How to Choose the Right Nursing Home


Trusting your loved one to the care of strangers is never an easy decision. The best way to ensure that he is safe and comfortable is to do your homework in advance.  It will diminish your anxiety tremendously if you believe the facility you’ve chosen is the best fit for your loved one. That level of trust requires research.  

Start your nursing home search by looking around and asking for recommendations.  The best resources will be people you know who have parents in nursing homes. If you don’t know any one who fits the bill, look for local support groups for those caring for aging parents. Online reviews will help, too. Once you have some recommendations, get out there and do your research. 

The following tips will help guide you in the process of choosing the right nursing home. 

Visit multiple facilities

While it may be tempting to narrow down your options to one or two facilities based on online photos and reviews, in order to get the feel for a place you really need to visit in person. Even if a nursing home comes highly recommended, it may not be the right fit for your loved one. In addition, you’re not guaranteed a vacancy, especially if you’re doing your research before you actually need a facility. For this reason, it’s important to have a list of options when the time comes. 

Tip: Keep a list of the places you’re interested in.  Check them off as you visit each one. 

Take notes

When you visit a nursing home, bring a notebook and a pen so you can take notes while you’re there. Better yet, create a template to organize your notes.  That way, it’ll be easier to read and compare notes later. On the template, create sections that give you space to jot down your thoughts, feelings, observations, and questions about the criteria below. Consider the following questions when making site visits. Some you can answer from your own observations. Others will require direct answers from staff and administration. 


  • Are the common areas and private rooms homey and comfortable?
  • Is the décor personalized and cheery? 
  • Do the patients seem at ease? 
  • Does the staff seem happy and professional?

Staff-resident interaction

  • Do the staff members respectfully call the patients by their proper names (or even “Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So”)? 
  • Does the staff spend some of their downtime interacting with residents?


  • How does it look and smell? 
  • Is it presented with care? 


  • Is the facility spotless?
  • Are the hygienic needs of the residents well tended-to? 
  • Are common areas wiped down and sanitized regularly?

Safety and Security

  • How secure are the outdoor areas? 
  • Do staff members have to pass a reliable background check? 
  • Does the facility use alerting systems for residents at risk of falling?

Distance from family and friends

  • Is it close enough to support regular visits?
  • How fast can a trusted family member get there in emergencies?


  • Are they friendly and accessible?
  • Do they answer your questions readily?
  • Do they seem compassionate with residents and family members?

Tip: After the visit, before you leave the grounds, take about five minutes to rate each of above criteria on a scale of 1-5.  This will be helpful later when you compare the many facilities you’ve visited. 

Compare your notes

Keep all your notes in one place.  When you’ve visited 5-10 facilities, use the rating system to compare them. To do this, you’ll need to create a table that lists each facility in the rows and all the important criteria in the columns.  

Use the ratings you created during the visit to plug into the table. When you’ve done that for each facility, add up the columns and give each facility a total score. Those with the lowest scores should be crossed off your list of options. Set aside those with middle scores for now. The highest scores should be the first ones you return to for a second visit. 

Tip: Let the rating score sheets lead your discussions with the family members of other residents from the facility (See Get References below). Ask their opinions about the criteria that you gave your lowest and highest scores to.

Make multiple visits

You don’t have to visit every single facility more than once. If the first time was enough to tell you it’s not a good fit, there’s no reason to go back. But if you’re on the fence or even if the first visit gave you great feelings about the place, you’ll want to go back at least two more times. Visit during different times of the day to see how the facility operates during meal or activity times and on holidays. Multiple visits at different times of day will probably also expose you to a variety of staff members. It’s important to get a feel for the big picture of the place. 

Tip: Visiting during transitional times (just before meals and special activities) can provide important information about how efficiently a facility operates as well as how patient the staff is.

Put Bella Vista Health Center on your list

At Bella Vista Health Center in Lemon Grove, our deeply compassionate and highly professional staff provides quality nursing care in a nurturing environment.  We trust that you and your loved one will feel welcome, comfortable, and supported in our 5-star facility. 

If you’re looking for a first-rate nursing home in the San Diego area, please stop by. We’ll be happy to show you around.