Checklist: Finding a Nursing Home for Your Elderly Parents

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Choosing a nursing home for your elderly mom or dad is one of the toughest decisions you will make as a caregiver. Moving into a nursing home or assisted living facility involves major changes in an elderly person's life -- and yours.

To help you find the best one you can, here is a list of basic questions to ask when you are choosing a nursing home for your elderly parents. Print a checklist for each nursing home you visit. Then, compare the lists, to help you select the best possible nursing home for your aging mom or dad.

To find elder care facilities in your local area, including nursing home, visit the Senior Care Directory on AgingCare.

Questions to Ask

  • Is the nursing home Medicare certified?
  • Is the nursing home accepting new patients and if so, what is the waiting period for admission?
  • How many beds are available?
  • Does the nursing home specialize in the disease that your parent suffers from (dementia, stroke, etc.)?
  • Is there a special Alzheimer's or dementia unit?
  • Is the staff licensed and certified?
  • Are background checks conducted on all employees?
  • Does the facility have an abuse prevention training program?
  • Does the facility have any complains or lawsuits filed against it?
  • How does the facility monitor for abuse?
  • Can residents make choices about their daily routine (if they are mentally capable)?
  • What are the visiting hours?
  • Does the nursing home meet your parent's cultural and religious needs?
  • Can residents bring personal items and furniture?
  • Are the common areas pleasant and comfortable?
  • Is there an outdoor area for recreation?
  • Is the dining room comfortable and quiet?
  • What menu options/special dietary needs are available?
  • Does the food and smell good and is it served at proper room temperatures?
  • Can residents continue to see their personal doctors?
  • Do residents have the same caregiver on a daily basis?
  • Is the facility fully staffed at nights and on the weekends?
  • Is there regular communication between families and administrators?
  • Are there medical professionals (doctors, nurses) on staff and what hours do they work?
  • Is there an arrangement with a local hospital for emergencies?
  • Are there handrails and grab bars throughout the facility?
  • Are exits clearly marked?
  • Are spills and accidents cleaned up quickly?
  • Are hallways well-lighted and clutter-free?
  • Are smoke detectors and sprinklers installed throughout?

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5 Comments

My parents live pretty far from family and they recently started developing some health problems. After talking to them, we convinced them to enter a nursing home. We've been looking for one in their area. I didn't realize there was so much to take into consideration. It makes a lot of sense, though. I like what you said about making sure background checks are conducted on the employees. It's comforting to know that the employees are trustworthy. Hopefully we can find a good nursing home for my parents!
Very informative!
Be careful of Medicare ratings, they are not based on inspections by Medicare, they are based on self-reporting by nursing homes. Our mother was ready to be discharged from a "5 Star" nursing home, having been successfully treated for a GI infection when the facility told the family she had developed a bedsore (pressure ulcer). These are preventable but if one develops, immediate and proper treatment is necessary and each of the four stages requires a different treatment protocol. Over a 6 week period the facility failed to stage it and provide proper treatment at an early stage. By the time they brought in a wound specialist at the family's insistence to evaluate the sore it was a stage four and the underlying bone had become infected. The suffering these sores cause is immense. After suffering needlessly for four months our mother died. The family did not know how serious a bedsore could be and the facility did not inform us. We did our own research and had to insist that the facility evaluate it and follow accepted practices in treating it, but we were too late. The facility reports zero incidence of pressure ulcers to Medicare. Medicare's ratings are meaningless due to self-reporting by nursing homes with no verification by Medicare.