How to Spot Bad Nursing Home

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At Senior Care Society we understand the decision of choosing a nursing home for your loved one is a very difficult one which is often fraught with guilt, worry and trepidation. But none of those feelings need be a part of choosing to provide the necessary care your loved one needs, but you are no longer able to provide. However, as it is a monumental decision it must be a decision made with great care, as it may be a choice that could result in irretrievable consequences once they have occurred if you have made the wrong selection in nursing home care.

Therefore, it is highly advisable that you do a thorough investigation of any nursing facility you may be considering. Additionally you may also choose to follow a few of the suggested guidelines when you begin your search for the right nursing home facility for the health, care and well being of your loved one.

Below you will find a list of warning signs and tips compiled from our experienced patient advocates here at the Senior Care Society, AARP and The Alzheimer’s Association to assist you in choosing the right nursing home for your family member and more importantly perhaps which one’s you should avoid.


When visiting the prospective nursing homes let your eyes, ears and nose be the judge; ask to be allowed to take a walk on your own of the facility and speak to the residents and their family members asking their opinion of the care being given there. As you make your tour ask yourself the following questions:


  • Are you welcomed and acknowledged by the staff? Or are you ignored or your presence even resented by the staff?
  • Do you notice any strong odors of feces or urine, or disinfectant used as a cover up?
  • Is the facility clean and tidy? Ask to inspect a random patient’s room from time to time in your tour to see if the rooms match the outer appearance of the facility.
  • Are there grab bars, railings or other safety features in the rooms, bathrooms and hallways?
  • Do you see signs of restraint such as; chair, bed or wheelchair straps or chest restraints or bruises, cuts or welts on patient’s arms or legs?
  • Is the staff communicating in a language the patient can understand?
  • Are the staff caring and familiar with the patients and address them by name or do they refer to them by room or bed number? Do they speak to the residents respectfully or rudely (or to one another)?
  • Take notice of how a patient calls for assistance. Are the calls for help being answered in a timely manner?
  • During meal time do you see residents being assisted with their feeding and if so in a patient compassionate manner? Do you see food trays full or mostly untouched?
  • How do the majority of the residents appear? What is the resident’s general mood, do they appear lonely, unhappy, inactive and vacant faced? What is their state of cleanliness, appropriate clothing, and grooming?
  • Are there residents left unattended in hallways in wheelchairs that are not in a TV viewing, recreation, or entertainment area?
  • Is there a vast difference between the outer reception/lobby and common areas to what the resident’s rooms and furnishings are? Is the lighting and furnishings adequate and match the outer appearances?
  • Is there qualified nursing staff on duty or only aides? Ask what the nurse per patient ratio is.


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