Choosing a Nursing Home

Choosing the right long-term care provider for your loved one is a difficult decision and one that can seem overwhelming. But several resources exist for Iowans to help them make the critical decision of how best to provide for their loved one's care.

First, consider whether your loved one requires a nursing home or whether alternatives such as in-home assistance, adult day care, or assisted living might be more appropriate for your situation. The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals regulates all such facilities, and you can search for facilities near you using the Department's Entity Search on their website.

Second, if you do determine your loved one needs a nursing home, research the track record of the various facilities in your area. The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals posts each facility's history of complaints, regulatory violations, and any state action taken as a result of those violations on its website. The federal government also has information about nursing homes on its "Nursing Home Compare" website. The Nursing Home Compare website uses a relatively simply star rating system, giving each facility an overall rating as well as a rating in the categories of Health Inspections, Nursing Home Staffing, and Quality Measures.

Third, make unannounced visits the facilities that you are considering. Ask how long the administrator, director of nursing, and other staff have worked at the facility. Homes with high turnover rates tend to provide lower quality care that those with consistent staff. Talk to the residents to get their views on how responsive the staff is to their needs, what activities are offered, and what they like and dislike about the facility. Attend -- and eat, if possible -- a meal at the home to observe what assistance residents receive and the quality of the food. Consider whether the home provides specialized units such as dementia units that you may need to utilize in the future.

For additional information, you can contact your Iowa Long-Term Care Ombusman. You can find your local ombudsman on the Iowa Department on Aging's website.