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Finding a Nursing Home

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As a prelude to beginning this journey, here are a couple of reminders:

  • Don’t rush the process. Remember your own children are watching how you care for your parents, and probably will consider using some of the very techniques you use to help them when and if that day comes for you to move.
  • Don’t do this alone. Find a support system for yourself, a group of individuals who will be there for you ‘in the trenches’ when you need to let your hair down; a group of people who will not judge you but who will hold you accountable to keep pressing in to help find better care for your loved one.
  • Don’t have loose lips. Please weigh your words wisely around your loved one. I remember when one of my relatives was recovering in a hospital, and within earshot of my relative, the group of well-meaning-but-careless people mentioned how it might ‘do her good to be PUT into a nursing home’. Well, upon hearing THAT my recuperating relative lost her fight and shortly died. To me, ‘putting someone into a home’ is akin to not caring about an individual’s needs or wants, while just presuming that your decisions are better than what your loved one really knows, anyway.
  • Don’t carelessly disrespect your loved one. Learn to develop the attitude of working WITH your loved one in finding a more suitable place to live. Make them part of the process as far as possible, don’t just present them with the outcome of the decision.




1. Do your best to stay close to home.

It is far easier to visit the individual and keep a watchful eye and ear and nose on the treatment the person is receiving when the nursing home is within suitable driving distance from home. Constant visits to your loved one will be red flags to all workers that she has an advocate for the quality of her life, and they will be more responsive to her needs.

2. Check out the Web for finding a nursing home.

There are many websites out there, but for this article, I have chosen two:

  • Concerning Aging. Not only can you locate Nursing Homes within a particular county on this site, but you can see any complaints lodged against the Homes, and sign up via email to be notified of any updates concerning a particular home.
  • Medicare. This site may be a bit more helpful to those members of your support team who are able to and willing to visit your loved one on a periodic basis because it allows you to select the distance between their city and the Nursing Home. Also, it has a rating for various services provided at each nursing home. (I do, though, need to caution you about taking these ratings at face value as some facilities may well know in advance when they are going to be inspected, and thus spruce up their facility for the inspection.)

3. Contact an elder service Provider.

  • Get their feedback on the nursing homes you found, and listen to their advice for what still may be out there. Of the ones that I called, I was only personally allowed to spend time talking with one service: A Place for Mom. From this interview, I learned that though they have been able to find a place for a loved one within one day, on the average it takes 45 days of searching. Not only is this service free, but they also have a forum page where you can search out concerns you have, or even post a question to the community.
  • The Web, though, has many other such services, so if you and the particular elder service provider are not ‘hitting it off’, just bow out and select someone else. Another reason that you may want to select another provider is that not every provider has ALL the nursing homes in their database.

4. Money isn’t everything, but it does help.

Nursing Home costs average near $200 per day. Check out this site so as to help keep your priorities in line on this matter.

5. Keep your eyes, noses, and ears open.

Here is a checklist that can be used in conjunction with the following items (I have created an Excel spreadsheet of this checklist that I will send to you if you contact me through my blog, Dismantling Disabilities):

  • Cleanliness. Does it smell clean, look clean, feel clean? What is the cleaning schedule? Are the Staff and the residents clean looking? Is there a cleaning service, and does it cost extra?
  • Contentment. What activities do you see or hear people talking about? Do the Staff and the Residents enjoy them? Is there a way to sign up for these activities? Are there outings, church services, barbers, a reading area, a television area? Do Staff interact well with one another? Is Administration available to meet with you? Will you be able to have a say in selecting your loved one’s roommate?
  • Outside the Home. Do you see chairs outside that are easily accessible? Is there a shelter to go to in case of inclement weather? Do you feel comfortable sitting in this area? Do you smell cigarette smoke?
  • Meals. Is the food appealing to the eye and palate? Do you like the taste and smell of the meal? What happens if you don’t like the meal: are there options? Can a resident eat in his room? What are the seating arrangements? Is the dining room an inviting place to eat? It is clean?
  • Safety. Do you see safety bars adequately placed in the hallways, bathrooms, bedrooms, community rooms? Are there safety pull strings in strategic places? What is the Staff-to-Resident ratio during each shift? How are medications administered? Are windows easily opened to the outside? What type of alarm system do they have to make sure that people who wander don’t hurt themselves?
  • Moving. It just may turn out that your loved one wants to or needs to move, so what is the moving out policy? Do you think your loved one can handle this?
  • Instincts. Would you like living here yourself? Would you like your children telling you that they have found this home for you to live for a time? If not, why not? Are these reasons substantial enough for you to look elsewhere?

Finishing the Journey

Some final pointers from my heart to yours:

  • Don’t become consumed with this process. Sure it will take time and effort and help from your supporters, but this should not force you into a Messiah type complex, the ‘if-I-don’t-do-it-no-one-else-will’ type of thinking.
  • Don’t let this PART of your life define who you are as a person. Sure it is important, and sure you will want to do the best job, but your life encapsulates a lot more than this: your family, your friends, your hobbies, your work, your dreams, your likes.
  • Don’t forget about respite for yourself. Don’t put your life on hold because you are helping a loved one find a place that can better give him the quality of care he needs. You need to DAILY find that quality of care that YOU need. Sure you have to change your schedule around to accommodate helping your loved one, but don’t throw everything else out the window in the process.

