All too often, a bad fall will put a parent in the hospital – leaving you scrambling for the next day or two to find a nursing facility before they are discharged. It’s an unfortunate situation – and more common than you might realize. You would never move into a new house without taking a peek and inspecting it, so why would you even consider doing that to one of your parents? Care in nursing facilities can range from really good to really bad; therefore, it is extremely important to do your homework before making a decision.

Start with the Statistics

Begin your search by checking out Medicare’s nursing home ratings at, but don’t assume that a five star facility is necessarily the best option. Look at each facility’s health inspection and staff to get more details. Clue in on the reasons behind citations; for example, if there is a failure to create a care plan, that’s not as serious as medication errors. Take notice of how many hours each resident receives with nurses – the more the better. You can also contact the state survey agency to find out about consumer complaints. When you find a facility that looks pleasing, call to ensure they have a unit or room available specifically for you parent’s needs.

Plan a Couple Visits

Plan to take an official tour asking all the relevant questions:

  1. Do residents eat in a dining room or in bed?
  2. Can residents decide when they want to shower or is there a strict schedule?
  3. If the resident is bedridden, will he/she be helped to activities?
  4. Does the staff work with the same patients every day or are they rotated?
  5. What kind of activities are provided and how often?
  6. What are visiting hours and how often can residents leave?
  7. Take note of the mood; do nurses talk to residents in the hall?
  8. Is there a waiting list? (Most good facilities have one)
  9. Do they accept Medicaid, the government program for low-income individuals?

You may not have time to make a second visit if you are looking for a place immediately. If you have the opportunity, drop by unannounced on a weekend when staffing is lighter to solidify your thoughts and feelings about the facility.

Figure Out the Finances

Let’s face it, nursing facilities are expensive. The median price was recently reported to be $190 a day. That’s $1,330 a week or $70,500 a year! The senior insurance program, Medicare, will cover part of the cost of a facility for only 100 days after a discharge from the hospital – and then you are on your own. This is where long-term-care insurance can really be helpful. Although long-term-care insurance usually doesn’t take effect until after 60 or 90 days (depending on the policy), the daily rate it covers can be less than the cost of the facility you’ve chosen. When the resources eventually get down to the nitty-gritty, your parent might qualify for Medicaid to help ease the financial woes. Since not all facilities accept Medicaid, it’s important to note in advance to plan a move for your parent when the payment method needs to alter.

Information taken from Money Magazine

Carrie Robertson
Research & Community Education

Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living