Tips for Choosing a Nursing Home

choosing a nursing homeHow to pick the right skilled nursing, rehabilitation or nursing facility for your loved one.

In the world of senior housing, there are no "best fit" guarantees. Finding that "just right" senior housing option for your loved one is a personal process that involves a number of quantifiable objectives, as well as a healthy serving of intuition. Like making a career change or cross-country move, making a skilled nursing, rehabilitation or retirement living decision for your loved one requires you to find a facility that meets specific criteria. But just because a place meets your criteria doesn’t mean it’s the ideal place for your loved one. For that, you’ll need to rely on more qualitative criteria like "that feeling you get when you walk in." To help you with those finer aspects of your nursing home search, here are some tips for choosing a nursing home.

Try Out Recreational Activities in Nursing Homes

Like enrolling in a college program, choosing a nursing home is a decision that will likely cost a lot of money and determine the environment in which your loved one spends the majority of his time. So it’s important to take the time for a comprehensive visit to the skilled nursing, rehabilitation or intermediate care facility you’re considering.

At your visit, notice the countenance on the residents’ faces and the general feel of the place. Is it clean and well-maintained? Are staff members involved and friendly? Do they address residents by name? Do residents and visitors seem to enjoy the meals? Stay for a meal if at all possible so you can experience it yourself.

Take particular notice of the recreational activities in nursing homes you visit. You aren’t necessarily looking for the facility with the largest social calendar. Instead, you’re looking to match your loved one’s interests with a facility’s offerings. Does your loved one enjoy the therapy pool? If so, make sure you find a facility with a warm, accessible pool that’s supervised at convenient hours. Is your loved one a bingo player or a card shark? Inquire about organized games and clubs. When choosing a nursing home for your loved one, it’s important to meet her social needs as well as her physical needs. Asking about and even sitting in on recreational activities in nursing homes will help you.

Check Out Skilled Nursing, Rehabilitation & Nursing Facility Reputations

Getting to the bottom of reputation is fundamental when choosing a nursing home. There is a fairly straight forward way to check up on the reputation of the skilled nursing, rehabilitation or intermediate care facility you’re interested in. Following the steps below will help you see what others are saying about the facility and educate yourself about its regulatory inspections.

  • Look for a prominently displayed state nursing home license.
  • Notice posters or bulletin boards with residents' rights information from your state’s long-term care ombudsman's office.
  • Contact your state’s long-term care ombudsman personally to inquire about resident or family complaints. Go to for contact information.
  • Visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website, Nursing Home Compare. It gives you quality ratings and inspection information for all registered skilled nursing, rehabilitation and assisted living programs.
  • Think like a detective and try other methods of getting potential dirt on a facility. "Google" the facility name, ask a physician, talk to friends and family members, and don’t be shy about talking candidly to visitors when you visit.

Involve Your Loved One in the Process

As long as your loved one is cognitively aware enough to contribute to the decision, involve him is much as possible when choosing a nursing home. It can be tempting to do all the research on your own and announce the decision at your next visit, but that kind of management can create conflict and turn him off to the idea. When you involve your loved one by discussing options with him, taking him with you on visits and taking his concerns seriously, you will limit disagreement and make the process more enjoyable for everyone. If he resists the idea altogether, let him retain as much control as possible by giving him options within a framework that works for the entire family.

Choosing a Nursing Home Today

If you don’t even know where to begin in your search, you can start by deciding what level of senior care your loved one needs. Then fill out the search form at the top right of any page on this website to browse hundreds of senior care facilities in your area. If you would like to speak with someone directly, simply call the toll-free number listed at the top of this page and one of our expert long-term care managers will walk you through the process free of charge.