Choosing a Nursing Home

by candy47

What you should look for when faced with the task of choosing a nursing home.

Placing an aging, ailing parent into a nursing home is a difficult decision, but when an illness comes on suddenly and without warning it's especially challenging. Time is of the essence. One of the first thoughts of family members is to take the parent home and take care of her/him. That is a noble idea but in many cases unrealistic. Another thought is to bring the parent home and hire an aide 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Again, unrealistic and financially draining. After those fleeting thoughts, it's time to begin researching to choose the nursing home that meets all the necessary requirements.
If the senior that you are placing is competent and active, you should always consider in what environment they would like to live...
Did they like sitting in their garden at home? If so, look for a home with a garden.
Does he/she play a musical instrument? Some homes have a piano and/or a musical program.
For those who enjoy cooking, we found a few homes that have a weekly activity of lunch preparation where the residents can participate.

The Most Important Factor

A difficult decision

The most important factor in choosing a nursing home can only be determined by you. It could be location of the nursing home, the doctor on staff, if the nursing home accepts Medicaid, has long-term care, etc. Begin with your most important requirement then go from there. Word of mouth is a good place to start but not to rely on.

There is no substitution for visiting the nursing homes and requesting a tour. It’s a good idea to visit the homes several times , on a different day and at a different time. Talk to the staff whenever you can, starting with the director, then talk with nurses, aides, nutritionists, physical therapists and janitorial maintenance. Get as much information from as many people as you can. Ask what improvements if any, have been made in the last year and what new improvements, if any are proposed for the future. You can also talk to the residents but you will realize that some of them don’t have all their faculties.

Medicare has an excellent website where you can compare nursing homes and get ratings of the home’s care, staff, cleanliness and overall performance.

The Official U.S. Government site


When Visiting Nursing Homes

Things you must do

Don't forget to...

  • Get brochures from each nursing home

  • Write down the name of the person who gave the tour and their capacity

  • Make notes from each nursing home

These steps will make it easier to keep track of who said what and where! It also helps to write your notes directly onto the brochure. Believe me, after looking at so many homes, your memory starts playing tricks on you.

Medicaid Info

Varies by State

If your parent has not already applied for Medicaid, then you must get that application filed immediately; approval is a slow process. Without Medicaid the cost of the nursing home will be the responsibility of the patient or family members. Medicaid is jointly funded by State and Federal governments. To apply for Medicaid, you must contact your State government.
Here are just a few of the documents that Medicaid will require:

  • Bank statements. We had to provide statements going back 10 years

  • Birth certificate. They will not accept a copy of a birth certificate. It can be a duplicate but it must have the official seal

  • Parents' marriage license

  • Death certificate if the spouse has passed away

Senior Cell Phone and Fanny Pack

Absolute must-haves for seniors

My mother liked having a phone handy so she carried it with her everywhere.  This Jitterbug5 cell phone is perfect for seniors, in or out of a nursing home.

It has large buttons with a backlight, the numbers show up large on the screen, it's hearing aid compatible and has a dedicated 5Star button for immediate access to a medical alert service.

My mother also liked carrying things with her as she walked throughout the nursing home.  I know fanny packs date back to the 1980's but they're perfect for a senior to carry small items.  My mother had her cell phone, reading glasses, tissues, a pencil and a few other things in her fanny pack.  They're lightweight and easy to reach.

Do You Want a Hospital or a Home

We wanted a home

Some nursing homes look and smell like a hospital. We saw plenty of those homes during our search and we always turned around and walked out. My sister and I felt that the home we chose would be a home with nursing care, not a hospital.

Community Areas

For dining at each meal and an area to greet guests
This is the dining room of the home that we chose for our Mother. The food presentation is just as lovely as the decor.
This is the dining room of the home t...
photo by candy47
Beautifully appointed sitting room for those who want to just sit and relax with no TV. Quiet time for reading or reflecting. Quite often this was the room where the more sociable residents entertained their guests, rather than in their room
Beautifully appointed sitting room fo...
photo by candy47

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Updated: 05/08/2017, candy47
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RuthCox on 08/30/2017

You are correct that choosing a nursing home is a difficult decision and one that family members often need to make quickly. I agree that gut feeling is most important after a thorough investigation of facilities.

candy47 on 09/01/2016

So true Susan, after all the research and pounding the pavement, just go with your gut feeling.

Susan on 09/01/2016

We just moved our mom to a nursing home. Previously she was in an assisted living facility, but she deteriorated more quickly than we expected so she needed to be moved somewhere with nursing care. It's more of a home than a hospital and she seems to be adjusting well. My sister chose this facility with her "gut feeling," which is how she was advised by a social worker to make the final choice. I think that's good advice.

ologsinquito on 06/12/2015

This is a huge decision. I've seen some places that look wonderful, and then some that shouldn't even be in business. The range is so wide.

Mira on 05/27/2015

Thank you, Candy, for your response.

candy47 on 05/26/2015

Mira, my mother actually had 10 years and more, of bank statements. You can get them from the bank but I think there is a fee.
Each U.S. state determines their own Medicaid scope of service. There are federal mandatory benefits that each state must provide, one of them is long-term care at a nursing facility.

Mira on 05/26/2015

Does anyone keep bank statements going back 10 years? I was very surprised to read about that requirement.
Nice page. Does Medicaid cover the whole cost of a retirement home in the US?

happynutritionist on 05/21/2015

Oh my I just came home from visiting my brother who is ill and at a care facility, it took a lot of looking, and it too can be expensive if there are no plans made ahead...his was a special case so all okay, except that he has to be there. Good tips.

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