How to Evaluate and Choose a Nursing Home
Choosing a nursing home for an elderly loved one is a tough process full of big decisions for your whole family. From my professional perspective in both nursing and law, here are the top three considerations that can help you make the right choice:
1. Research the facility’s reputation
Your very first stop, in my opinion, should be the Nursing Home Compare website run by the US Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. About a year ago, CMS made some sweeping changes to improve its rating system on this website (here’s a summary of those changes). You should also ask the nursing home if it does criminal background checks on prospective staff. And make sure to review your legal rights as a patient or caregiver.
2. Ask about specialty services
Every resident has different medical and lifestyle needs. What’s most important to your parent or loved one? Maybe you’re worried about your mom wandering out of her room because of her Alzheimer’s. Maybe your biggest concern is the availability of diabetes-friendly menus and blood sugar monitoring. Or maybe you want to make sure your dad gets his dialysis treatments in-house instead of being transported to another facility. Ask the nursing staff about how they handle the necessary special services.
3. See the place for yourself
Research and questions can only get you so far. The best way to know whether your loved one will be comfortable and well cared for is to visit the nursing home. Meet the staff and caregivers—taking time to speak with everyone from housekeeping staff to nurses to other family members will give you a fuller picture than the one you get from the admissions staff. Taste the food during mealtime, walk the halls, and talk to other people you meet. Observe how residents pass the time, and whether they look content. Would you trust your own care to this place?
P.S. Once you’ve done your research, be sure to thoroughly read the contract before you commit! I’ve been talking a lot lately about mandatory arbitration in the context of nursing homes. The best way you can protect your family is to be prepared. You might want to take a look at my tips for handling arbitration clauses when you’re reviewing an admission contract.