Seeking the Right Nursing Home

Stephen M. Garcia
The Garcia Law Firm

Visiting a nursing home is a very important step in selecting the right one for you or your loved one. A visit gives you an opportunity to talk with nursing home staff and, most importantly, the people who live and receive care at the long-term healthcare facility.

The following simple steps when choosing a long-term healthcare facility will help measurably with your satisfaction and happiness:

  • Make a personal inspection.
  • Check to see if the home is adequately staffed, day and night.
  • Check the home history.
  • Choose a convenient location. There is comfort in being close.


A report to Congress found that most nursing homes are dangerously understaffed and that this understaffing leads to neglect of nursing home residents. Consider the following to determine if a nursing home has sufficient staff to care for you or a loved one:

  • Are aides responsive when you call for them?
  • Is there staff at the nurses’ station?
  • Does the staff appears rushed, overworked, and very tired from working double or triple shifts?
  • Is the staff responsive when you point out a problem? Make personal, up-close inspection of your loved ones. It is important that you make regular inspections and bring your observations to the attention of the director of nursing. The old adage of “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” could not be truer than it is in the long-term healthcare environment.
  • Does your loved one seem depressed? Look for signs of depression in your loved one. Often, the home will give medicines to treat depression rather than improving the quality of care.

To make sure you are well-informed about your loved one’s care, consider these action steps:

  • Read the chart and regularly meet with the facility staff.
  • Visit often, staggering visitation times.
  • Try to develop a good relationship with the caregivers. Let them know you will demand the best of care.


  • California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. This organization has a wonderful website and is a terrific resource for information which includes a list of all nursing homes in California, their location, their size, as well as their citations, deficiencies, staffing, facility acuity levels and complaints. Contact 1-800-474-1116 or
  • Nursing Home Compare.\nhcompare\home.asp
  • You can contact the local district office of the Department of Social Services as it relates to residential care facilities for the elderly or the Department of Public Health Services for skilled nursing facilities to inspect facility files. These files are available to the public. They will contain the annual survey report of the facility and any citations for poor care.
  • Some ombudsman programs also have listings, offer pre-placement services and provide access to licensing reports.

If these measures fail, it is important to know your rights. These include the right to:

  • Have relatives or a legal representative act on your behalf to exercise your rights if you are unable to act upon them yourself.
  • Not be asked to give up or delay your right to receive Medi-Cal or Medicare.
  • Not be asked for a security deposit of you receive Medi-Cal or Medicare.
  • Privacy when meeting with visitors, making telephone calls, or receiving or sending mail.
  • Privacy in your room, while bathing, during medical treatment, and receiving personal care.
  • Voice complaints without fear of retaliation.
  • Services necessary to maintain your highest level of possible function.
  • Participate in your plan of care or treatment.
  • Choose your own doctor.
  • Refuse any plan of care, treatment, or procedure.
  • Refuse anything that limits your mobility or drugs that effect your mind, except in emergency situations.
  • Return to the nursing home after a short-term stay in a hospital or after a therapeutic leave from the nursing home.

The California Department of Health Services publishes a free brochure that lists all your rights as a resident of a nursing home (

If someone you love is abused or neglected, and you cannot get help from the home or from the state, contact a law firm that regularly handles these types of cases and has a track record of success. This, too, is your right.