Choosing the Right Nursing Home

August 19, 2015



by Dollar, Burns & Becker

The question I am asked more than any other is, “How do I choose the very best place for my family member or close friend who needs to move out of their home and into a facility that offers assistance?” It’s a good question, frankly, because it is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make.

The good news is, it’s not as daunting as you may think. There are resources you can rely on to make the decision more clear. Our federal government regulates the nursing home industry, and provides research you can use to make an informed decision. This is one of those times your tax dollars really do work to your benefit.

If you visit Medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare, you’ll find incredibly useful information about every nursing or convalescent facility in your area, to help you make a truly informed decision.

Noting the differences in facilities is important. You can compare their size, overall ratings, and how they were rated on government-mandated health inspections by the Department of Health & Senior Services. You will also be able to see their staff-to-resident ratio and quality measures. Most importantly, you can see if any complaints have been lodged against them and, if so, how many, over what period of time, and what was done to resolve the complaint.

Some things to consider:

  • Independent vs. chain – Many of my clients have had success with smaller, locally run homes that have an established track record.
  • Small vs. large – I think smaller is better as long as there is a good staff-to-resident ratio.
  • Nonprofit vs. for profit – Because they are not driven by profit, I’ve found nonprofit facilities may be less likely to cut corners.
  • Religious vs. non-religious – In my experience, I’ve found that nursing homes with a religious affiliation tend to have better care than those that do not. It’s not true in every case, but generally speaking it seems to work that way.

Even if you don’t immediately find the perfect place, hopefully you will feel better knowing the real story about how the facilities in your area operate now and in the past.

I suggest narrowing your choices to three or four, then visiting them in person to give them your own “eye test.” Visit with their administrators and ask questions. Trust your intuition.

Personal experience and references are also incredibly valuable. Talk to friends or people you know about what experiences they’ve had with their family members.

And remember, I’m here to help you, too. I have seen the good and the bad here and all over the country. I am passionate about doing everything I can to ensure our elders have a really good experience moving to a place where they can get the support they need. Isn’t that something we all deserve? This is one decision where you want to be as well informed as you can be.