Personal Reflections

In my 25+ years of volunteering at local nursing homes, I have seen individuals who have been left alone a lot, and I have seen those people who have had much caring support from family and friends. The difference between these two groups was and is astonishing. The sense of unity that families and friends and loved ones gave and received was love in action, and that is something that you can do now for your loved ones.

These families and friends that provided caring support did not have all the answers, but they cared enough to give of themselves, and you too can do this.

It is a hard road, but others have been on it, and you can learn from their journey.

Remember that you don’t have to do this alone. If I can provide further assistance, please contact me via my blog, Dismantling Disabilities.

Blessings on your journey!

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About Michael De Rosa

  • Amy, Glad tips like these are helpful.

    How is your grandma now doing?

  • Amy Everpean

    I Love these tips! It’s so nice to have some tips to keep in mind when searching for a good nursing home. We recently were searching for a new nursing home for my grandma and thanks to some tips from Senior Transition Guide we finally found what we were looking for. Keep up the good work, and thanks for helping people who read this post!

  • Hi Brad,
    Interesting comment. Just shooting from the hip here, but I would say they might well be upset because of the increased costs of insurances like long term and health care.

    That is why I am grateful for elder-care services that can help one through this time.

    It is not easy, though, no matter how you look at it.

  • Brad Johnson

    Great to see a nice article. Do you think the attitude of seniors looking for care has changed due to the decline of the U.S. economy? I am sure it has affect the retirement/care plans for many.

  • I sent you a message to your email. Please let me know if you get it.



  • Hi Michael,

    Anytime! I read your blog, passion-4-life.com, would you be interested in guest blogging or partnering in some other capacity? [Personal contact info deleted]

    Thanks again!

  • ALC,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


  • Assisted Living


    You are not alone in your sentiment. However; it should be noted for seniors looking for alternative living to maintaining their own home nursing homes/skilled nursing is for elderly that can no longer take care of themselves.

    For many seniors independent living, assisted living is a better choice. The staff encourages residents to live as independently as possible.

    No one imagines themselves being placed in a “home”, ideally you live with family and are well taken care of.

    I hope you live out your final years comfortably surrounded by the ones you love, like we all hope to be.


  • OK

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Michael –

    I am a strong Christian. It’s not unusual for me to go to Church the proverbial every-day-of-the-week-and-twice-on-Sunday. Most of those who claim Christianity would not agree with my beliefs…but that’s the nature of humanity, I suppose.

  • Glenn,

    Thank you for your very candid reply. Your very concerns are some of the very reasons I have written the article.

    To be able to live your years out with family members would be a blessing, as it sounds like it was with your wife’s grandmother.

    Regardless of what your future will be like, Glenn, may I encourage you to trust it to a loving God? Personally, I have had my share of hopes dashed, but have always found great comfort through those dark times because I knew that God cared

    Again, thank you for the time you took to reply



  • Glenn Contrarian

    Michael –

    I’ve often told my sons that if they were about to put me in a nursing home, to just take me out in the woods and leave me there instead. If ever I find myself in a nursing home, the first thing I will do is to find the nearest fire alarm. I will use every means at my disposal to escape, for to my mind the choice is clear – escape or die a lonely, miserable death.

    I’m not saying this to be snarky or rude, but I truly fear being imprisoned in such a place. My wife worked in nursing homes (even nice ones) for years both as a nurse’s aide and as a nurse, and has told me many times of how high the patient-to-CNA ratio and patient-to-nurse ratios are. The nurse barely has time to physically assess the patients, much less time to properly interact with them to determine their mental states. And then the nurse has to worry about making all the meds, all the doses for 40 or more patients (one nurse to 40 residents!), get every one of them perfectly right…and then after all this she still has to do charting on each patient.

    And what happens? A chronic lack of care by aides and nurses – not because they don’t care or don’t want to do a good job, but because their administrators are under so much pressure to cut staffing to the bone so they can stay in business.

    No, I’ll never stay in a nursing home.

    I’ll never forget my wife’s grandmother. She lived out her final years in relative squalor in the Philippines, in a dark room in sweltering heat with perhaps a fan (when electricity was available), with mosquitoes and biting ants and flies, almost completely blind and with substantial hearing loss.

    Compare her situation to the well-to-do residents at some of the better nursing homes and ‘retirement communities’ here, who have reliable heating, air conditioning, good food, quick access to good health care, television, computer, you name it.

    I’d much rather be in my wife’s grandmother’s position. Why? Because as bad as she had it, every single day she got to hear and even interact with her children, her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren, whereas the residents of even the very best nursing homes here count themselves very lucky to see family a couple times a month.

    I have exactly two members of my birth family left here in the states, both of which are significantly older than I, and so I stay on very, very good terms with my family there in the Philippines – when I get old, God willing, they’ll take care of me as a valued family member as is normal and expected there, and not as another helpless bag of flesh waiting to die in a nursing home in America.

    I’m sorry to go on such a rant about nursing homes, because you were doing your level best to help people make the right choices, and commendably so. But I could not stay silent, for nursing homes in America are all too often the very worst sort of prison.