1 - Do Your Homework
As with most things in life, it's best to plan ahead. You want to begin considering nursing homes before your parent might be in need of one. It's always a bad idea to make important decisions when you are in crisis mode. If you have not planned ahead and your parent suddenly is in need of a nursing home (it tends to sneak up on you), then you will be in crisis mode, stressed out and overwhelmed and you might not make the best decision for your parent.
2 - Check Accreditation and Staffing
It's important to make sure that the nursing home you are considering is safe and in compliance with accreditation standards. The easiest way to do that is to check the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations' website. You can also use the Nursing Home Compare tool on Medicare.gov to compare nursing homes in your area.
3 - Talk with a Professional
A geriatric care manager can be an invaluable resource for you in trying to determine what nursing home is best for your parents and in acting as an advocate for your parent after they have entered the nursing home. You can find a geriatric care manager in your area at the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers website. It is also important to enlist the aid of an elder law attorney who can help you navigate the various benefit programs that may be available to your parent to help pay for their nursing home care. Additionally, elder law attorneys are a great resource who, because they work with many clients involved in similar situations to your parents, know a lot about the quality of the nursing homes in your area and what resources are available to assist you. Additionally, seniors often have legal needs that are different from those of younger folks for example, we might be able to help your parents qualify for Veterans Aid and Attendance or Medicaid.
4 - Speak to Residents and The Loved Ones Who Visit Them
This is the best way to get a real sense for the quality of a nursing home. Who knows better than the residents the quality of care provided at a nursing home? Ask about the quality of the care and the quality of the food. Family members of residents can give you their impressions and talk about how satisfied they are with the nursing home.
5 - Ask for An Activity Calendar
Nursing homes typically post up a calendar of events planned for the week. Ask for a copy of the activities calendar when you are visiting to see if the activities being promised by the marketing folks you are meeting with are actually happening. If you see a room full of residents sitting glassy eyed in front of the television, it's not a good sign.
6 - Be an Advocate for Your Parent
Be an advocate for your parents and for their needs. No one will take a greater interest in your parents' care than you. Visit the nursing home early and visit often. The more you visit your parents at the nursing home, the better care they will receive. Nursing home staff knows which residents' families visit and will make sure that the residents with visitors are well taken care of.