OpenPlacement Blog

Senior Living Home Comparison Guide - 10 Must Do Tips

Senior LivingLooking for a senior living home is never easy. Whether you are a child looking for somewhere safe and capable to take care of your aging parent or if you are looking to find a residence for a new chapter in your own life, the process can be complicated, confusing, and scary.

Here are 10 tips to help you through this complex journey:

1)    Quality of Staff – The staff makes all the difference in a nursing home and you can tell a lot about a nursing home by the attitude of their staff members. A well-run, well-staffed home will have content nurses. One that has poor management will trickle down into frustrated nurses and many times less than adequate care for their residents.

2)    Is it a Medicare/Medicaid Certified Provider?Nursing homes that fall under this category have to pass 150 requirements ranging from proper food storage to ensuring that their patients are not experiencing mental or physical abuse. It’s that extra stamp of approval that can help give you peace of mind.

3)    A Safe and Clean Environment – When I was in elementary school, we went on a field trip to a nursing home. The terrible smells, stale environment, and cold nurses have left a terrible impression on me to this day. It doesn’t have to be like this. Make a few visits on different days in the week and at different times during the day to ensure that the same staffing expectations are fulfilled regardless of shift changes and open house events.

4)    A Clean Violation History – Check to make sure that there are no safety violations at the home that you are interested in. There is a great website, Member of the Family (, which shows 16,000 nursing homes in the country along with deficiency counts, nurse to patient ratios, and a detailed listing of quality measures (such as percent of long-stay residents who lose too much weight, percent of long-stay residents who were physically restrained, percent of long-stay residents experiencing one or more falls with major injury, etc.) . In my opinion, this is a mandatory checklist for anyone looking for a safe senior home for a loved one.

5)    Costs – It’s no secret that nursing homes are expensive. Many have hidden costs and a la carte fees that quickly add up. Create a clear and concise list of questions to determine what is covered and what is extra and compare expenses.

6)    Room Appeal – Many hours will be spent in this new room.

  • How big is it?

  • What does the view look like?

  • Is there storage space?

  • Does it come furnished?

  • Is it a shared space?

  • Does it feel cold and industrial or intimate and homey?

7)    Activities – Loneliness is one of the most common complaints for the elderly so activities, volunteer schedules, common areas, and visiting hours are vital.

  • What recreational activities are available?

  • Are there spiritual services offered?

  • What does the facility look like around the holidays?

8)    What’s on the Menu? – If you’ve stayed at a hospital for any length of time, then you’ve probably experienced mystery meat, bland mushy sides, and rubber Jello. Go at mealtime and try the food.

9)    Professional Services Available – There are a lot of difficult decisions to make at this stage in life.

  • Is there a social worker present to help you make critical choices?

  • Does the current staff have the knowledge, enough available nurses, and equipment to address present medical issues?

  • What doctors are on hand to answer your questions and guide you through possible tests, procedures, and decisions?

  • When an emergency happens, what is the current protocol?

10) Just Ask – Ask the residents and workers what they like about the facility and would like to see changed. No senior living home is perfect, but it will give you insight on how the facility runs, if there is something that you just can’t adjust to, or if the home has serious move-in potential.