Choosing the Right Nursing Home for your Parent

Tue, Jul 19, 2011

Elder Law, General Legal Issues

What should you consider when choosing a nursing home for your parent? There is much to consider including costs, insurance coverage, location, staff, doctors, services, amenities, the patient’s condition, and much more. It is an overwhelming process to be sure.

Nursing homes can also be called long-term health care facilities, skilled nursing facilities or assisted living facilities. Often the name is irrelevant, but it is best to determine the correct type of home for your parent. A consult with your parent’s doctor is the first place to start. Take some time to determine the level of care your parent needs. In addition, be sure you understand all of their health problems and are aware of any other specific needs your parent has or the doctor recommends you consider. Since your parent could be in a nursing home the rest of their life, it can be best to be forward thinking about their long-term care. For example:

  • Will their condition deteriorate rapidly or is it a slow onset situation?
  • Can they still participate in activities or benefit from group areas?
  • Do they need any specialized care or will they in the future?

Once you have the details on what type of facility your parent requires, it is time to do some personal visits. One of the best ways to choose facilities to tour is by doing some research through doctors, attorneys, friends, and the internet. Florida’s AHCA (Florida Agency for Health Care Administration) has a wonderful resource for checking out homes located online at

Once you have picked at least three homes to tour, set up tours at various times of day. You will want to see a true representation of how the residents live—so you might want to see them at lunch, during the early morning, or right before bed. Of course, the times you are available to tour depend on the facility but most should be willing to work with your schedule and they should all be willing to accommodate one or more tours. Be wary of facilities that put severe restrictions on tours without proper reason, as they may have something to hide. If there are activities at a facility that your parent might enjoy, see if you can observe one of those. While you are touring make sure you pay attention to the facility’s cleanliness, noise level, staff, grounds, and overall atmosphere. Will your parent be comfortable here? Are the current patients happy here and are you allowed to speak with them? If religion is of importance, do they offer any religious services? Be sure and ask questions about the staff-to-patient ratio and the staff’s training and education level. Other important questions include the price of the facility, what insurance they take, and how they will handle a worsening or changing condition.

Once you find a facility you really like, SmithLaw suggests you make an unannounced visit so you can get an accurate view of the facility’s day-to-day operations. If possible, and advisable by a doctor, it would be good to bring your parent with you on another visit so they can view the facility. Make sure you can work with the office staff also, as they will be important points of contact and imperative to the financial aspect of your parent’s care. It is also best to double-check about payment and insurance to be sure it works with your financial situation.


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