Tips on how to choose the right nursing home

Making the decision to admit a loved one into a nursing home can be difficult. But the more daunting task seems to be choosing the right facility.

Linda Hitchcock, M.D., Director of the Division of Geriatrics at Scott & White, offers some tips to make the process of finding the right place for your loved one a positive one.

“The first thing I would suggest to families is to go to the Medicare website,” she said. “They offer a lot of good information about finding nursing homes. You can compare different facilities, see which nursing homes offer Medicare and Medicaid and there’s even a checklist you can follow to make sure the nursing home is of good quality.”

The site also lists the nursing homes that offer special services like dialysis, ventilators and accommodations for dementia patients and wound care.

Once family members have a list of nursing homes they want to explore and the Medicare checklist in hand, Dr. Hitchcock recommends visiting the facilities in person.

“The personality of the nursing home is very important,” she said. “People have different personalities and they don’t mix well with every facility.”


Make sure the resident feels comfortable with the environment and gets along well with staff members, Dr. Hitchcock said.

“The family members will feel better if they know their loved one is at ease,” she said.

Another important aspect to consider when choosing a facility is the amount of medical care involvement the resident will receive.

“Find out if there are doctors or nurse practitioners on site or who have regularly scheduled appointments with residents,” Dr. Hitchcock said. “The more contact the resident has with healthcare professionals, the less likely they are to become hospitalized (during their stay).”

Family involvement with a resident of a nursing home is also helpful in keeping the patient content and healthy.

“Make sure the facility is close to you (family members),” she said. “Residents who have regular visitors do very well in a nursing home setting.”

Choosing a nursing home for a loved one is not always easy or pleasant, but Dr. Hitchcock says that if families come up with a game plan ahead of time, then the experience will be a lot easier for all involved.

“Children need to encourage their elderly parents to look at different facilities, even if they aren’t sick, and get an idea of where they might want to go if they ever needed to be placed in a nursing home,” she said. “If they know where they’re going, it will be a lot more positive experience.”

To view the nursing home checklist and additional information about choosing the right facility for your loved ones, go to http://www.medicare.gov/Nursing/Overview.asp.

Here are some additional questions to ask when taking a tour of a nursing home:

  1. What is the relationship between the staff and the residents?
  2. What is the ratio of LVNs and RNs to residents?
  3. What is the turnover rate of the staff?
  4. Are the staff members trained and certified to care for residents?
  5. Are their medical professionals who are dedicated to the nursing home?
  6. Are there licensed nurses available 24/7?
  7. Does the facility perform background checks on their employees?
  8. Will my loved one have to share a room?
  9. Do residents get time outside?
  10. Is physical therapy offered?

Questions courtesy of Linda Hitchcock, M.D.

About the author

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Jessa McClure holds a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, where she is currently an adviser for student publications. She has been a writer in the health care field since 2009.

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Tips on how to choose the right nursing home