Mention the word ‘nursing home,’ and some people get a certain image in their heads. Unfortunately, many people will think of patients that are poorly cared for and left unattended, and a building in need of major repairs. However, there are many reputable and fine nursing facilities.

If and when the time comes to choose a reliable nursing home, there are many things to consider.

Oftentimes, choosing a senior care facility will be prompted by a medical emergency. Emotions run high, and stress can be through the roof. Consider, however, that you can take some helpful steps to benefit you and your loved one when choosing the best possible nursing care.

Don’t be in such a rush.

Hospitals will often push to discharge patients quickly, which leaves families in disarray. Many people go ahead and pick a nursing home in a rush that often turns out to be disappointing.

Did you know that you can ask the hospital for more time? If you haven’t decided where your loved one is going after the hospital, this can lead to even bigger problems, so ask for more time. After all, this is a life-changing decision.

Research each nursing facility.

Every nursing home is inspected yearly by the state. You can find out their ratings and recommendations on websites such as Nursing Home Compare or Nursing Home Inspect. These sites allow prospective nursing home residents and their families, to delve deeply into facilities’ inspection reports and to see any violations they have received during inspection times.

These websites also give you the ability to see how these nursing homes stack up against their competition. If a facility is rated with only one or two stars, take this as a warning.

Try to get copies of resident council meeting minutes, as these could be a clue as to what life in that particular nursing home is like. It will enlighten you to problems that need attention as well as those that have already been addressed.

Visit potential nursing homes in the evening or on weekends.

You can schedule a tour if you like but visiting during off-hours is also a good idea. You will see how shift changes are handled, watch dinnertime, and find out how the facility operates when short-staffed.

If a nursing home tries to steer you away from this, consider it a problem. When walking the halls, take note of everything; sights, smells, actions, noises, food, and the general atmosphere. See how the residents look. Is their hair combed, are their nails trimmed and clean, are they dressed well? Most of all, observe how the residents are treated by staff.

Every facility has an emergency management plan.

Natural disasters, such as hurricanes or tornadoes, are rare, but how is this facility going to handle that? What happens if there is a fire in the facility? These emergency plans are mandatory and required to be filed with local emergency management officials. Ask to see the plans.

Find out if the facility is powered by backup generators for when the power goes out. After all, there are people on oxygen, and heating or cooling rooms is a high priority. A new federal rule now requires nursing homes to have “alternate sources of energy” to keep indoor temperatures at safe levels. Asking about these plans lets the facility know you are aware of these things and it keeps them on high alert, which is good for everyone.

Don’t go it alone.

If you are still having trouble choosing a nursing home facility, by all means, contact your local nursing home ombudsman. Every facility will be able to give you the name of the person to contact. Every state has a network of ombudsmen, who will sit down with you and help you choose the best senior care nursing facility for your loved one.

Because there are so many nursing homes to choose from, an ombudsman can help you make the best choice. A nursing home is often a long-term decision for a loved one, you will want to make it the best one you can.

It is always a good idea to contact an elder care case manager to assist with finding the best options for your loved one.  They often work with many local nursing facilities acting as advocates and can draw on experience to help you find the best fit for your loved one.