How to find the best nursing home for your loved one

Your family has made the decision that your mother or father will be more comfortable and safer living in a nursing home. Next up is finding a quality home for your parent.

First, take a deep breath. This is a major decision for the entire family and one that is both physically and emotionally challenging. Even when the aging parent and children are on the same page about the move, leaving a home packed full of memories (and stuff) for a smaller and unfamiliar space can evoke a range of emotions, from sadness to fear. Be gentle with yourself and your loved ones.

Second, grab an empty notebook because a lot will be coming at you and you’ll want to keep all the notes in one place. Even if you start an online file, a notebook will come in handy to jot down notes during visits, phone calls and errands.

Most families start with a list of nursing homes based on geographic location - homes near the parent’s current address or family members, maybe a combination of both – plus recommendations from doctors, church members, relatives and friends.

However you get there, you have a list but now you need a game plan.

Let Experts Help with the Move

The National Institute on Aging has put together a series of steps to choose a nursing home, starting with the section marked “Consider what you want.”

“What is important to you—nursing care, meals, physical therapy, a religious connection, hospice care, or special care units for dementia patients? Do you want a place close to family and friends so they can easily visit?” the Institute recommends.

Website research can be helpful, but you may need to make phone calls to answer some of these questions. Plus, you’ll need to call to find out about waiting lists, cost, resident demographics.

Next up is a visit with the community’s Admissions Director. Medicare has compiled a nine-page checklist to guide you during your visit. The nursing home checklist covers ratings (more on that below), safety, staff, living space, activities and food. Ask if you can stay for a meal or come back another day.

In fact, plan to make a second visit, maybe unannounced but in order to protect the privacy of the other residents, you will need to be accompanied by Admissions staff or their designee. “It’s best to visit a nursing home on a different day of the week and at a different time than your initial visit. Staffing can be different at different times of the day and on weekends,” according to Medicare.

As your walk around during your visits, ask questions and talk to staff, residents (you may need permission from a family member first) and family members about their experiences – red flag if your tour guide discourages such interactions.

Other red flags? Unpleasant odors, unwelcoming staff, dirty restrooms, unkempt residents.

The Importance of Medicare Ratings

“A federal website, Nursing Home Compare, is the most comprehensive source of data on nursing homes and allows consumers to sort and compare facilities based on geography and other factors. The site includes information about a home’s staffing levels, recent inspection reports and measurements of the quality of residents’ care,” writes New York Times reporter Katie Thomas.

The information on Nursing Home Compare comes from 3 key sources: the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) health inspection database, a national database of resident clinical data known as the Minimum Data Set (MDS), and Medicare claims data.

The information on Nursing Home Compare can help you learn:

  • How nursing homes have performed on health and fire safety inspections;
  • How the nursing home is staffed with nurses and other healthcare providers (as reported by the facility);
  • Nursing homes that have had issues related to preventing abuse;
  • Nursing Homes that have had significant issues maintaining compliance to protect resident health and safety, and are part of the Special Focus Facility Program.

Medicare rates nursing homes on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, with 5 being the highest. Barclay Friends has recently received 5 stars in Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare program.

Barclay Friends was also named one of the best nursing homes in the country by U.S. News & World Report, earning acclaim as high-preforming in Long Term Care.

And Daily Local News readers voted Barclay Friends “Best Nursing/Rehab” in Chester County for two years in a row.