researching nursing homesMSN Money recently put together a list of the 5 traits of the worst nursing homes.  It is very important to do research before choosing and researching nursing homes for you or your loved one.  Many of the warning signs from below can be spotted on a tour of the community.

Do Your Research

For a list of retirement communities in your area, browse by care level here.  Each community featured has contact information, and a request more information form to set up a time to call and speak with someone at the community, or schedule a tour or lunch.  These communities will be happy to answer any questions you may have:

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1) History of Violations

Nursing homes are highly regulated by public and private agencies at the state and federal levels, but there are plenty of bad players in the industry. The good news is that if you do some research online, it’s easy to find out if a home has a reputation for substandard care. is a great place to start. It has a search tool that allows you to type in a ZIP code and compare nursing homes in that area. Medicare’s star ratings take into account factors like health inspections and staffing, and if you don’t see many stars, keep clicking to read why in the nursing home’s full report.

Assisted-living facilities are regulated on a state but not federal level, although not every state checks them out equally. Some states, in fact, can’t fine an assisted living center if a violation is discovered.

2) Number of Severe Violations

While some violations may be typical, others may not be.  Be sure to judge the severity of the violation in any report you pull from a credible source.

3) High Staff Turnover

While touring a nursing home or assisted living community, feel comfortable to ask how long staff members have been at the community.  While some turnover is normal, a high staff turnover rate could signal something worth investigating at the community.

4) The Residents Lack Independence

If your parent has Alzheimer’s or dementia, you don’t want him or her wandering in and out of the facility. But you don’t want your parent in a prison, either.

According to Tamar Shovali, assistant professor of human development at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., “there are several studies where researchers concluded that nursing home residents have greater well-being when they are able to make decisions about their environment than when the staff made decisions for them.”

So if you see personal touches in residents’ rooms, such as photos or decorations on the wall, that could be a good sign. “Some nursing homes do ban wall hangings,” Shovali says.

She adds that the nursing home’s environment and the resident’s abilities should be a good fit. “For example, when you visit a nursing home, you should expect to see that libraries or game rooms in the facility have placed the books and games at a level accessible to individuals in wheelchairs,” Shovali says.

5) You Feel Uneasy in Your Gut

Sometimes, you just know when a nursing home isn’t the place for your parent, says Michael Schulman, a member of the elder planning task force for the American Institute of Certified Personal Accountants.

“Is the place neat and orderly? Is the staff dressed cleanly and neatly?” Schulman asks. “Do they show respect to the residents? Are they wheeled around? How does the place smell? First impressions do make a big deal.”

He even suggests checking the second floor if there is one. “Sometimes that’s where they put the residents they don’t want you to see,” Schulman says.

In other words, if the place gives you the heebie-jeebies, it’s best to trust your instincts and try somewhere else.

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