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5 Tips to Help You Choose a Nursing Home for a Loved One

5 Tips to Help You Choose a Nursing Home for a Loved One

One benefit of living in the Internet age is that there’s no shortage of online resources to help families select quality, trusted nursing facilities for their elderly loved ones. It’s also a beneficial time for the government, as publishing their materials on the Internet leads to major cost savings in printing and mailing, allowing citizens to quickly and easily access the most current information.

Looking for a nursing facility in the digital age, however, brings challenges. From a family’s perspective, it can be difficult, even overwhelming, to sift through the ever-increasing amount of available information. To help make the process easier and more straightforward, we’ve put together some tips you can use when selecting the right nursing home for your loved one. The following are important factors to take into consideration as you research facilities to ultimately make the best decision for your family.

Determine Your Budget and Benefits

There are a few things you can do to help narrow down your selection of nursing home facilities before you even begin your search. Step one, of course, is determining your budget and what benefits options make the most sense for you. Ask yourself whether your loved one will require Medicaid benefits to finance long-term care. Considering the cost of care in a skilled nursing facility is likely to top $7,000 dollars per month, it’s no surprise that roughly 70% of nursing home residents receive Medicaid benefits.

You might find that nursing homes located in smaller towns and rural areas are less expensive. If that’s the case, be wary of potential trade-offs in quality of care, comprehensiveness of services, and your ability to monitor care by regular visits. If the cost is dramatically lower, there’s usually a reason for it.

If your loved one will, in fact, be receiving Medicaid benefits, it’s a good idea to call facilities in your area and ask, specifically, if they have any Medicaid beds available. Since these beds are allocated by the state, facilities do not have the power to create their own. And if their local beds aren’t full, the state is less likely to authorize new beds. Several newer facilities have a limited number of Medicaid beds — borrowed from other facilities under common ownership — that rarely become available for a new patient. Further, some facilities simply have no Medicaid beds available at all if their business models allow for private payment only.

As you’re calling facilities, it’s worth asking how many people are on the waiting list for a bed. That way, you’ll have a realistic idea of whether or not the facility is a reasonable option for your loved one, depending on your timeframe.

Compare Facilities

After determining which facilities are affordable, it’s time to compare.

Nationally, Medicare maintains a searchable database of skilled nursing facility ratings, Nursing Home Compare, to aid easy comparison. They also publish a downloadable guide to choosing a nursing home, Your Guide To Choosing A Nursing Home Or Other Long-Term-Care, and a Nursing Home Checklist.

The facility comparisons are based on one-to-five star ratings in four specific areas:

  • Overall Rating
  • Staffing
  • Health Inspections
  • Quality Measures

Users can select several nursing homes for side-by-side comparison, then click through to more detailed information if desired.

If you’re looking for nursing home ratings for a parent in a different state, the Medicare site is most likely your best point of entry. If you’re looking locally, the State of Indiana maintains several useful resources:

  • The Indiana Department of Health has a Choosing a Nursing Home guide and a link to the Medicare guide on the same topic.
  • The Indiana Department of Health has a Health Facilities Consumer Report Search feature that covers acute care facilities (hospitals), as well as long-term care facilities. It also features the ability to search for more specific criteria, such as nursing homes with Alzheimer’s special care units.

Although it’s less visually appealing than the Medicare site, the State of Indiana’s site provides information on state health department inspections, which are conducted independently of Medicare inspections.

Ask Questions

While these online comparison tools are excellent resources, it’s not wise to rely solely on these reviews. The practical difference between a three-star rating and a five-star rating may not be huge. Often, bringing a talented administrator into a struggling facility can result in dramatic and rapid improvements in care. Conversely, moving that administrator into another troubled facility, or moving them as a reward to a facility that isn’t troubled, can result in a fairly rapid loss of quality.

Considering these details, it’s important to ask specific questions when you’re shopping. Don’t hesitate to put administrators in the hot seat with a question that like the following:

“Frankly, your facility looks very nice, but I’m concerned about some bad inspection reports in your recent past. What can you tell me about improvements since those bad reports? How long have you been the administrator?”

I assure you the administrators are very familiar with any bad reports and will be more than willing to tell you what they’re doing to avoid a repeat.


So, you’ve found the right facility and you’ve helped your loved one settle into their new home. Your work, however, isn’t done. Once your loved one has moved in, visit — on different days of the week and at different times of day if possible. Know your loved one’s rights and if you see something that doesn’t look right, insist on proper care.

Know That You Have Options

Finally, if all else fails, remember: You’re not stuck. If a facility isn’t living up to your expectations, get on waiting lists for Medicaid beds elsewhere and feel free to move. Putting up with a sub-par facility just isn’t worth it. Your loved one deserves top-quality care and with so much information at your fingertips, you should have everything you need to ensure they have it. Hopefully, these tips can help you manage the details along the way and walk through the process with relative ease.

To learn more about your options, or to discuss other elder law issues, contact us at 765-742-9066.

The content of this blog is intended to be general and informational in nature. It is advertising material and is not intended to be, nor is it, legal advice to or for any particular person, case, or circumstance. Each situation is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have any questions about your situation.

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