Tips on Touring a Nursing Home

Happy female caretaker assisting senior man in using Zimmer frame at nursing home yard

There are many aspects that go into picking the right nursing home for a loved one. The process can seem overwhelming and difficult, but with these tips we’re hoping to ease some of your stress. These 10 tips are a great place to start when searching for a good nursing home.


#1.  Go with your Gut.  If something doesn’t look right or feel right, make a note of that.

#2.  You have the right to ask for and review the facility’s recent state survey.

#3.  The survey should be made available to all visitors.  If it isn’t, ask for it.  If they refuse, make a note of that questionable behavior.

#4.  Each state has different licensure requirements so be sure to ask for references in order to enhance what you are learning about the nursing home.

#5.  Go ahead and judge a book by it’s cover.  The exterior of a facility can tell you a lot about the inside as well.  If the grounds are damaged and unkempt, it is an indication that the staff members inside are not being treated well either.

#6.  Be aware that the state survey process is an objective tool:  the more destitute, financially unstable areas may not be scrutinized as hard.  Ultimately it is the state’s responsibility to ensure good housing options for all residents, therefore a home that is “not up to your standards” may be within the standards of the state simply based on location.

#7.  Tour a facility at two separate times.  Go during peak hours when the staff can show you around and the staffing is at its highest.  If you are happy with the outcome, go back. Go after hours, around 5-6 p.m. This will give you a clearer picture of what is going on when the staff is unsupervised and agenda oriented.

#8.  Remember that during a walking tour, isolated odors can be expected.  There is no way to avoid this.  However, if a smell “punches you in the face” when you first walk in or stays with you along your tour, note this as well.  It may indicate under-managed incontinence issues, housekeeping problems or distracted/ overworked staff.  Speaking of smells, when you go back for your 6 p.m. tour, what do you smell?  Does the dinner smell appetizing?  Are residents eating it?

#9.   Remember your rights to ask for the “staff to resident ratio.”  Know that most facilities are allowed to include ALL staff in this count, including those who work in laundry services, dietary and maintenance.  These folks make a facility run like a well-oiled machine but they are not direct care staff.  Ask for the ratio of “residents to direct care staff;” the bigger the number the better… and also ask for all three shifts.

#10.  Ask the manager, administrator or marketing director about the facility’s contingency plans in case of an emergency. This information is crucial.


A final tip:  do not wait for a crisis to make your decision. Start looking now; start asking questions and begin compiling your information.  You never know when crisis will strike…  and your loved one will benefit from your informed decisions. From: Catherine Braxton, C.E.O. of Silver Dawn Training Institute, Michigan, USA.

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