Choosing a nursing home for an elderly relative isn't easy

What to Look for When Touring a Nursing Home

by Paige Estigarribia


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If you're in the process of trying to choose a long-term care facility for a loved one, chances are you've wondered what exactly you should be looking for. We contacted Lisa Marie Chirico from Nursinghomeology to help us know what to consider when looking at nursing home options. Here's what she had to say.

Q: When is a good time to start touring nursing homes?

Ms. Chirico: Although most people agree that planning ahead for one's needs after retirement is a wise thing to do, not everyone is willing to create a plan for long-term care. When you are aware that you can no longer continue to care for your family member at home, and the assistance of skilled nursing is required, you should begin touring nursing homes. The decision to move a family member into long-term care is truly heartbreaking. For this reason, many caregivers put off this decision for as long as possible. The progression of a serious illness will often make care within the home no longer an option.

Q: Are there specific physical qualities that a caregiver can look for during a tour that he/she should take into consideration when deciding on a long-term care facility for a loved one?

Ms. Chirico: A good rule to go by is that looks can sometimes be deceiving. A long-term care facility may be modern and appear clean and well-staffed. Yet, there are other critical considerations. Do the residents seem to be content and properly cared for? Does the facility have appropriately trained staff to work with individuals who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer's disease? Do they offer all the services that you require like physical or occupational therapy? Finally, has the facility met state and federal licensing standards?


Q: And what about staff? Are there specific staff-related qualities that a caregiver can look for during a tour that he/she should take into consideration when deciding on a long-term care facility for a loved one?

Ms. Chirico: When observing staff, it is important to go beyond their good manners and ability to converse with you. Compassion is a necessary component in nursing home care. Observe the staff's interactions with the residents, as well as their demeanor. In addition, find out the nursing home's specific resident to certified nursing assistant (CNA) ratio during each shift. Also, ask the nursing home administrator and the director of nursing how often the facility is short-staffed and how that situation is dealt with when it arises.

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Q: What is the best way to include the patient in touring/deciding on a nursing home facility?

Ms. Chirico: The best way to include your family member when deciding on a nursing home is to discuss your top choices with him or her. Then, before making a final decision, tour these facilities together. Their feedback is critical and should always be taken into consideration.

Q: Is there anything in addition to a tour that you'd recommend when deciding on a nursing home facility?

Ms. Chirico: Using your intuition when making a decision about a nursing home is key! Do not base your decision merely on a tour or recommendations that you receive from friends and family. Another helpful tool for caregivers to utilize when making a decision about long-term care is Medicare's Nursing Home Compare website.


Lisa Marie Chirico is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. As a journalist and author, Lisa is also an Alzheimer's Advocate, Long-Term Care Advocate, and an Elder Care Specialist. She created the NursingHomeology website to provide guidance and support to everyone who is managing a loved one's care in a nursing home.

In addition to her practice as the Nursinghomeologist℠, Lisa helps people "turnthe lights on" in their lives through her work as a Certified Career Intuitive™ Coach at LifeA-Glow.com. Lisa also offers her free e-book Compassion to her Nursinghomeology website newsletter subscribers.

Paige Estigarribia is a writer for The Dollar Stretcher who enjoys writing about food, frugal living, and money-saving tips. Visit Paige on Google+.

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