Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide to Cleveland

Finding a Nursing Home

As our baby boomer generation ages, more and more families are
forced to come to grips with a stark reality: How can I find a reliable nursing home facility to care for my aging loved one?

Research, ask family and friends, visit and ask questions before placing your loved one in a nursing home.
The first key to locating a “good” nursing home for your loved one is to research them. Ohio provides survey results for nursing homes online at These surveys are taken by state employees of the Department of Health, who try to conduct them randomly, without prior notice to the nursing home. Pay close attention to the number of deficiencies found, particularly those that relate to resident care, but also those that might seem unimportant. Even a dirty restroom on inspection might indicate that the home is understaffed and may be an indication that residents are not being cared for appropriately.

Ask your friends and family or medical providers for a list of nursing homes they recommend. Friends and family who already have a loved one in a nursing home will be able to share the pluses and minuses of their experience.

Visit the facility before placing your loved one in it. Do not only visit the marketing areas, the lobby with expensive looking furniture and a fireplace. Some facilities even have pianos, bars and pool tables to create the illusion that a rich lobby means good resident care. Visit the rooms where the residents live. Visit the activity rooms. How are the residents you see? Are many residents parked in rooms in wheelchairs by themselves? Are residents in the fancy lobby? Do you see staff members? Do residents and staff look happy? Ask them how they feel about where they work. Ask residents what the food is like. Visit during meal time. Ask the admissions staff how many registered nurses, licensed practical nurses or nursing assistants work on each shift. Is there only one registered nurse on night shift for the entire facility? Are nursing assistants used to provide resident care themselves, beyond “assisting” the nurses?

Do not sign any agreement waiving your loved one’s right to a jury trial.
Nursing homes in Ohio must accept your loved one for admission even if you do not sign an arbitration agreement.

Nursing homes have devoted enormous resources to establishing legislation to avoid accountability for their neglect of the elderly. They have succeeded, here in Ohio, by passing tort reform legislation where the law has arbitrarily “capped” the amounts a jury can award for abuse and neglect of the elderly, no matter how egregious the care and no matter how badly the nursing home resident has been injured. By placing “caps” on their exposure, nursing homes have successfully fixed and limited the costs that they can expect to pay for the neglect of your loved one.

Nursing homes prey on the stress and anxiety of family members in placing their loved one in a nursing home. Many times, families have limited time to locate and research a facility to place their loved one in. When they find one, the family member is faced with a stack of papers to sign in order to complete the admission of their loved one. Many times, hidden with that stack of papers is an agreement to sign away the only accountability the law still places on nursing homes- the jury trial. These so-called arbitration agreements are usually one sided in favor of the nursing home, placing an undue burden on the resident and family that is not imposed in the courts. In addition, many of these agreements limit the amounts that can be awarded to the resident for their future care necessitated by abuse and neglect by the nursing home. This places the burden on our health care system.

Once Your Loved One is in the Facility:
Talk to your loved one about the facility. Do they seem to know the staff members personally? Do they have a favorite staff member or one that they dislike? Is their room clean? Is their roommate friendly?

Inspect your loved one. Help your loved one change clothes so that you can see their body. Are they clean? Do they have wounds? Does the staff resist your efforts to see your loved ones body?

Visit at random times. If staff knows that you come every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 3pm to 6pm to visit your loved one, they can make sure that a “pretty picture” is created for your visit. You want to visit your loved one at all hours, on any day, so that you can get an accurate and complete picture of what their life is like in the nursing home.

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