How to Choose a Nursing Home

Choosing a Nursing Home

Choosing a Nursing Home

A move to a nursing home or assisted living is much more precarious of a move than simply switching apartments.  Not only must one consider location, price, and value; but also reputation, level of care, and legal ramifications.

It is highly recommended that a patient’s physician be brought in on the decision in order to establish and ensure that their needs will be adequately met.  To complicate matters further, sometimes the search must be undertaken during the stress of a hospital or rehabilitation center threatening discharge.

In order to make the transition a little easier, we have compiled some general guidelines for finding the perfect nursing home or assisted living program.

1.       Location: Establish the most reasonable distance the nursing home can comfortably be for your loved one.  One of the most important aspects involved in quality of life at a nursing home is the prospects of visits from family.  Care is also often better for patients who have family members involved in their lives.  Due to this, make it easy on your loved ones (or yourself) by picking a nursing home less than an hour away from family.

2.       Take a Tour: Contact the facility’s admissions office and request an informal meeting and tour of each facility.  Make sure to look beyond flashy lobbies and look instead for examples of interactions between staff and residents.  Ask for a brochure of the facility (make sure it includes admissions policies and the resident’s bill of rights) and ask for any addendums.  Asking for an informal meeting and tour will give you a rare opportunity to experience an unrehearsed setting.

3.       Meet the Caretakers: Speak with the nursing home administrator or members of the staff about care plans for patients.  It is important to speak with the people responsible for direct care, not just the hired marketing representative showing you around.

4.       Try the Food: Try and get a feel for the food service quality.  Eating is something that can make or break a nursing home experience.

5.       Ask for References: Try and get the names of both residents and family members if possible so you can ask about both sides of the nursing home experience.

6.       Do Your Research: Contact the Executive Office of Elder Affairs and ask to speak with the ombudsman that covers the facilities you are interested in.  Also contact the state Department of Public Health (in MA, ask for the Division of Health Care Quality at or call (617) 753-8000 and ask for the “Survey Performance Tool for Nursing Homes.”   Sometimes it is also possible to receive a copy of survey findings and complaint reports for the nursing homes you are looking into.

7.       Check Certifying Agency Reports: CareScout is an unbiased source for ratings and reviews of eldercare providers nationwide.  Another source for nursing home reports is HealthGrades.  For a fee, HealthGrades will provide you with a report that rates the nursing home and provides information on inspections and complaint investigations.  Also be sure to ask for a report that compares the nursing homes in your area if available.

To find out more about Massachusetts laws regarding nursing home patients and resident rights, contact a knowledgeable MA nursing home attorney like Adam Tobin to answer your questions.

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