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What to Look for When Choosing a Nursing Home Facility

Choosing a nursing home for yourself or a loved one is a very important decision. As a permanent residence for an older or disabled person, nursing homes have a major impact on a resident’s health, quality of life, and happiness. And with the risk of nursing home abuse being tragically high, it is all the more critical to carefully vet multiple nursing home options before choosing one. In this article, we’ll offer recommended steps you can take when looking for a nursing home in order to find one that is trustworthy and safe.

1. Licensing and Certification

In order to receive government funding from Medicaid, nursing homes must be licensed and certified by the state survey agency as a Medicaid Nursing Facility. This means that they meet a certain standard of care and are inspected on a yearly basis. 

If a licensed nursing home fails to meet a federal standard, it will receive a citation. A health inspection rating is calculated for each nursing home based on the findings of the yearly inspection and the number of citations. 

Choosing a licensed nursing home does not only mean that  Medicaid  may pay a significant portion of expenses associated with your care, but it also means that it follows certain standards and has a rating you can view as part of your process of choosing a facility. Note that whether, and the extent to which Medicaid will reimburse you for those expenses will depend on a variety of factors, including your overall eligibility, your income and assets, your state’s Medicaid reimbursement rates, and the type of care involved (e.g., short-term care or long-term care).

2. Accreditation

An accredited nursing home is one that has voluntarily submitted itself for review and approval by an external accreditation entity. Accredited nursing homes must meet established quality standards and regularly pass examinations in order to maintain accreditation. For this reason, accredited nursing homes are relatively rare and harder to find. Yet it may be worth it to seek them out, as studies indicate that nursing homes with accreditation perform better than those without, receiving fewer complaints and abuse allegations. 

3. Special Needs

Every nursing home patient has their own unique needs, and it’s important that you check to make sure that the facility you are considering is able to meet them. It is recommended to make a list of any special needs you may have and compare it to the nursing home’s offerings. This includes:

  • Special dietary needs
  • Special care for patients with dementia 
  • Age - Some nursing homes have a minimum admission age of 65
  • Hoisting
  • Suprapubic catheter care
  • Stoma care
  • Ventilator care

4. First Impression 

Another major factor that will likely play into your choice of nursing home is your first impression of the facility when you visit. In addition to the proper certifications and licenses, it’s important to choose a home that you or your loved one find welcoming and comfortable. When visiting a nursing home, take care to pay attention to the following:

  • The cleanliness and repair of the facility
  • The layout and navigability of the facility
  • The security of the facility including guards, keypads, locks, and cameras
  • The atmosphere of the common areas, including whether residents are socializing with one another or left on their own
  • The private rooms, bathrooms, and amenities 
  • The staff’s demeanor and communication 
  • What activities and services are available 

If you can, try to talk to some of the residents to hear their opinion about the nursing home, including what they like and dislike.

5. Online Reviews and Ratings

For more information about how other residents have found the nursing homes you are considering, do a Google search to see what kind of reviews and ratings are out there. While online reviews don’t always tell the complete picture, they can be an important data point in addition to the other factors on this list.

6. Miscellaneous Considerations 

In addition to the above, there are many other things that may play into your decision of which nursing home you want to choose, especially as everybody has different priorities and preferences. Some additional considerations you may want to keep in mind include:

  • Proximity of the facility to family and friends
  • Resident policies 
  • Whether or not residents are provided with transportation 
  • The ratio of staff members to residents
  • Types of meals served
  • Availability of preventative healthcare
  • Availability of flu shots
  • Oral and mental healthcare services
  • Medication policies, including what kind of medications are used for patients with dementia

It should be noted that many of these criteria will be addressed accreditation criteria for Medicaid certification. For example, if a nursing home does not maintain a minimum ratio of staff to residents, they will not be eligible to maintain their accreditation.  

Staying Safe in a Nursing Home

No matter how carefully you choose a nursing home, there is still a risk of nursing home abuse. That’s why it’s so important for nursing home residents and their loved ones to be aware of the different types of nursing home abuse and their warning signs. 

If you or somebody you care about has experienced nursing home abuse, please report it to the relevant authorities. Additionally, if you are interested in pursuing justice and receiving compensation, it is recommended that you contact an attorney with experience in pursuing  nursing home abuse  claims to review your case and discuss  your options.

Remember, no nursing home facility choice is permanent. If a facility is not working out for you – especially if you are seeing or experiencing neglectful or abusive conduct - do not hesitate to change to a different nursing home.

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