How to Tour a Nursing Home: Guidance from a Director of Nursing

Members | August 26, 2013

If you are looking for a nursing home for a loved one, chances are you may already be aware of the basic services and amenities on your list. But what would a director of nursing advise when touring a nursing home?

If you are looking for a nursing home for a loved one, chances are you may already be aware of the basic services and amenities on your list. But what would a director of nursing advise when touring a nursing home?

Valerie Foresyth, R.N. is the director of nursing at Florida Presbyterian Homes, and she knows her away around a nursing home. 

She has been a nurse for over 20 years. She worked through the ranks from CNA to LPN to R.N. at Winter Haven Hospital, and also worked with a local hospice. 

She came to Florida Presbyterian Homes most recently from Whispering Oaks in Tampa, a skilled nursing facility with 240 beds. In the course of 1 year, she took the organization from 2 stars to 4 stars.

Foresyth recommends that those visiting a nursing home ask for a list of the physicians who are providing services. Do research by talking to an admissions counselor and scouring the internet and local news sources for any information on that nursing home, whether it's positive or negative. 

"Talk to the admissions coordinator and clinical manager," she adds. "Be sure to ask what the bed availability is and how soon you might be able to move in." 

Additionally, the business office manager can discuss finances with you, including billing and your pay rate. The clinical manager can discuss clinical modalities and disease processes.

What Should Stand Out When Touring a Nursing Home?

When touring a nursing home, cleanliness, specialized units, meals and a positive overall appearance should stand out to you.

Foresyth is clear on the point that nurses should be knocking at doors before entering rooms, and staff should be interacting with residents in a dignified manner. It's important to be sure that a nursing home can care for your loved one, whether they need a skilled unit for surgery or a specialized dementia care unit. 

If your loved one has special dietary or health needs, explain those to the appropriate staff member and decide whether or not you are satisfied with the response.

Red flags to look out for while on a nursing home tour include:

  • Isolation: residents are left alone for long periods of time.
  • Appearance: residents are not well groomed, have missing or broken teeth, are not wearing sweaters or blankets despite cold weather, are gathering in common areas, or are restrained in their rooms.
  • Symptom management: residents are crying out, groggy and sedated, expressing that they are in pain, or are wandering aimlessly

If your questions are not answered in a way that leaves you feeling at ease, or if you encounter any of the red flags mentioned above, it's time to see what other nursing homes are available in your area.

Foresyth concludes by explaining that "people need to tour several nursing homes, ask questions, and be mindful of a nursing home's location and proximity to your home and the local hospital in case of emergency."