The idea of nursing home placement is something most of us don’t even want to consider at first. However, we can’t all offer full-time in-home care and nursing homes or care homes can really be the best option when someone needs 24-hour, high-quality care.

This decision will be much easier if you give yourself time to research the nursing homes that will best match the needs of the individual and family for long-term care. During this time, the idea of nursing home placement at a skilled nursing facility can be gradually accepted so that everyone can adjust to it properly.

Unfortunately, most people don’t get much time to make this decision. There is often a rapid change in the individual’s mental or physical health that requires immediate placement. Other times, the placement begins when the individual needs to stay in a nursing home while they recover from a surgery.

If your loved one can still make choices or discuss their wishes clearly, it is very important that you acknowledge their opinion and act accordingly. However, if an impairment has caused this level of thought to be difficult for your loved one, you need to be ready to make decisions on their behalf.

Making the final decision on nursing home care placement will inevitably come with some challenges. It is an emotional time and opinions may differ greatly between the individual requiring care, yourself, and other family members. A professional, such as a social worker or doctor, can be very helpful in these situations.

Whether you are looking for nursing or care homes yourself or on the behalf of a loved one for long-term care, these key points will help you make the best decision possible:

Location and Size

When considering different nursing home care, location is one of the most important factors to consider. If you’re the one needing care, you will want to be as close to your family as possible. If you’re looking at nursing homes for a loved one, you should be able to easily visit your loved one frequently.

Although a 45-minute drive might seem ok at first, you need to think about what it will be like making that drive after a long day at work. If the nursing home isn’t close to you, it should be close to another trusted family member that is willing to be there to support your loved one. The size of the nursing home is also extremely important.

It should be based on the unique personality and preferences of the person that needs care. For example, you can ask yourself or your loved one questions like this:

Is this person more introverted and quiet or social and outgoing?

Would a place with a lot of other people around provide a better environment for this person?

Are there places where he or she can get outside and walk around? If so, are these places easily accessible and safe?

Does the facility have enough room to offer quiet areas and activity spaces so that residents can decide what they want to do at any given time?


Though they all offer a long-term care, different nursing homes offer many different services and health care, so it is crucial to find out which ones are provided by the homes you’re considering.

While some services are essential for meeting the specific needs of the resident, others are just as important for improving their quality of life. For example, the meal and dining experience have been shown to make a big difference in the overall satisfaction of nursing home residents.


That’s why you should always visit the home during mealtime before making a final decision. During your visit, you should check to see if the residents get to choose between different options for their meals.

Ask someone if they provide options for special dietary needs and if they offer nutritious snacks when residents ask for them. If needed, do they help residents drink and eat during mealtime?

Besides mealtime, there are other activities that can make the residents’ experience better. The best nursing homes allow their residents to play a role in the planning and selection of these activities.

Special health care services should also be available for different patient needs. For example, if the individual needing care has dementia, you should choose a place with a specialized unit to care for dementia patients. If they need rehabilitation, it would be helpful to have a rehabilitation unit on-site.


The staff members at a nursing home are going to be the ones ensuring your loved one’s safety and their attitude, expertise, and professionalism is extremely important. You should always ask plenty of questions and spend some time observing the staff before making a decision.

While you observe, you should look for staff who possess skilled nursing care and personal care, but also demonstrate a polite, warm and respectful relationship between the staff and the resident. You can also see if the staff knocks on residents doors before entering and if they call residents by their name.

Things You Should Consider When It Comes to Nursing Home Staff:

  • Do the staff have easy access to continuing education and training programs at the nursing home?
  • Check with the administrators to ensure that the nursing home does not hire people with skilled nursing care that have any record of mistreatment or neglect in the nurse aide registry
  • There should be a licensed nurse at the facility at all hours of every day. There should also be a registered nurse or RN, there at least 8 hours daily
  • Make sure that the nurses and nursing assistants will work with you (or your loved one) to ensure your needs are met
  • Keep an eye out for nursing homes with a lot of turnover, especially in the administrative ranks. This can be a sign of underlying problems

Choices and Independence

Moving to a nursing home is a scary experience for most individuals. They often feel like they want their freedom to make their own choices. While it is true that they cannot do many of the things they used to do, some aspects of their lives can, and should, remain up to them as long as they are mentally capable.

This is something that should be considered during the decision-making process. Choices like what side item they want to eat, what activity they want to participate in, when they go to bed and wake up, what shows they watch and more help residents feel more comfortable and happy in nursing homes. If the individual receiving care is still mentally healthy, the last place you want to put them is a home where their every move is controlled by the staff.

Red Flags

So, we’ve discussed some of the most important things to consider when searching for a nursing home. But what about the most important to watch out for? These things represent red flags among poor nursing homes:

A Poor Violation History

Although both state and federal agencies place strict regulations on nursing homes, there are still some bad eggs out there. You can find the nursing homes with bad reputations for care by doing a little research online. offers a very helpful search tool that provides reports on different nursing homes based on ZIP code. They rate these facilities on factors such as staffing violations, health inspections and more. If the nursing home you’re interested in isn’t showing many stars, you should take a look at the home’s full report.

There are many other great search engines like those provided by ProPublica and US News that can be very helpful tools for choosing the right nursing home in your area.

Severe Violations

While you’re likely to find some minor violations for many nursing homes you consider, it is important to understand that the severity of the violations make a big difference. For example, a nursing home could have a violation for allowing a resident to wander off the campus.

That is a very dangerous situation. On the other hand, they could have a violation for incorrect placement of soap dispensers or for having a cobweb in their basement. If the nursing home you like best has a few minor violations, just make sure you ask the administrator what they have done to fix those issues.

Incompetent or Inaccessible Administrators

The nursing home’s administrator will not only play a major role in the care of you or your loved one, they will also serve as your primary contact for years to come. If you have trouble getting in touch with the administrator, it can be a big signal for you to look somewhere else. Also, if the nursing home’s staff says they are stressed or overworked, it is also a red flag for a poor administrator. An incompetent administrator can make the entire facility ineffective.

A Bad Feeling in Your Gut

You’ve heard it said many times, “trust your gut!” This applies to this decision just as much if not more than others. There will be some nursing homes that you just know aren’t the right place. From the cleanliness of the facilities to the respectfulness of the staff and even the smell, your impression of the place, in general, does matter.

While choosing the right nursing home is always a challenging process, these issues can help you avoid the true nightmare that some people experience. After all, the care of you or your loved one is a very important matter that deserves time and attention. Do your research, follow these tips and stay positive. You’ll find the perfect nursing home soon.



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