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Checklist for Choosing a Nursing Home

How to Select a Nursing Home

Selecting a nursing home, or skilled nursing facility, for a parent or other loved one is not a responsibility anyone looks forward to.  It’s a decision fraught with emotion and full of complicated considerations making it especially challenging for someone to feel confident in their choice. Checklists, interviews, visits, and third-party reviews are all important parts in building confidence in one’s choice.

It can be a daunting task, but there are people who specialize in helping families find the right care option for the seniors they love. Oasis Senior Advisors can offer you guidance free of charge. Simply call us at 475.619.4123 or 914.356.1901 today to learn more.

Nursing Home Ratings – It’s in the Stars

It would be wonderful if there was a ranking of nursing homes.  A cut-and-dried list of nursing homes that rated each, one better than the other with a breakdown of what makes that so.  A star rating system administered by an outside agency would be comforting, especially if the nursing home one was considering had earned five stars.

Well, there is such a ranking.  It actually exists.  It can be found on  In 2009, the US government introduced a rating system intended to provide objective information to consumers looking for a quality nursing home. Using metrics and data overseen by the government, this system was meant to remove a lot of legwork and strain from families selecting a nursing home for a loved one.

But it’s not without its shortcomings.  Much of the data is self-reported.  This year, the New York Times conducted an in-depth investigation of the star system only to find that it was broken, too many nursing homes worked harder to improve their star ratings than their actual service provision.

Some of the findings from the Times investigation include:

• Homes that self-reported information that earned them a five-star rating were as likely to fail an on-site inspection as to pass it.

• The government rarely audits the data provided by nursing homes, so discrepancies in their reporting are not caught.

• Staffing is easily misrepresented.

• Accidents, health problems, and numbers of patients on antipsychotic medications are often unreported or underreported.

Still, there is value in the data and the rankings.  Despite any flaws in the reporting there are not likely to be any one or two-star nursing homes that would deserve a four or five-star rating.  It’s a safe bet to look past the one or two-star nursing homes.  Where to go from there?

A Checklist to Evaluate a Nursing Home

A comprehensive checklist for determining the suitability of a nursing home will help you consider topics that you may not think of on your own. Information regarding the categories below can be expanded upon using a checklist form we can make available to you.

  • Certification status (Medicaid and Medicare).  If a long term placement is the goal or even on the horizon, you may want to make sure the facility is Medicaid certified.  Those that aren’t only accept private pay for long term placement and at $400-$700/day that can be a pretty hefty bill in no time.  A Medicaid certified facility will accept Medicaid as a payor source for residents who qualify.
  • Dementia Unit.  If your loved one is living with dementia you may want to make sure the facility has a designated unit for dementia residents.  If it doesn’t someone with dementia will be living along side residents with higher care needs may not get a level of attention that would suit them best because they don’t have active clinical needs.
  • Activities and opportunities for exercise, companionship, excursions, social time, etc. What opportunities are there for someone to take their mind off their health troubles?  Even the shortest, most banal escapes can lift spirits and contribute to better emotional health.

Don’t base your choices on just one person’s or one website’s input. Always investigate for yourself and, if possible, make more than one visit to any place you are seriously considering. When speaking with the admissions administrators, floor nurses, aides and residents (if permitted) don’t simply use the checklist to ‘interrogate’; chat with people to gauge their mood in general.  Are they happy or stressed?

The question isn’t, “Which is the best Nursing Home?”, but “Which is the best one for your loved one?”.  You are the only one capable of answering that question and there’s a lot to consider in doing so.  It can be overwhelming.  Try to be strategic in using the guidance here to unearth the factors that are post pertinent to you loved one. Getting help from a certified senior advisor can be your first step. Reach out today to Oasis Senior Advisors and ask for a free consultation. We want you to feel confident in planning for your loved one. Call 475.619.4123 or 914.356.1901 today.

Oasis Senior Advisors


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Paul and Susan Doyle

Certified Senior Advisor®

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