How we chose a nursing home for our mother

IN nursing home (also known as a skilled nursing facility) is for older retirees who can no longer cope with the tasks of daily living. It has trained nursing staff and caregivers with experience in caring for the elderly.

Nursing home services are comprehensive and, in addition to nursing care, include: 24-hour supervision and assistance with daily tasks, as well as all meals and recreational activities.

Some people enter a skilled nursing facility as an intermediate step on their way home after a hospital stay. They are there for only a week or two until they fully recover from any surgical procedures they have undergone.

These facilities are also used to provide respite for family carers who spend their time caring for an elderly parent. The father spends a week or more in a safe and professional environment where the person caring for him in his own home enjoys a vacation.

However, most nursing home residents live there permanently because they have physical or mental illnesses that require constant care and supervision. This is the case of my mother.

Choosing a nursing home can be very stressful for any retiree, as it was for my mother, who was unfortunately physically and mentally disabled.

Since a skilled nursing facility is likely to be your last permanent home on this planet, you must first plan ahead and consider all your actions for the long term. This was not possible for my mother. She had always expressed her opposition to entering a nursing home.

He had a fall, one of many, and ended up in the hospital. Until then she had refused to consider entering a nursing home. But his doctor didn’t want to discharge him back to his own home, so he had no choice.

Fortunately, my siblings and I had done a lot of research over the years before…as we knew from his poor physical health and increasingly evident dementia that going to a nursing home was inevitable.

We had already researched local nursing homes and knew which one we wanted for mom. Luckily, there was an opening.

This article is based on our experiences looking for a suitable home for our mom.

Deciding your best option

Being affected is not something sudden. It is happening gradually as we get older. We become less able to care for ourselves or our homes.

It was heartbreaking to witness my mother’s slow 5 year transition from a vibrant, very social and very energetic woman to a hunched over shuffling old lady.

Entry into a nursing home is only necessary in the last stage of this weakening process. In the early stages you have several options. These include:

  1. daily assistance of a caregiver who comes several times a week or every day to help you with your daily tasks
  2. having a resident caregiveroften a retired nurse, who can help with getting in and out of bed, washing, dressing, etc., as well as cooking, cleaning, and keeping the house tidy

  3. independent living communities where you live in an apartment complex with on-site facilities such as banks, gyms, fitness programs, a beauty salon and barbershop, a communal dining room, and even a doctor who makes regular rounds
  4. assisted living communities for seniors who need more support than they can get by living independently but who don’t need complex medical care on a daily basis…they usually offer meals, cleaning and planned activities, but no medical services.

Before choosing a nursing home, take some time to consider whether any of these options might be a better fit for you at this time.

My mother went through the first two of these stages over several years before her disabilities prevented her from staying at home.

Steps to choose a nursing home

When you make the decision yourself, you need the support of your family and close friends to make your decision.

Bring them into the option weighing process to help you make your final decision. Our entire family made the decision on behalf of our mother.

Consider your needs in the later years of your life (nursing care, physical therapy, special care needs, religious needs, physical decline, dementia care, etc.) when considering your options.

Once you have finally decided that you want or should enter a nursing home, these are the three basic steps to follow:

Step one

Do a thorough Google search and list all nursing homes in our area. We asked for recommendations from other seniors you know and trust.

second step

Research the quality of the nursing homes you are considering:

  • Check their websites for the facilities they offer.

  • Consult the inspection reports made by the nursing home regulatory agency, which you can find on the nursing home websites themselves or on the regulatory agency’s website.

  • Type the name of individual nursing homes into Google and search for comments from residents or others.

Next, list the houses in order of preference, that is, create a short list.

Step three

Visit the nursing homes on the short list.

If you’re checking out houses yourself, looking for a place to spend your later years, I suggest bringing a close friend or family member.

Or have someone you trust visit on your behalf.

Tours provide an opportunity to see residents, staff, and the home environment.


  • Before your visit, consider and decide what is important to you: nursing care, meals, therapy, a religious dimension, location near family and friends, etc.

  • Call ahead to make sure you’re received

  • Ask questions and make sure you get clear answers.

  • Ask the staff to explain anything you do not understand.

  • Ask who you should call if you have more questions

  • Get a copy of your standard contract so you can read it carefully later.

Take the checklist below with you to help you.

Make a second surprise visit to the facility without calling first. On this visit, try to arrive late in the morning or at noon, so that you can see the residents when they are going about their daily routines or at mealtimes.

I hope you find these tips useful.

My siblings and I undertook all of these investigations on our mother’s behalf, and as my mother’s attorney, I made the final decision based on what I knew of her wishes.

I can tell you now that it is quite a lot of work and quite a bit of time. However, it must be done correctly if the retiree is to be happy in his final home.

Here is a checklist I designed to help you when visiting a nursing home.


Nursing Home Checklist

Nursing Home Name: __________________________________________________________________

Date of first visit: __________________________________________________________________________

Who visited: ____________________________________________________________

Date of second visit: ____________________________________________________________

Who visited: ____________________________________________________________

Basic information

Is the nursing home registered with the appropriate regulatory body?




Have you reviewed the inspection reports?

Is there a brochure available?

Does the home have the necessary level of care?

Is there a bed available?

Is there a waiting list?

Can the nursing home provide care for people with special needs, eg dementia, disability, wandering residents?

Is the nursing home close enough for friends and family to visit?

Is the nursing home clean and well cared for?

Have you checked corners and carpets for embedded dirt?

Are the noise levels in common areas comfortable?

Is the temperature comfortable in the nursing home?

What are the arrangements for visits from family and friends?

Are there areas where residents can meet visitors in private?

Are care plan meetings with residents and family members held at convenient times, whenever possible?

Are residents allowed to make decisions about their daily routines?

Does each resident have storage space?

Are there smoke detectors in the rooms and hallways?

Are there policies and procedures in place to protect resident possessions?

Is the nursing home free of bad odors?

Does the nursing home accept residents who smoke?

Are there smoking rules and are they acceptable?

clinical care




What is the household management structure?

Does the home provide therapy services?

Are podiatry services provided?

What medical arrangements exist?

Under what circumstances does the center call the family or the doctor?

How are medical emergencies handled?

Does the nursing home have a policy on self-medication?

What are the arrangements to ensure that the assessed health needs are reviewed and met?





Is the relationship between staff and residents warm, polite and respectful?

Do all staff wear name badges?

Does the staff actively interact with the residents?

Does the nursing home do background checks on all staff?

Are the personnel numbers adequate?

What is the staff to resident ratio?

What is the ratio of qualified nurses per resident?

What is the ratio of caregivers to residents?

Does the home provide ongoing professional learning and training for staff?

Menus and Food

Do residents have a food option at each meal?

Do you provide special diets?

Are there menus available for you to look at?

Does staff help residents eat and drink at meals if necessary?

Is the dining room attractive, cheerful and comfortable?

Social activities

Is there a variety of social, cultural and educational activities?

Are residents free to choose to participate?

Does the nursing home offer the religious or cultural support you need?

Are arrangements made to accommodate religious worship?

Does the staff offer individual activities for residents who are confined to bed?

Does the nursing home have outdoor areas that residents can use?

Does the staff help residents get out?

Are you planning trips abroad?

What is done for parties and birthdays?

Is there a neighborhood committee?


What is and what is not included in the weekly or monthly rate?

Is a deposit required?

Are there payment plans available?

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