How to Choose a Nursing Home - Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare

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Published on August 04, 2014

How to Choose a Nursing Home

The time has come. Your loved one isn’t physically able to live at home any longer. You’ve looked at the alternatives and nursing home care is what is needed. How can you be sure you’re choosing the right facility? Will your loved one be happy there?

Take a deep breath and let us help you through the process:

  1. Choose the location and narrow your choices. 
    Ask if it’s important to be close to home and familiar places such as church, or if your loved one wants to be close to family. Then look at nursing homes in that location. Ask your doctor, friends, family or clergy what they know about area nursing homes. They can be a trusted source of information.
  2. Visit the facilities.
    Make a list of the facilities you are interested in and set up appointments to tour them. Keep the person you are helping involved in the selection of the facilities and if you can, take him/her along for the visit. Prepare ahead of time by making a list of your questions. For the security and privacy of their residents, many nursing homes won’t allow you to walk through the facility on your own. So call ahead and make an appointment. They will be very willing to provide a tour and answer all of your questions.
  3. What to look for. The list is long but remember, one of the places you’re visiting will be home to someone you love. So don’t be afraid to ask questions and pay attention to the following:


  • Is it clean with no unpleasant smells?
  • Is the environment bright and cheerful? Are the furnishings sturdy and attractive?
  • Are special services you need available such as rehabilitation, wound care, palliative care, dementia care, for example?
  • Is the temperature comfortable for residents?
  • Are handrails and grab bars in hallways and bathrooms?
  • How are the noise levels in the dining room and other common areas?
  • Are there quiet areas to visit with friends and family?
  • Are there attractive outdoor areas for residents to use?

Room Amenities

  • Can residents have their own furniture and personal things in their rooms?
  • Is there enough storage space in each room?
  • Can each resident have their own phone and TV?
  • Are private rooms available? What is the cost?
  • In a double room, do residents have a choice of roommates? Can they meet their roommate before moving in?
  • Are there lockable cabinets or drawers in rooms for resident’s possessions?

Daily Living

  • Are residents clean and well-dressed? Do they appear happy and content?
  • Can residents leave for a few hours a day if they choose to?
  • Can residents choose what time they get up, go to sleep, bathe?
  • Is transportation provided to community activities?
  • Are there regular activities planned and can residents choose to take part in them?
  • Are there activities available for residents who are unable to leave their rooms?
  • Does the facility offer religious services?


  • Is the interaction between staff and residents warm, polite and respectful?
  • Are there policies and procedures for the facility that residents must live by? Ask to review them.
  • Does the staff wear name tags?
  • Is there a registered nurse on site at all times?
  • Will the same caregivers take care of the resident day to day or do they change?
  • Is there a social worker on site?
  • Has there been a lot of staff turnover – at the administrative as well as direct care giving levels?
  • Does the nursing home provide training and ongoing education for staff?
  • How does the nursing home do criminal background checks on all employees?
  • Who plans the care? Is it a team of caregivers?


  • Can visitors come anytime?
  • Can pets visit?


  • Do residents have a choice of food items at each meal?
  • Will they accommodate special dietary preferences?
  • Are snacks available on request?
  • Does the staff help residents eat and drink at mealtime if needed?

Health Care

  • Can residents still see their personal doctors and does the home arrange for transportation?
  • Do they contact the doctor if a resident has a medical need?
  • Are care plan meetings held with residents and family members at convenient times for the family?
  • Does the nursing home have arrangements with a nearby hospital in case of an emergency?

4. Determine what you can afford.
Unfortunately, this practical question is one that deserves attention. It’s important to know your loved one’s financial situation and the cost of the facilities you are interested in, as costs vary. Note that Medicare only covers the cost of the nursing home when the resident temporarily meets specific qualifications. Medicaid covers the cost of care when your loved one’s money is gone. Make sure the home you want is Medicare and Medicaid certified and is fully licensed. Bring questions about costs and coverage with you when you tour the facilities.

For More Information

  • Learn about our long-term care facilities in Brookfield, Milwaukee and Racine.
  • Talking to someone in person is also helpful. To speak with an Admission Coordinator, call (262) 785-2085 at Franciscan Woods in Brookfield, (414) 389-3493 at Terrace at St. Francis in Milwaukee or (262) 687-2241 at Lakeshore Manor in Racine.

We’re happy to help you search for the right long term care solution for you and your loved one.

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How to Choose a Nursing Home