Nursing Home

8 Red Flags You Shouldn’t Ignore When Choosing a Nursing Home

Choosing to put an elderly family member in a nursing home is already a difficult decision. You wouldn’t want to be burdened with the guilt of picking a place incapable of taking care of your loved one, or worse, detrimental to their health and safety.   

While a simple Google search will reveal a list of nursing homes in your area claiming to provide exceptional long-term care, you can’t just trust anyone with your family member’s well-being.

It’s crucial to look out for the following red flags when choosing a nursing home

1.     Negative reviews

As with any business, negative reviews tell a lot about the credibility and quality of a nursing home. Hence, you must read reviews of the facility from people unsatisfied with the service. Do some digging on Google and Yelp, take notes of the potential areas of concern, and see how they may affect your loved one’s health and well-being.

It’s also a good idea to check the annual state survey and contact local agencies that inspect and license nursing homes. If they have several complaints and investigations to show on record, it’s a big red flag.  

2.     Injured, unresponsive, or ungroomed residents

Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect cases aren’t few and far between. While there are organizations committed to protecting seniors in such circumstances, you should make every effort to ensure it doesn’t come to that when admitting a loved one to a nursing home.   

Keep an eye out for residents with serious physical injuries or psychological trauma on your visit to a prospective facility. These are the signs of abuse you can’t afford to ignore. Even if you come across seniors with unkempt hair, dirty clothes, or bad breath, don’t hesitate to assume they’re not getting the care and assistance they deserve. Additionally, if many residents seem unresponsive, there’s a good chance the staff is drugging them or administering antipsychotics to “control” them.  

Essentially, any good nursing home that doesn’t have injured, unresponsive, or ungroomed residents will have a complaint policy and prevention program for resident abuse and neglect. If the facility you’re considering doesn’t have proof of these, you should leave and never look back.  

3.     Insufficient staff or high turnover rate

Your loved one will never receive adequate attention and quality care if there aren’t enough staff members on duty. Additionally, when the workers have a lot on their plates every day, they’re likely to be burned out, stressed, and frustrated. This negative energy may take the form of verbal, emotional, or physical abuse for the residents. The practice of drugging residents is also common in understaffed facilities. 

A good way to ascertain understaffing is to note if the residents are left in their rooms to stay in beds till the afternoon. If you don’t see at least a few residents chatting in the common areas, getting some exercise, watching television, or playing games, it’s a sign the facility doesn’t have enough employees to tend to the needs of everyone.

Apart from this, you should look out for high employee turnover at nursing homes, as it can be detrimental to the quality of care. In this case, you can expect that the management will constantly be hiring new people or onboarding temporary staff to take care of the residents, which means you’ll always be concerned about the credentials and expertise of the new caretakers.

4.     Unsanitary conditions

Any place committed to taking care of seniors must maintain the highest cleanliness and hygiene standards. It’s something you can’t compromise on when placing a loved one in a nursing home.

During your tour of a facility, determine the overall state of sanitation. Dirty bathrooms, wet floors, unsanitary kitchens, and dining areas graced by bugs and rodents are all clear signs the place isn’t suitable for the elderly. They can expose your loved one to a variety of illnesses and injuries.

You must also note if the residents smell of urine or feces and have untrimmed nails and dirty hair. This should be a good indicator of the level of personal care and assistance residents get at the facility.

5.     Restricted visiting policy

A poor visiting policy is another nursing home red flag you shouldn’t ignore, especially if your senior family member requires hospice care. All residents have the right to see their family members, which means you should be allowed to visit anytime you like.

If the facility has inflexible visiting hours or is strictly against unscheduled visits (unless you show up at the door after midnight), the staff may have something to hide.    

6.     Poor nutrition care

Long-term care facilities like nursing homes are accountable for the food quality they provide residents. They must also conform to special dietary needs when applicable.

During your visit to a facility, you must pay attention to the meals being served to the residents. Are they healthy and nutritious? Are they cooked properly and presented with clean utensils? Does the staff follow food sanitation practices?

These questions will give you a good idea of whether the nursing home can care for your loved one. You must also note if many residents show disinterest when the food is served. Some might even be underweight due to not eating properly throughout the day.

Remember, poor food quality can affect the residents’ health in many ways. You wouldn’t want to witness it at a nursing home that gets paid to take care of your loved one.  

7.     Staff speaking down to residents

A caregiver speaking ill of residents or shutting them down is one of the biggest nursing home red flags.

If you overhear something like this or see the residents getting awkward or stiff when a staff member enters the room, the facility doesn’t respect the elderly and isn’t committed to improving their well-being. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the residents also experienced verbal or mental abuse at the hands of their caretakers.      

Moreover, these unprofessional employees will likely not pay attention to the residents’ requests or care about addressing their basic needs. They may even ignore your questions or respond rudely when you inquire about their hygiene standards, privacy policy, or general care practices.

8.     Excessively loud noises

The senior population deserves to live in a peaceful environment. If you hear loud noises at the nursing home during your visit, unanswered phone, or machinery, you can expect the residents to have unnecessary stress or anxiety.

If continued throughout the night, these sounds may affect the sleeping routine of the residents, causing them to wake up groggy and have low energy levels during the day.


When choosing a nursing home to provide adequate and compassionate care to your loved one, you must do your due diligence and look out for red flags. Do thorough research on multiple facilities, compare your options, and visit each center to assess if they’re equipped, capable, and genuinely concerned about taking care of seniors.

Also read, Psychiatric Nurses

Also, don’t hesitate to ask questions about anything that catches your attention. A reliable and reputable nursing home will never hesitate to provide detailed answers.

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