Advice When Visiting a Nursing Home

It can be hard to decide if a nursing home is right for you or your loved one just by thinking about what is important and doing research. A visit to the nursing home is very important before making a final decision. Make sure that you are satisfied with the facility before you let your loved one go there or you go there yourself.

You may want to visit several different nursing homes, then go back for a second visit to a few after you have narrowed the list. You may want to consider making a second visit unannounced, and at a different time from the previous visit—for instance, one in the midmorning and one in the evening. Remember, it is the job of the representative to sell you on the facility. It is your job to ask the right questions.

Use your senses.

The most important thing during the visit is to look around. Do the residents look like they are being well cared for? Are they out of bed? Are they participating in activities? Are things clean and tidy? Are the residents interacting with each other?

How does the nursing home smell? Are there unpleasant odors?

How does the place feel to you? Trust your instincts. Do residents look happy? Do there seem to be positive interactions between residents and staff? Do the staff look happy? Does there seem to be a sense of community?

What sounds do you hear? Is there a lot of noise in the halls? This can keep your loved one from sleeping, which can lead to confusion and delirium. Are patients crying out? How are the nurses and staff verbally responding? Are they respectful?

Meet with people. Specifically you will want to meet with the administrator and nursing director. Meeting with physical and occupational therapists may also be important if they will play a role in your or your loved one’s recovery. As well, if there are specific needs, such as wound care, make sure there is a certified wound care nurse and meet with him or her. You will also want to make sure there is a social worker or other resource available who can help navigate the finances, such as billing insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Especially for long-stay nursing homes, ask to meet with a representative from the family council. Ask this person about the nursing home culture, responsiveness of staff and administrators, and overall quality of life at the nursing home. You may also ask this person specific questions related to any aspect of life at the nursing home that is particularly important for your loved one.

Ask to visit a typical resident’s room, the gym, community room, dining room, and any other space that is important. Are the areas spacious, clean and well furnished?

Ask questions. After talking with your loved one about what is important to him or her, ask specifically about these things. Use the resources on this website for short-stay nursing homes and long-stay nursing homes to guide your questions.

Be sure and ask about costs. Ask what is included and what is not included. Ask about levels of service or amenities and their costs. Do not assume that something is included in the basic cost of room and board, because it may not be. You may be surprised to find that things like wound care or special meals are not included in the basic cost.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has a website called Nursing Home Compare. If any of the measures for the nursing home are 3 stars or less, ask about it. Ask what is being done to improve the nursing home. Ask if the nursing home has been fined or if there have been penalties.

If you see this symbol Abuse Iconbeside the name of a nursing home on CMS Nursing Home Compare, that means the nursing home has been cited for resident harm, abuse, or neglect. Ask about this. Ask what has been done to correct the problem and what measures are currently in place to prevent it from happening again.