What to Look for When Choosing a Nursing Home

Placing your loved one in a nursing home is always difficult. We worry whether our loved one will be cared for according to doctor’s orders, in a safe and clean environment, and with dignity and respect by competent caregivers. Nursing homes are required by federal and state law to do all those things for its residents. Before choosing a nursing home, it is crucial to do your homework.

Research is an important first step

An excellent starting point to help you locate the right nursing home for your loved one is Nursing Home Compare, anational database that compares all Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing homes nationwide on multiple topics that you should consider when choosing a facility.

Nursing Home Compare uses a 5-star rating system determined by results of unannounced health inspections, staffing information, and quality of care measurements.

Nursing Home Compare also contains general information about each facility and the last 3 inspection reports itemizing the number of deficiencies (or violations) found, details of each deficiency finding, whether the deficiencies have been corrected and whether a penalty or fine was assessed. Deficiencies are rated on a 1 to 4 scale based on the potential severity of harm, injury, impairment or death of a resident.

To access a current report on any Medicare or Medicaid-certified facility in the United States, follow this link to Nursing Home Compare at www.medicare.gov/care-compare/.

Once you find a facility that checks out on paper, schedule a visit

Many questions about quality of care and safety issues can be answered by visiting the facility in person. Nursing homes must comply with over 150 different regulations to ensure the safety and well being of your loved one.

Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions such as does the facility conduct criminal background checks on all employees? What is the staff and administration turnover rate? Is there enough staff to safely and effectively care for all the residents? Has the facility paid penalties in the last 3 years for health or safety violations? What safety systems are in place to keep residents with memory issues from wandering off the premises?

Nursing homes are entrusted with our loved ones’ lives and these are important questions to have answered when vetting a possible new home.

And if you like the nursing home on your first visit, visit again on a different day and time to observe different staff members interacting with residents.

Use this checklist when visiting each nursing facility to create your own side-by-side comparison.

Know your rights!

Nursing home residents are protected under federal and state law, but also have specific guaranteed rights as a resident of a Medicare or Medicaid-certified facility.

Your loved one has the right:

  • To be treated with respect and dignity;
  • To receive competent medical care according to the doctor’s care plan, and to be kept informed of and participate in all medical decisions, if possible;
  • To reside in safe, clean and comfortable surroundings;
  • To be free from abuse and neglect including physical, mental, sexual, verbal or financial abuse; https://beckerlaw.com/2014/01/29/recognize-signs-elder-abuse/
  • To have privacy during visits, on phone calls, and in mail and electronic communications, and to live privately with their spouse if both are residing in the same facility; and
  • To leave the nursing facility for visits.

For a more extensive list of nursing home residents’ rights, visit, Download the Resident Rights and Protections Section  from CMS.GOV.

Be an advocate for those who cannot protect themselves

Nursing home residents are some of our most vulnerable citizens and are easy targets for abuse and neglect. It is ultimately our responsibility to keep the caretakers of our elderly and disabled citizens in check.

The most important thing you can do once you choose a nursing home for your loved one is to visit often. Don’t come on the same day, at the same time. Vary visit days and times so staff does not expect you. This way you can get a more honest idea of how your loved one is being cared for and treated all the time. On each visit, observe your loved one’s physical and mental condition, the condition of their room, and how they interact with staff and caregivers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of caregivers and staff, and to expect answers. To learn how to recognize the signs of abuse, visit https://beckerlaw.com/legal-services/kentucky-nursing-home-abuse-lawyer/#CompareTool.

If at any time you suspect nursing home neglect or abuse, immediately notify the nursing home or call 911 in case of emergencies. Adult Protective Services are also available to help.

We also strongly recommend contacting your Kentucky Long-Term Care Ombudsman at ltcombudsman.org.

The Ombudsman’s office will act as your advocate and work to help solve problems with your nursing facility.

And if you or a loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, call the Becker Law Office. We are experienced attorneys in nursing home abuse and neglect cases, and can answer your questions to get the help you need to protect yourself and your loved ones.