How to choose the right nursing home

Once you’ve made the very difficult decision to help a parent or other loved one to transition to a nursing home, one of your next decisions will be deciding the best facility to suit your specific care needs.

Of course, you’ll want to find a place that’s convenient for you and other family members to visit as well as assessing the overall comfortability and quality of care offered. Beyond that, you’ll also want to consider putting together a list of questions and a medical checklist you can use to gather information and compare facilities.

Here is a good starting point:

The Basics

Step one in evaluating possible nursing homes is gathering general information about each facility. You may be able to eliminate some possible options by asking a few simple questions at the start of the conversation.

  • Does the facility provide the skilled care you need?
  • Is there a bed available that meets your timing requirements?
  • Are there special services available if needed (e.g. dementia, ventilator, or rehabilitation)?
  • Is there a waiting list? If so, how long is the waiting period for admission?
  • Is the nursing home certified by Medicare and/or Medicaid?
  • Does the nursing home offer physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, or other rehabilitative services on site?
  • Is the staff licensed and certified?
  • Are background checks conducted on all employees?

The Property

Once you’ve begun to narrow your options, you should plan a site visit in person if possible. Though pandemic health guidelines may prevent an in-person visit, the facility should be able to make arrangements for a video tour instead. In addition to looking for an atmosphere that makes you comfortable, there are a few other things to check:

  • Are the residents clean, appropriately dressed for the season or time of day, and well groomed?
  • Are the living spaces clean and well kept?
  • Is the temperature comfortable for residents?
  • Do residents have personal belongings and/or furniture in their rooms?
  • Do residents have individual personal storage space, such as a closet or drawers, in the room?
  • Do residents have access to a personal telephone and television?
  • Are residents able to choose a roommate?
  • Are the common areas clean, pleasant, and comfortable?
  • Is there an outdoor area for recreation?
  • Is the dining room comfortable and quiet?
  • What menu options/special dietary offerings are available?

The People

In addition to the facility itself, it’s important to see how the staff and residents interact. The caregivers onsite are a critical component of the physical and psychological well-being of your family member.

  • Do you see a warm, polite, and respectful relationship between the staff and the residents?
  • Are the staff wearing name tags?
  • Is there a full-time Registered Nurse (RN) in the facility at all times?
  • Are there doctors and registered nurses on staff? What hours do they work?
  • Does the nursing home have an arrangement with a local hospital for emergencies?

The Activities

Of course, medical care is just one aspect of life in a nursing home. You’ll want to have a clear understanding of the day-to-day routine of the residents, including their opportunities to interact with other residents outside the confines of their rooms.

  • What kind of activities and amenities does the facility offer?
  • Can residents choose to take part in a variety of activities, including those residents who can’t leave their rooms?
  • Is there an outdoor area for resident use? Will the staff help residents go outside if needed?
  • Does the facility offer activities and support for residents’ religious and cultural needs?

The Ongoing Care

While there is undoubtedly a mitigating health situation that requires nursing home care, it is also important that residents’ overall health is guarded and maintained.

  • Do residents receive preventive care, such as a yearly flu shot, to help keep them healthy?
  • Are residents able to continue seeing their regular doctors?
  • Does the facility develop individual care plans and hold meetings with residents and family members at convenient times?
  • Has the facility corrected any deficiencies (such as failure to meet one or more Federal or State requirements) on its last state inspection report?

The Ratings

Of course, when you make a final decision in choosing a nursing home, you will choose the one that feels best to you: one that feels safe, comfortable, caring and well-run. But you can also include some hard data in your decision. The federal government has established a five-star rating system for nursing homes across the country based on health inspections, staffing ratios and the quality of resident care based on 17 metrics. These include things like the frequency of falls, vaccination rates, and overall Medicare spending.

American Health Corporation is proud to operate three facilities in Alabama, all highly rated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services:


Very few nursing homes earn such high ratings, so it’s important you investigate fully before making a decision. You can compare homes you’re considering by entering your zip code on the Medicare government website at www.medicare.gove/nursinghomecompare/search.html.

Selecting a nursing home for your loved one doesn’t have to be a stressful decision. In fact, with the right information in hand, you can make the choice with confidence. American Health Corporation is dedicated to providing quality health care, rehabilitation, and support services to residents and their families. We understand that each resident is a unique individual with family and friends, and our goal is to coordinate these ties as part of an individualized care plan to achieve patient goals.

Contact the nursing home in your area today for more information or to schedule a guided tour:

Oak Trace (Bessemer, AL) 205-428-9383

Colonial Haven (Greensboro, AL) 334-624-3054

Perry County Nursing Home (Marion, AL) 334-683-9696