An article by AARP discusses several factors to consider when choosing a nursing home. Here is a brief synopsis.
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Inspect the grounds
Are there outdoor sitting areas available and do the residents use them? Are dumpsters well concealed and relatively clean? Is it quiet or can you hear a lot of noise coming from traffic or some other source? Does it seem like you or your loved one would find the area relaxing and a nice place to sit?
Talk to residents
Ask residents if they like living at the facility. You can ask about the food, what a typical day is like, if there are activities and outings for residents, and whether the facility sponsors events for family members. The facility might be beautiful, but make sure the residents seem well cared for and content.
Talk to the staff
Ask people working at the facility about their jobs and how they are managed. Try to find out if members of the staff know the residents' names and how long they have been working at the facility. High turnover, among staff or residents, is always a bad sign. You don't want to be overly aggressive, of course, but it's important to get a sense of the facility's culture and what the staff is like.
Try the food
Nursing homes are not in the business of providing haute cuisine, but the food should be appetizing, healthy and fresh. See for yourself by asking to have lunch or dinner with the residents.
Use all of your senses
In addition to tasting the food, use your ears and nose. Pause every so often during your visit and simply listen. Are the sounds you hear reassuring (such as laughter, conversation and music) or a cause for worry (excessive silence or indications of residents in distress)? What does the facility smell like? Is it well ventilated, fresh and clean, or musty and stale?
Make sure the environment is safe
Begin with the basics: Are there nonskid floors and handrails? Are walkways clear or are there wheelchairs and other obstructions that could lead to residents tripping and injuring themselves? Next, ask the staff about how the nursing home would respond to a natural disaster. Is there an adequate supply of food and water, and access to power, to cope with an extended emergency?
Make a second visit during off-hours
A guided, scheduled visit on a weekday will probably show the facility at its very best. But what happens on weekends and off-hours? Make sure the same sense of calm prevails, and staffing levels are adequate, when the facility is not on high alert.
To read the entire AARP article about inspecting prospective nursing homes, visit
Furthermore, the team at Santa Barbara Estate Planning and Elder Law can help you figure out how to pay for nursing home care, if that is the option that is right for you.