Choosing a Nursing Home for Your Aging Parent

May 7th 2016

Your parents cared for you when you were a child and may have continued to give you emotional -- and perhaps even financial -- support as an adult. Eventually, your aging parents can no longer care for themselves, which can be an emotionally devastating time, both for you and for them. 

When it comes to selecting a nursing home or assisted living facility, you want to place your parents in the best hands possible, and it will likely be up to you and your siblings to make the decision as to where your parents reside. Here are some considerations to keep in mind while making your choice:

Talk to Your Parents About Nursing Home Care

Your parents might be relieved to live in a nursing home if they realize that everyday tasks are becoming too difficult or if they feel guilty or even ashamed about calling you for help. On the other hand, many people feel that the prospect of giving up independence and going into a skilled nursing facility is very frightening and disturbing. Find out what your parents' main concerns are, and go from there. Assure them that you are going to work to find the best place for them to live.

Make Appointments at Several Nursing Homes

You’ll likely start off with a long list of potential homes in your area, but it’s good to narrow things down. Check with your parents' long-term care insurance to see which healthcare facilities are covered. Also, ask any friends with aging parents for their recommendations. Call three to five nursing homes in your area, and make an appointment at each. Even if you have one particular home in mind, it’s good to look at several so that you can compare qualities that you might not have even picked up on if you’d only visited one.

Ask Some Questions

As you tour the nursing homes, you’ll want to ask yourself some questions in addition to asking the staff and residents questions. First, ask yourself whether you could see your parents living there. Is it a friendly, homey environment? Look at the other residents, and see if they look happy. Are their faces clean? Is their hair combed? Are they wearing clothing (as opposed to pajamas or robes) in the living areas? Are there residents out and about, or do they all seem to be in their rooms during the daytime hours? Your nose will be a good source of information, as well. While nursing homes sometimes do harbor unpleasant odors, you should not be overwhelmed by the smell of urine or any other foul smells.

You will want to talk to the nursing staff. Ask about whether they like their jobs, how many patients they are each responsible for and whether they take continuing education classes. During your visit, you will likely speak to the director. This is your chance to ask any questions that would be specific to your parents. For example, if your parents are underweight and have not been eating well, you can find out how they handle such a situation. Inquire about employee turnover, safety protocols and how various health needs are managed.

If you can, take some time to chat with a few of the residents. You might want to find out if they are happy there and what types of activities they can take part in. Ask whether they have friends at the nursing home and whether they like the staff.

Choosing a nursing home can be a difficult decision, so be sure to take all the time you need. Your parents deserve the very best. Don’t rush yourself. You can always put them in a short-term care facility while you work on getting all of the facts and visiting homes in your area.


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