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How to Find a Great Nursing Home

May 29, 2012 at 8:30 AM

When it comes time to find the best nursing home for your loved one, it doesn't have to be an overwhelming experience. While some senior living facilities are adept at keeping their residents in good spirits and busy with activities, others neglect residents and overuse tranquilizing medications. It is crucial to know what separates a good nursing home from a bad one, according to elder care experts.

Most areas in the U.S. have local agencies on aging that will provide free referral services for finding the best nursing homes or assisted living facilities in your region. Also, many aging councils will connect you with long-term care providers, social services, and more.

Know Your Nursing Home Needs

Some facilities specialize in certain types of care. For example, a facility may focus on patients with dementia, but might not have proper resources for rehabilitative care. By identifying the specific needs of your family member, you'll have a better idea of what to look for in a senior living facility. Check with the staff to see if the home has any special programs or an area dedicated to any specific illness or need your loved one may have.

The best way to get an accurate feel for how any particular facility is run is to tour the building during day and evening shifts. Closely observe how the staff treats the residents. See if you can participate in any activities or mealtimes for a more complete picture of what daily life is like. A good number of daily activities should be scheduled. Also be sure to ask residents their opinion of how well they like the place.

Security is another item to look for. There ideally should be a front desk to sign in and out at. Crystal Cote, a social worker for the Northampton Council on Aging, agrees that there should be someone to greet you when you enter a nursing home and ask the purpose of your visit.

Cleanliness is Important

A clean building on the inside and outside is a good way to gauge the quality of a facility. According to Cote, a smell of urine in the building is "an automatic red flag." Make sure there isn't a build-up of trash or debris, and that the building is properly cared for. However, just because a building is brand new or adorned with fancy lighting fixtures doesn't necessarily make it a good facility. A clean but older building can just as easily be a great place for your family member.

Research Nursing Homes

Don't be afraid to ask questions. A reputable facility will gladly answer the toughest questions without making you feel pushy. You can also compare nursing homes online using our free service.  Ultimately it is up to you to decide what type of facility is most appropriate for your loved one. Whether it be a nursing home with around the clock care, or an independent living facility, what matters most is their individual needs.