Checklist for Considering Nursing Facilities

If you, or a loved one, is anticipating the need for a nursing home stay, there are many factors to take into consideration. Whether for short-term rehabilitation or long-term care, choosing the right nursing facility is a big decision.

checklistAs a nurse, my best advice to you is to plan ahead and visit some of your local nursing homes so you can see firsthand how they operate. Call to schedule a tour and, while you are there, look for the following:

  • How were you greeted upon arrival? Did you feel truly welcome, or did you feel like you were being a bother?
  • Does the facility look and smell clean? Odors in a nursing home can indicate how well patients, and the facility itself, are being kept clean.
  • Do the patients/residents appear happy and comfortable?
  • Do staff members appear to enjoy their jobs and are they interacting in a positive way with their patients and each other?
  • Ask your tour guide about:
    • How does your nurse to patient ratio compare within the state of Indiana on ALL SHIFTS. It’s important to make sure they have adequate coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (Data can be located at
    • How does the clinical nurse assistant (CNA) to patients ratio compare within the state of Indiana.
    • Is physical therapy offered seven days per week, or just Monday through Friday?
    • How often is the medical director and/or physician or nurse practitioner on-site seeing patients. Also ask about availability of that physician and/or a nurse practitioner if a medical problem arises.
    • What are the protocols if/when a medical problem arises? Also, ask about the facility’s hospital readmission rates–are they higher or lower than the state average?
  • Schedule a meal at the nursing facility. One of the biggest complaints about nursing homes is about the quality and taste of the food. Try it out for yourself and see if the food is appetizing.
  • Request contact information for the facility administrator, director of nursing, social services director, director of rehab services and the medical director or physician liaison, in case you have questions after you leave.
  • Listen to your instincts. If you feel something is “off” about the facility you’ve visited, you may be right. Make sure you have a good feeling about the facility and caregivers before deciding where to receive care.

Not all nursing homes provide the same level of care and you want to be informed in order to choose the best facility for your individual needs. Make this checklist a part of your visit to learn as much as you can about any facility where you, or a loved one, may receive care.

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