sure the nursing home has specialized care if your family member needs it and ask how they separate specialized care residents from residents who don’t need it.
  2. 2
    Look at online reviews. Once you have selected a few nursing homes that you like look online for reviews. There are websites where people who have used services can rate what their experience was like, such as Yelp. There are also many blogs and retirement and nursing home websites with reviews from residents and residents’ families.
  3. 3
    Determine the quality of the nursing homes you like. Visit the U.S. Medicare website to compare the quality of nursing homes. The website includes information such as the number of residents, number of licensed staff, if the home is for-profit or non-profit, and other basic information. The website also tells you if the home is Medicare or Medicaid certified. There is also the overall rating and detailed information on inspection results to give you an idea of the safety, care, and health of the nursing home. [1]
  4. 4
    Call references of the nursing homes. Call the nursing home you are interested in and ask for references. You can call their references and ask for information on families of residents to get an idea of what residents and their families think of the nursing home you are interested in. If someone says that their family member was neglected in the nursing home, you might want to reconsider choosing that nursing home.
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    Visit your state’s registry of nursing home complaints. Every time somebody sends in a complaint about a nursing home for things such as abuse and neglect to residents, it is documented and put on file. Obtaining public records varies from state to state. [2]
    • In some state (such as Oregon [3] and Minnesota [4]) this information is online on the state government’s website.
    • You can email, call, or visit the department in your state in charge of nursing home complaints (usually the Department of Health or Human Services), if you can’t find the complaint registry online.
  6. 6
    Look in the media for information on nursing homes. A big scandal about a nursing home not treating its residents correctly will be in the news. Search news databases online for the name of the nursing home. Do not choose a nursing home with news stories about residents being abused, neglected, or scammed.
  7. 7
    Figure out if it is accepting new residents. Once you nail down what nursing homes you like, call them and ask them if they are taking new residents. There is no point in going to visit a nursing home that is not even accepting new people. [5]

Part 2
Visiting the Nursing Home

  1. 1
    Evaluate the outside environment of the nursing home. When you arrive at the nursing to visit, pay attention to the surroundings of the home. Notice the area of town and the security outside of the nursing home. Is the nursing home easy for someone to break into? The home should be in a quiet and safe neighborhood, not a noisy and dangerous part of town. [6]
  2. 2
    Look at the furnishings and décor. You want your family member to live in an aesthetically pleasing environment. This could be where they spend their last years of life, so you want them to be in a cheerful setting. The décor can really determine the mood of an environment. Choose somewhere where the decorations and furniture look nice, well designed, and pleasing. [7]
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    Make note of the safety conditions. There should be safety devices throughout the home that are in good shape. There should be working smoke detectors, hand rails, sprinklers, and bathroom grab bars. Ask about the medical staff and what happens in an emergency. Are there onsite doctors? Do they call 9-1-1? What is the emergency procedure? [8]
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    Pay attention to the smell. Nursing homes might smell poorly because of the nature of the environment. A strong smell, particularly of urine, could mean that the nursing home is not being cleaned well.
    • Ask how often diapers are changed. They should be changed whenever it is necessary and not longer than every two hours. [9]
  5. 5
    Find out the visiting hours. The visiting hours should be when you are available, not when you always have work or have an obligation. The home should have the hours clearly posted. You can ask the staff about the visiting hours if you don’t see them. [10]
  6. 6
    Try the food. When you visit the home, tour the cafeteria and ask if you can try the meal being served. If you or your family member thinks the food is poor quality or tastes bad, the home is likely not going to be a good fit. Appetites can naturally decline with age, so nursing home food should look appealing and taste good.[11]
    • If you are unable to try the food yourself, observe the residence during a mealtime. It is a bad sign if you notice multiple residents barely eating their food.
    • Ask for a weekly menu to get a sense of what foods are served over time.
    • Ask whether there is a nutritionist on staff to ensure that residents' nutritive needs are met.
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    Listen to what the residents are being called. Residents only being called general names such as, “Grandma,” is a bad sign. The staff might not have taken the time to remember patient’s names. It could also mean they don’t respect the residents if they did not take the time to ask what they want to be called which is likely their first name or title and surname. [12]
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    Talk to and pay attention to the staff. Ask them how often they work and how long their shifts are. Staff who work a lot of doubles and seem tired and stressed, might reflect on how the nursing home treats their residents. Try to find out whether there is a lot of staff turnover. If people don't stay, it's likely that the facility is poorly run.
    • Also pay attention to how the staff members treat each other. Staff members who are rude to each other might also be rude to their residents. The staff should be focused on the residents instead of spending their time gossiping to each other. [13]
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    Watch how the residents spend their time. Residents that are up and about is a good sign that they aren’t forced to be cooped up in their rooms all day. You want a nursing home with a calendar of daily activities or activities that can be brought to the residents’ rooms if they need it. Pay attention to the residents' mood and if they seem generally happy or not. [14]

Part 3
Checking on Your Family Member

  1. 1
    Check for bruising. Don’t automatically assume that any bruise means that there is abuse happening, but do look for finger shaped bruises and bruises in places that don’t usually occur when you fall (such as the face, stomach, or back). [15]
  2. 2
    Look for bedsores. They can be unavoidable as your family member ages, but not always. A family member who is capable of walking around, being out of bed, and does not refuse food should not have bedsores. Ask the staff why your family member is not getting out of bed and why they are spending a long time in the same position if you see bedsores. If your family member is confined to a bed, ask the staff how much they are being rotated. [16]
  3. 3
    Notice how the staff handles emergencies. Pay attention to how the staff reacts when a resident falls. Watch if they check for injuries and if they keep a close eye on the resident. If your parent falls or has a medical emergency how were you notified? How long did they wait to notify you? Did they call 9-1-1? Were doctors helping your family member immediately? Don’t ignore it if you think a medical emergency was handled poorly. [17]
  4. 4
    Talk to your family member. Ask your family member how they are liking the nursing home. Ask them how they like the food, the social activities, the staff, and the environment. Notice if they seem happy or not. If they have a complaint, address it with the staff, it might be an easy fix. [18]


  • Take the time to find a nursing home that you and your family member feel comfortable about.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions when you visit the nursing home to be fully informed about the environment and conditions.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Aged Care