When selecting a nursing home, the background research—while essential—isn’t enough. It’s also important to conduct a site visit to make sure the nursing home meets your expectations and is right for your parents.
What to look for
In order to get a full sense of how nursing homes operate, you should visit the homes twice: once during a weekday and once in the evening or on a weekend. It’s really not to your advantage to make a surprise visit, because the residents have a right to privacy, and nursing homes will not allow you to simply roam the halls. During the visit, you’ll want to trust your senses and instincts and look for the following:
When you visit a resident's room, does it feel like home? Are there personal effects in the room?
Is the staff interacting in a friendly manner with one another and the residents?
Is the home free of odors? Is it clean? Well-lit?
Is the temperature comfortable? Stop by a few rooms to see.
Are the residents well groomed? Are they dressed appropriately for the time of day?
Where are the residents? Are they in the halls, involved in group activities or staring at TV for great lengths of time? Or are they in their rooms appearing isolated?
Is there a wandering alert system?
Is there an activity calendar? Are there pictures on the bulletin boards showing recent activities? Are the activities interesting and varied?
How many volunteers do they have? Is there an active volunteer corps?
Are the bathrooms clean?
Are food trays left sitting out? Do you see a lot of leftover food on the trays?
Ask to see the menus. Does the food sound appetizing? Ask about the qualifications of the person who oversees the menus. Taste the food, if possible.
Are call buttons left unanswered for long periods of time?
Does the equipment look up-to-date and in good condition?
Is the outdoor area secure so that no one can wander off into an unsafe area?
Go to the dining room. Are residents enjoying themselves? Is it pleasant? Is the staff interacting with the residents?
Are the bed linens and towels cleaned daily? Ask what the laundry department does to prevent bedsores. (Poorly cleaned, starchy sheets and certain detergents can cause skin breakdown.)
Are soiled linens piled up in the hallways or in residents' rooms?
Are the showers clean? Look for safety devices to prevent falls.
Is fresh water easily accessible for residents – on night stands, for example?
You might want to make a copy of this list and check off each item as you go through the facility. Then, combine this information with the research you've done on survey reports, fall and incident reports, and conversations with the local ombudsman to help you choose the right nursing home.
The bottom line
It’s important to do a great deal of research when selecting a nursing home, including a site visit to see the premises and the residents yourself.
Be sure to visit the nursing home during the week, as well as on the weekend. The nursing home should accommodate appointments for you during both periods of time.
Trust your instincts during your site visit. Look for cleanliness, how well the residents are cared for, activities for the residents and more. You want to ensure your parents will be safe, well cared for and happy.