Selecting the Right Nursing Home for a Loved One

Selecting a nursing home for a loved one is one of the most important and difficult decisions that you may be asked to make. This decision is usually made during a time of crisis, frequently when a family member is ready to leave the hospital after a serious illness or operation. It would be easier on everyone if this decision could be planned for. However this is usually not the case. Just remember, be nice to your kids… they are going to pick out your nursing home. The first issue to decide is whether or not you really need a nursing home (often referred to as Skilled Nursing Facilities or SNFs). Would some type of home services be adequate? This issue should be discussed with your physician, as well as other healthcare providers.

There are many types of services available for people who choose to remain at home, such as home health care, adult day care centers, respite care (where another person can provide the caregiver some relief to allow for shopping, errands, or just a little “down time”) and hospice in-home care. An option for those individuals who do not need the level of care that nursing homes provide is an Assisted Living Community. These communities provide many of the benefits of a skilled nursing facility but in a more home-like setting. They do not provide skilled nursing care, but will assist the resident in various activities such as dispensing medication, cleaning their room or apartment, providing meals, as well as various activities. Often the monthly cost of these communities is considerably less expensive than skilled nursing facilities, and may have special programs and special living arrangements for folks with cognitive impairments like dementia.

We have visited many of these communities and some are quite beautiful. Some are like five star hotels with lovely dining rooms, individual mini-apartments, beautiful grounds, and other amenities you would want for your loved ones. Once it has been determined that an individual needs care in a nursing home you should allow that person, if they are able, to be a part of the process of selecting a facility. Ask professionals in the field, friends or acquaintances who have been in a similar situation for information. The Connecticut State Agency on Aging has an Ombudsman program (Tennessee has the South Central Tennessee Development District in Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee) that can provide information on particular nursing homes, however you should also visit different homes to see what they are like. Talk to staff members, other residents and their families. You should visit each home more than once and at different times of the day. Ask if they have activities for the residents. Ask to see menus for daily meals.

Also, ask what the costs are at each home. Another thing you may want to do is to just walk around the home and observe the condition of the facility and the residents. Nursing homes have their own doctors. You should find out about the doctors, their credentials, how often they visit and if they are willing to meet with the family to discuss plans for treatment. Federal law requires that residents have the right to be free from restraints administered for the purpose of discipline or convenience and not required to treat medical conditions. If you see residents in restraints, you should question the facilities staff about the nursing home’s policy on restraints. Be sure to visit more than one nursing home before you decide. You can be on a waiting list at many homes and then choose the home you want. A little advanced planning can save you from having to make a quick decision when you are forced to find a nursing home in an emergency. – See more at:

Written by: George P. Guertin, Esq. Guertin and Guertin, LLC North Haven, Connecticut An ElderCare Matters Partner

18 thoughts on “Selecting the Right Nursing Home for a Loved One”

  1. We took a tour of a few different facilities. We took notes on the condition of the facility, the equipment and supplies used on the residents, and we observed how the nursing staff interacted with the residents. Interestingly enough, our favorite one was not the one we expected from our online research.

    1. Jenn, The final decision may lead to the one where Mom is happiest and you are most comfortable. The point is, of course, that you do have a choice, and the right to express your concerns and expect them to be considered. Thanks for your comment.
      Paul Plant

  2. Great post! Thank you for helping me understand how to choose the right nursing home for my loved one. I really like how you suggested to”…isit more than one nursing home before you decide. You can be on a waiting list at many homes and then choose the home you want. A little-advanced planning can save you from having to make a quick decision when you are forced to find a nursing home in an emergency.”. My parents were able to find a good nursing home for my grandma where she feels comfortable and she feels at home.

    1. Mr. Johnson
      Thank you for your insightful comments! As we all know (or will learn) this is a task for which there is not a lot of training. I trust you found our article helpful>
      Paul Plant

  3. My grandparents live far from us, and they reached a point where we needed to put them in a nursing home. My dad did lots of research and found a good place near them. At first my grandparents didn’t like it, but now they love it because their lives are made a little easier and they’ve made good friends with the staff and other elderly people. I think doing your research is the best thing you can do.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for visiting our blog. If you have suggestions re. topics or other matters we might include, please let us know.
      Paul Plant

  4. Thanks for posting your insights for choosing the right nursing home. My mother has been living with me for a while, but taking care of her has been more difficult now that I need to work a second job to pay for her medications. I probably have enough to send her to a nursing home, so that might be the best choice for her since they could probably give her the attention that she need. I’m glad that you mentioned how I could choose hospice in-home care for my mom. Hiring a nurse to take care of her at home would be nice so that she won’t have to move out, and my family can still see her every day.

    1. Ms. Wilson
      Thanks for your kind words. Remember that there could be some benefits available to her through the Medicaid program in your state. Availability of those funds will depend on her physical and financial conditions. An Elder Law Attorney should be ale to assist you in determining what, if any, benefits might be available for her. If you are near Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, we would be glad to speak with you. I am at 225 Mahr Ave., Lawrenceburg, TN; 931-762-7528;
      Paul Plant

  5. When you get old, there will be a high chance that you might have to go to a nursing home. Like you said, selecting the right home is very important. Now if it were for me, I would see about doing to a place that did their services well and had a good reputation within the community.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing! I especially like your tip about visiting during different parts of the day to see how the facility runs. When it comes to your parent or grandparent, you have to be absolutely sure that they are going to get the best care possible. Plus, I know that seniors would probably be happiest doing different activities. The stimulation of varied activities could help them stay alert!

  7. This is some great information, and I appreciate your suggestion to allow the senior to be part of the retirement home selection process. My mother is living alone, and I’m concerned about her declining health and her ability to care for herself. I would like to move her to a nursing home so she can get the care she needs, and I’ll be sure to include her in the selection process. Thanks for the great post!

  8. I know some friends who grandparents or aunts and uncles are getting old enough that they need to live in a retirement home. I would think that taking a tour of the facilities would be a great way to see how clean it is, and how it is operated. Another way is asking people around the area what place they would recommend.

  9. I like the suggestion to allow that person, if they are able, to be a part of the process of selecting a nursing home facility. This is a great way to help your loved one become comfortable with the possible change. Moving away from family or into an elderly home can be a stressful time for them. It is good to be aware of how your loved one is feeling so that you are not dismissing what they want for themselves. Thank you for you tips!

  10. It is really helpful to hear about the different options that are available in this type of situation. This makes it possible for me to set up the ideal situation for my grandmother. If I am going to make this decision, I think I will take a tour of whatever facility that I select. This would enable me to identify the lovely places that you described and ensure that my grandma will be comfortable. Thank you!

  11. Since my grandma is getting to the point where she needs more help, we were thinking about sending her to a nursing home to help her out. It’s interesting that you should look at their dining rooms and apartments to make sure. It would be really nice to see how nice they are.

  12. A friend of mine was telling me that his grandma needs to be moved to a care center to help with her Alzheimer’s, but they weren’t sure how to find the right one. I really like that you say to find out what the costs of each home are. It would be nice to make sure that he will be able to afford the care in the end.

  13. Great article and very well explained. I believe in professionals so this is a very useful article for everyone. Many thanks for your share.

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