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The information in this guide should not be considered legal advice. While we strive to provide as detailed, reliable and understandable legal information as possible in our Elder Law Guides, they cannot substitute for an attorney applying the law and years of experience to a particular client situation. We urge readers to use the Guides as background material and to consult with one of our members before taking action.

Nursing Homes: Placement and Resident Rights

Locate a good facility and preserve a loved one’s dignity

While no one ever wants to move to a nursing home, a lot of people end up there anyway. There are 15,600 nursing homes in the United States caring for approximately 1.4 million residents. Of these residents, 85 percent are over age 65 and 42 percent are over age 85. By definition, they are little able to care for themselves and need all the protection provided them under law and by families and friends. Read More

Choosing and evaluating a nursing home

Can there be a more difficult job than finding a nursing home for a parent or spouse? They serve as institutions of last resort when it’s impossible to provide the necessary care in any other setting. And, typically, the search takes place under the gun – when a hospital or rehabilitation center is threatening discharge or it’s no longer possible for the loved one to live at home. Finally, in most cases, finding the right nursing home is a once-in-a-lifetime task, one you’re taking on without the experience of having done it before.

That said, there are a few rules of thumb that can help you:

1. Location, location, location. No single factor is more important to quality of care and quality of life of a nursing home resident than visits by family members.

Care is often better if the facility knows someone’s watching and cares. Visits can be the high point of the day or week for the nursing home resident. So, make it as easy as possible for family members and friends to visit.

No single factor is more important to the quality of life of a nursing home resident than visits by family members.

2. Get references. Ask the facility to provide the names of family members of residents so you can ask them about the care provided in the facility and the staff’s responsiveness when the resident or relatives raise concerns.

3. Check certifying agency reports. Is the facility certified by Medicare and Medicaid? How long has the facility been certified? Read More

Go to next page

Free nursing home performance comparisons are available online from Medicare ( To help consumers compare nursing homes more easily and identify areas about which to ask questions, Medicare has created a Five-Star Quality Rating System. The ratings are based on a facility’s performance in three areas: quality measures, nurse staffing levels and health inspection reports. Medicare’s Web site explains the strengths and limitations of the rating system.

4. Talk to the nursing home administrator or nursing staff about how care plans are developed for residents and how they respond to concerns expressed by family members. Individual care plans must be implemented for each resident. How often is the care plan reviewed and changed? What is the protocol for handling problems? A resident of a nursing home must be under the care of a licensed physician. The physician must evaluate the resident’s needs and prescribe a program of medical care, including therapy, diet restrictions, and medication. Make sure you are comfortable with the response.

It is better that you meet with and ask questions of the people responsible for care, not just the person marketing the facility.

5. Tour the nursing home. Try not to be impressed by a fancy lobby or depressed by an older, more rundown facility. What matters most is the quality of care and the interactions between staff and residents.

See what you pick up about how well residents are attended to and whether they are treated with respect. Also, investigate the quality of the food service. Eating is both a necessity and a pleasure that continues even when we’re unable to enjoy much else.

For a checklist of factors to consider when selecting a nursing home, see Factors to Consider in Selecting a Nursing Home on More

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Medicaid Rules, etc

View All Elder Law Topics Questions & Answers State Medicaid Information