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If your loved one needs medical care that you can't give him, but he doesn't have to be in a hospital, a nursing home may be the right choice. It's a way for him to get regular attention from skilled health professionals.

What Is a Nursing Home?

A nursing home has aides and nurses on-site 24 hours a day. Some have doctors that visit regularly. Others bring residents to their doctors' offices.

People stay for different reasons, like critical injuries, serious illness, or getting care after having surgery. Some nursing homes have units for people with memory problems like dementia.

Many nursing homes are set up like a hospital. Your loved one will either have his own room or share one with another resident. They have a full staff for medical care, physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.

Others are set up like shared housing, with a community kitchen that residents can use and home-like décor.

How to Choose the Right Nursing Home

First, get recommendations from people you know and trust. Talk to:

  • Your loved one's doctor
  • A social worker at a local hospital
  • Religious groups or clergy
  • Friends and family

Next, call each nursing home. Ask questions like:

  • Do you have space available now?
  • Is there a waiting list? If so, how long?
  • What are the requirements for admission?
  • What levels of care do you offer?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Do you work with government-funded health insurance?
  • Are you licensed? By whom?
  • What is your Medicare star rating?
  • How do you respond to medical emergencies?
  • What are your visiting hours?

Then visit the homes you're interested in. Be sure to:

  • Meet with the director and nursing director.
  • Ask more detailed questions about the policies, costs, and services.
  • Find out how long the staff has been working there. Low turnover is a good sign.
  • Visit a second time, without calling ahead. Do it at a different time or day of the week.

When you visit, observe things like:

The dining room. Is it clean? Does the food look good?

The staff. Are they attentive to residents?

The smells. Are there strong odors? If so, ask what they're from.

Handicap access. Will it accommodate your loved ones needs?