A Comprehensive Guide to Evaluating Nursing Homes: Ensuring the Best Care for Your Loved Ones

When it comes to choosing a nursing home for your loved ones, the process can be overwhelming, stressful, and emotional. You want the best care for your family member, but how can you make an informed decision, especially when time is limited and emotions are running high? As nursing home abuse attorneys with over a quarter of a century of experience, we want to help you make the best possible decisions for your loved one.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the essential steps to evaluate a nursing home effectively and quickly. We’ll explore the key factors you need to consider, from ownership and quality indicators to feedback from staff and other families. By the end of this guide, you’ll be well-prepared to ensure the best care for your loved ones.

Doctor and elderly man using a walker taking a walk in a nursing home

Online Research: A Powerful Tool

The internet is a powerful tool that can provide valuable insights when evaluating nursing homes. 

There is a vast amount of information about every nursing home in America available online. 

1. First, go to: www.medicare.gov/care-compare/ 

Click on “Nursing Homes”. From this page, you can access nursing homes in your area. 

Here’s what to look for: 

Star Rating:
Nursing homes are rated from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) stars by CMS in 3 dimensions: 

      • Health inspections – How has the facility fared in its most recent inspections? 
      • Staffing – How does the facility measure up to other facilities in the state with regard to the number of staff members they have? 
      • Quality Measures – How does the facility measure up relative to other facilities in health measures like falls, pressure injuries, and hospitalizations? 

Survey Inspections:

Star ratings give you the quickest snapshot of the facility you are investigating. If you go deeper into the website, you can actually access ownership information and see if the facility is part of a larger chain. You can also look and see how that chain’s facilities are doing on these measures. Likewise, you can pull the last three survey inspections done on the facility and see more detail about what the facility has been cited for recently.

2. After you have exhausted your review of the facilities you are considering by using the CMS Nursing Home Compare site, you should next go to Google and Google the facilities that are still “in the running” for your loved ones. Click on the “news” filter and see if the local papers have done any stories on the facility or its ownership group. You can also use the ownership information you got from the nursing home compare website and look for news articles nationally about the chains they operate.

Female nurse at a nursing home goes over an elderly man in a wheelchair’s medical chart

3. Next, go to the employment review websites like indeed.com and glassdoor.com and see how former employees review the working conditions of the facility. You can find a lot of useful information from former employees who no longer feel compelled to tow the company line.

4. Lastly, go to the generic reviews and read them. Google reviews and Yelp reviews can be particularly helpful. All nursing homes will have some negative reviews of course but if you have narrowed your search to a few local nursing homes you may be able to see clear patterns between them using these online tools.

In-Person Investigation

If you have a little more time, you should definitely expand your investigation off of the internet into the real world. If you can visit the nursing home that is ideal. When you get there, you should use as many of your senses as you can to investigate the facility: 

  • Eyes – How does the facility and its residents look? Are the residents clean and happy? Are staff members around and responsive to the residents? 
  • Ears – Are residents crying or screaming for assistance? Are call bells ringing without response? 
  • Nose – How does the facility smell? Do you smell urine or feces? Do you smell strong ammonia or bleach smells? If you can walk throughout the facility does the lobby smell vastly better than the hallways?
  • Touch – Is the facility unusually warm or cold?
  • Taste – Can you sample any of the food in the dining room?

Upon visiting you should ask:

1. For a copy of the facility’s latest survey inspection results.

2. If their staffing for the day is posted anywhere in the facility.

3. Whether the facility has a resident’s and/or family committee and if so, could you get the contact information of someone in that committee.

If they cannot quickly produce #1 and #2 for you it is a red flag. If they answer no to any part of #3, it is also a red flag.

Happy, diverse group of doctors and nurses at a nursing home

The Right Approach

Choosing a nursing home for your loved ones is a significant decision, and it’s crucial to approach it with the right tools and knowledge. By using both online and real-world investigation strategies outlined in this guide you can effectively rule out the worst facilities. This does not mean that the facility you ultimately choose will be perfect and you will still be required to advocate for your loved one to receive the best possible care but you will be able to eliminate the truly dangerous facilities.   

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a nursing home, call Williams DeLoatche, P.C. for a free case evaluation. 757-547-5555 or go to our website at WD-Law.com.