Choosing a Nursing Home: Sights, Sounds & Scents to Seek Out


Choosing a nursing home or assisted living facility can be scary. Will you make the right choice? Will the facility be clean? Will the care be up to par? How do you find out? Use all your senses on your first visit, and know the sights, sounds and yes, even scents, to look for, as well as knowing the ones that are big red flags.

Sights to Look For
As you take your first glance around the place, of course you’ll want to observe the size of the rooms, the décor of the facility and the overall ambiance. But the most gorgeous nursing home could be severely lacking in services. Above all else, look for plenty of staff.
A rule of thumb? The best nursing homes have a staff-to-resident ratio of 5 to 1 during the day, 10 to 1 in the evening, and 15 to one at night, when residents need less assistance. That doesn’t mean you should walk around counting heads – or take the promotional material at its word. Just look around. Are staff members visible? Are they busy? Do they look stressed and overworked, which could indicate a staff shortage? Do any residents look like they need help and can’t get it?

Sounds to Listen For
While background music piped through the hallways is nice, that’s just an indication the facility paid money to install an audio system. Instead, take time to listen and evaluate overall sound levels. Is the facility noisy? Do you hear random screams or groans, which could indicate patients that need care are not receiving it? Does it sound like a hospital, with beeps and pages? Are TVs blaring from patient’s rooms? A good nursing home or assisted living facility should have appropriate noise levels for the time of day, including conversations and maybe music. It should not present a cacophony of distracting or disturbing sounds. That’s no way to live.

Scents to Notice
Many articles advise you to check for scents of urine, vomit and other icky bodily odors; clearly, this would indicate a less-than-clean facility. But an overpowering scent of cleaning products and disinfectant is undesirable, too. A nursing home, with emphasis on the word home, should smell like a freshly-cleaned house, not a hospital.

More Helpful Tips for Your First Visit
Visit a senior community or nursing home during business hours, and you’re likely to be greeted by a director or marketing representative whose job is to impress you and, ultimately, fill beds.
Visit after-hours (but before lights out, of course) and you’re far more likely to get a true look at life in the facility. You may even have an opportunity to speak to some of the residents about how they like living in the community. Always be polite and courteous, and if a resident doesn’t want to talk, don’t necessarily take that as a bad sign. Try to find people who are friendly and open to conversation. Steer clear of an assisted living community or nursing home that does not let you visit after normal business hours or explore the facility unaccompanied by a staff member.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (866) 662-0435 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.