Personal independence is invaluable to many seniors, but there comes a time that assisted living is necessary. If you’ve had the nursing home conversation and decided one is necessary, the next step is finding one. Finding the right nursing home is essential for avoiding the horror stories we hear far too often on the news. Luckily, there are ways you can investigate skilled nursing facilities in your area.

Selecting a care facility is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. You’ll be trusting this facility with your health and happiness, and often paying a tidy sum while doing so. So, making a shrewd decision becomes important.

Narrowing It Down

When you first begin considering skilled nursing homes, you may seem spoilt for choice. This is where preliminary research will aid you. There are several tools you can use to help you research local nursing homes.

One of the finest options you have comes directly from Their “Find a nursing home” search allows you to find every nursing home within a defined distance. Each facility has a profile with official ratings created by the Medicare program. From these profiles, you can read up on previous health inspection ratings, staffing information, and any penalties or fines the nursing home incurred within the last three years. You can even directly compare up to three nursing homes right on the page.

Companies like Member of the Family, LLC, can help you delve even further into these nursing homes. While they do charge for their reports, they cover a wide range of topics. You can also check with a long-term care ombudsman. These are professionals and volunteers trained to advocate for seniors and assist them with receiving quality care.

One of the services they can provide information on nearby nursing homes. Speaking with friends and family who have been in similar situations can also be an effective method to learn more.

Visiting Your Picks

Once you have made a shortlist of promising nursing homes, it’s time to schedule a visit. You can research all you want, but nothing can replace actually seeing the location. You can schedule a tour by calling the facility’s offices and speaking with someone in admissions. Most homes will be happy to show you their facilities. Once a tour is scheduled, prepare some questions and things to keep an eye out for. Some important questions to ask during your tour are:

  • What services do you provide?
  • What is your staff to resident ratio?
  • How much time does staff spend with residents each day?
  • What activities are there for seniors?
  • Ask if you can see their schedule of events. Good nursing homes will have a daily calendar.
  • What happens if I can’t afford services? Are you Medicaid-certified?
  • May I see or try a meal from your kitchen?

While touring the halls, keep your eyes and ears peeled. And your nose, for that matter. If it smells bad or off while on tour, that can point to a lack of cleanliness or attentiveness to resident welfare. The rooms and common areas you see should be well lit, clean, and welcoming.

While observing the facilities, make sure to watch the staff. Are they attentive and helpful? How do they speak to the residents? Are they respectful? If a resident calls for assistance, how long does it take for a staff member to help them? Even after you select a facility, be mindful of these attributes for future visits (if you’re loved one is the one entering the facility).

Analyzing the Fine Print

Eventually, you’ll narrow it down to one nursing home. At this point, the paperwork will start. Chief among these is the nursing home agreement, or contract.

Before you sign the contract, there are a couple of provisions that you should be aware of. A contract may require that you select a “responsible party” or guarantor. If someone other than the resident is chosen, the nursing home could require payment from a third party. Nursing homes are prohibited from requiring payment from anyone other than the resident, so don’t sign a contract with this option unless your circumstances call for it.

Other provisions like waivers of liability or arbitration provisions cannot legally be included in the agreement, either. If you see any of these in the contract, ask that they be removed. Agreements should also note an inventory of resident’s personal property, the things they brought to the facility themselves. It may be worth having a lawyer look over the agreement before signing it, as there is a long list of dos and don’ts when it comes to these contracts.

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Most importantly, take your time making these decisions. Don’t let anyone who’s not your primary care physician rush you into this choice. Only make the decision when you’re comfortable that you’ve made the choice. The right nursing home can be a respite to you, a safe place to recover and enjoy your life while your medical needs are taken care of. Take your time, and find the one that fits your needs and wants best.

Further Reading

AARP — Comparing Nursing Homes — The Nursing Home Checklist