What to Look for in a Nursing Home

When it comes time to think about moving an elderly loved one or friend into a nursing home, there are a lot of things that you should consider before coming to a decision. If possible, both you (as the caregiver) and the elder should be involved in the process. The more that the elder is able to participate in this process, the easier the transition will be.

Here are some things to be on the lookout for when visiting a potential choice, and some questions to ask about a myriad of things:

The Facility

  • Are there handrails along the walls?
  • Are doorways accessible via wheelchair?
  • Does the management take safety precautions to prevent falls down stairs?
  • Is the floor kept dry and free of trash?
  • Can the facility be easily evacuated in case of fire or other emergency?
  • Are fire extinguishers easy to locate?
  • Does the facility look to be clean?
  • Are there any lingering odors you notice?
  • Do the faucets, call buttons, telephones, and televisions work?
  • Are the heating and cooling systems adequate?

Staff and Care

  • Is the atmosphere pleasant?
  • Do the staff seem to genuinely enjoy working with residents?
  • Do staff seem to care about and respect the residents?
  • Are the residents treated as individuals?
  • Do staff seem interested in speaking to visitors or the residents?
  • Are your questions answered clearly, frankly, and in sufficient depth?
  • Do any other residents have conditions similar to your relative or friend?
  • Are residents clean and adequately dressed?
  • Are the residents’ rights posted clearly?
  • Are special diets available? What kinds?
  • Are planned, posted, and varied recreational and social activities available?
  • Do most people seem to be participating in the activity?
  • Do activities seem interesting and appropriate?
  • Does a resident have plenty of drinking water easily accessible?


  • Is the facility in good standing with state inspectors?
  • Are fees competitive?
  • Have fees increased significantly in the last several years?
  • Is the structure easy to understand and reasonable?
  • Does the institution readily reveal what services are covered in the quoted fee?
  • What services are extra?
  • Are Medicare and/or Medicaid accepted?
  • Are billing and accounting procedures understandable and acceptable?
  • Is transportation of patients provided?
  • Does a resident advisory council exist?
  • Are visiting hours reasonable?
  • Are therapeutic services available (like speech, physical, and occupational)?
  • Are social work services or other mental health services available?
  • Are community organizations (like libraries, church groups and volunteers) involved?
  • Do the charge nurses, social workers, department heads, and top-level administrators have geriatric experience and/or education?

While these are not all of the questions you might think of asking during your visit to a potential facility, these provide you with a good starting point as you think of questions that are important to you. Do take the time to see if a particular facility is able to meet the specific needs of your loved one. If so, then he or she has a higher chance of both greater health and happiness. If a facility does not meet your loved one’s specific needs, then it’s important to find one that does; this way your loved one will be well taken care of, and you can have peace of mind knowing you made the best choice in a tough situation.