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Aging Well: Choosing a Nursing Home


Finding the right nursing home can help you or your loved one feel safe and cared for.

A good first step to choosing a nursing home is to make a list of homes you might be interested in. Talk to family, friends, doctors, and others to get recommendations of good nursing homes.

If you can, it's good to plan ahead so you have time to learn all you can about the nursing homes you're interested in. If you need to make a decision quickly, try to visit the nursing homes on your list at least once before you choose. Make sure you understand the cost and payment options for each nursing home.

How can you be sure you're choosing the right nursing home?

As you look at the choices before you or your loved one, pay special attention to the cost of each nursing home, how each one feels to you, where it's located, and the levels of nursing care it provides. Does the nursing home provide enough help with daily tasks? Is 24-hour nursing care available?

Answering the following questions can help you make the best possible decision:

  • Does the nursing home feel right to you or your loved one?

    • Is the nursing home clean and odour-free? Are there smoke detectors and sprinklers? Are there handrails where you would need them?
    • Do the residents seem clean and comfortable? Is the staff responsive and friendly to them? How long does it take for a resident's call lights to be answered?
    • Are individual rooms available, or will you share with another resident? Can you bring your own furnishings? Will you have your own bathroom, or are these shared?
    • Do residents with special needs, such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease, live in separate areas?
    • Does the nursing home have a social director who plans events for the residents? Are religious services held? Is a hairdresser or barber available?
  • Can the nursing home provide the kind of care you need?

    • Will your doctor be able to direct your care? If not, find out how often the nursing home's medical director personally visits each resident.
    • Can you see the provincial licences for both the nursing home and the administrator? Many provinces require both to be licensed in the province where the nursing home is located.
    • Can you see a copy of the nursing home's most recent inspection report?
  • Does the nursing home have adequate, qualified staff?

    • Does the nursing home staff have experience caring for people with your unique needs?
    • Is the nursing home able to retain qualified staff members? One good way to find out is to ask how much staff turnover there is.
    • What is the education level of the staff? Does the staff get regular educational training?
    • Does the nursing home screen potential employees to make sure that it doesn't hire people with a history of abusing others?
  • How will you pay for your stay?

    • How much does the nursing home cost? Price can change depending on the nursing home and the type of care offered. Talk with your family, social workers, or eldercare agencies in your community about your payment options.
    • Think about your payment options:
      • Many people pay for nursing home services with their own money.
      • Some people have long-term care insurance that helps cover some costs.
      • Some provinces offer resources for people who qualify.
    • If you have private health insurance, don't cancel it. You can use it to pay for hospital care, doctor services, or medical supplies in the nursing home.
  • Is it the right location?

    • If you plan to have family and friends visit you, think about choosing a nursing home that's close by and easy for them to visit.


Current as of:
September 8, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Shelly R. Garone MD, FACP - Palliative Medicine
Robin L. Fainsinger MBChB, LMCC, CCFP - Palliative Medicine