The move to a nursing home is a major turning point for everyone involved. There are things you can do to make the transition easier.

Starting the Process of Choosing a Nursing Home

Determine Finances:  Organize the finances associated with the possible move, including income, savings, assets, health insurance and long term care insurance, if there is a policy in place. Then determine how and how much you’ll be able to pay for care.

Think about Medical or Special Needs: Certain illnesses, such as Parkinson’s, Dementia, Alzheimer’s and other health conditions may require special accommodations.Talk to your medical provider about special needs that may require special accommodations. These requirements will be on your checklist.

Remember, Location, Location, Location: A nursing home  that is most accessible to the most visitors, including family members and friends, is ideal.

Consider Individual Preferences: The viewpoint of the person who will be living in the nursing home is an important consideration. What does he or she want and need?

You may find this booklet from the Department of Health and Human Services to be extremely helpful.

These items will help you narrow down your list of places to visit and research

Once you have your criteria, you can develop your list through online research and checking a local phone book or publications.  The Nursing Home Compare site here offers both a comprehensive listing and a five-star quality rating system to assist in comparisons.

The New York State Department of Health provides consumers extensive information on choosing a nursing home here.

Selecting a Nursing Home

Once you have narrowed down choices to nursing homes in the right location and price range (or those that accept your insurance) do the following research on each home you’re considering:

Schedule your Visit: Contact each Admissions office. Obtain an application and schedule a visit the home. This handy Nursing Home Checklist from Medicare  can help you organize your visit. With check-offs for  staff, resident rooms, food, and more, it is a very useful decision making tool  when you are comparing multiple homes.

What to Look for When you Visit:

Speak with Nursing Home Staff:. Get a feel for their attitudes about providing care to residents. Is the patient the focus or are the things that make for smooth administration what drives the daily schedule? How much input do the residents and families have?

Speak to Residents: Get a sense of what they like and dislike about the home. You may also want to speak to residents’ families and the Resident Ombudsman (a neutral patient representative who can honestly answer questions and concerns).

Make Notes: Be sure to log  your personal experience when visiting. For example, do you consider the residence clean? Does the staff  greet residents by name?  Seem approachable?  Jot down your impressions immediately after the visit.

Check Comparison and Review Sites: Compare your impression to the reports on the Nursing Home Comparison website. For New York State you can see Inspection Results here. If you are reading consumer reviews, keep in mind that reviewers’ comfort with aging and healthcare will come into play, and elders’ experiences may vary even within the dame nursing home.

Other important questions to ask:

  • What religious services are offered?
  • Will staff be sensitive to any nontraditional family arrangements of the resident or their visitors?
  • Will feel comfortable visiting?
  • What special foods are offered? For example, is there kosher food?
  • What activities are offered?
  • What is the staff-to-resident ratio?
  • What is the policy on end-of-life care?
  • Is there a palliative care program? What does it involve?
  • What is the nursing home’s hospice affiliation?
  • What are the visiting policies?
  • Does the family physician or other health care providers have any insight to share?
When You Need to Make a Quick Decision:

Know that you are not alone.  Most nursing home admissions occur after an unplanned hospitalization.  When someone needs to move directly to a nursing home from the hospital, the hospital will provide you with a list of names to choose from . Sometimes there is pressure to take the first available nursing home opening.You do not have to opt for the first available vacancy. You have the right to choose.

Nursing homes are accustomed to a family’s need to make a quick decision,  so should accommodate your request for a guided visit and quick information.  Do not hesitate to ask to visit before you commit.

More about Choosing a Nursing Home