How to Choose a Nursing Home

If you have no choice but to put a relative in a nursing home, pick one that you think you could live in.

What you look for in a Nursing Home!  First, the smell as you walk in the front door. If there is a urine smell anywhere in the home it means there is a problem with cleanliness. Some people think that all nursing homes have some urine smell; that’s not true. I have investigated dozens of complaints against nursing homes and I have found that the best ones do not smell like urine. If there is a urine smell it means the patients are not being properly cared for in their beds.

Look for bed sores on the patients. At good homes where patients are turned several times a day in their beds and taken out of their beds for time in a recreation area, there will be no bed sores.

Don’t just visit a home at visiting hours.  Go at other times to see if the patients are actually being cared for and if there are enough employees. Ask to see the Registered Nurse (RN) on duty. If there isn’t one, find out why. Ask how many times per week a doctor visits the patients at the home.

Ask for references of families who have a relative in the home. Ask family members you meet in the parking lot what they think of the care at the home.

Check with the nursing home inspection section of the state health department. Inspection records are open to the public and news media. Find out if the home has been cited for violations and what those violations were. Has the situation been corrected?

If your relative is already in the home and you still want to make sure everything is ok, here’s what I suggest. When my wife’s grandmother was in a nursing home, I made sure the officials at the home knew who I was and that we would be visiting all the time. That’s the trick.  If they think you may be coming at off times to visit, your relative will get better care than patients who seldom have visitors.

When I knew we were not able to go to the home on a certain day, I would call anyway and say that I may be coming by and I wondered if the administrator would be in for a chat. Remember, the people who work at these care facilities are not highly paid caregivers. Don’t get me wrong there are dedicated care givers, but also remember the nursing home business is a Big Profit business. If you don’t believe that, then why is organized crime always trying to get into the business?

Check List:

  • Visit the home on off hours.
  • Check for urine smells.
  • Check Health Department inspection records for violations.
  • Get references from other families.
  • Check for bed sores.
  • Remember: Once your loved one is in a care facility, make many visits and on the times you can’t visit, call ahead and ask if you can come after visiting hours. Always make them think you will show up unannounced.