Choosing a Nursing Home that Meets Your Health Care Needs

The basic steps the Agency for Health Care Administration and Medicare and other experts recommend are:

1) Evaluate your needs. Make a list of what you are looking for as far as location, special services, atmosphere, etc. Ask your doctor, friends, family, neighbors, clergy and others for recommendations.

2) Refer to the nursing home guides at and

Nursing homes are listed by county, along with phone numbers and addresses. Identify the facilities that best fit your needs. Check ratings and read the inspection reports online. Compare the quality. Select a few that sound promising. Call during business hours to speak to someone who can answer your questions, such as the administrator, admissions coordinator or social service director. Find out about costs and whether there is a bed available. How will you pay for the nursing home? What forms of payment do they accept?

Pay attention to how you are treated on the phone. Does this sound like a place where you would like to live? Make a list of those you want to visit.

3) Make appointments to tour the nursing homes you have selected. Ask to meet such key staff as the administrator, the director of nursing, the dietitian, activity director and any specialists. Make a list of your questions. During the visit, be observant and take notes. Check out the food and ask to see the kitchen. Have a meal. Make note of the following:

– Is there hot water in the bathrooms?
– Do the residents appear happy, comfortable and at home?
– Is the facility clean, odor-free and well-staffed?
– Are residents being taken care of in a timely manner?
– Are the rooms decorated with personal furnishings and belongings?
– Do residents get to select their rooms?
– Do the residents have adequate privacy?
– Is staffing adequate, and does the staff seem to care?
If you liked what you saw during the first visit, make a second unannounced visit. Visit on the weekend, in the evening or at a different time of day than the first visit.

4) After evaluating the results of your research, talk about your selection with your loved one, family, friends and your doctor.
What is the average length of stay?

Long-stay patients: 386 days

Short-stay patients: 33 days

What are your chances of ever being admitted to a nursing home in your lifetime?

For men, it’s 33%

For women, it’s 53%

Sources: “Nursing Home Dilemma,” The Ohio State University and Barrett, Easterday, Cunningham & Eselgroth LLP; National Nursing Home Survey


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