How To Choose A Parent’s Nursing Home In 2020

selecting a nursing home in 2020

Transitioning A Loved One Into a Nursing Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Nursing homes and assisted living centers should offer a safe place for your loved one, whether he or she is your parent, a family member, or a friend who needs guided rehabilitation or to make a senior care facility their future residency. It is normal for you to have questions and be concerned as a quarter of all nursing home residents will experience abuse during their residency and the coronavirus pandemic has brutally targeted the elderly nursing home population.

As you begin your research, schedule a virtual tour of a facility, or speak with an administrator, review these questions to guide your learning about the home’s staffing, environment, and infectious disease outbreaks.

Facility Type

  • Is the nursing home Medicare certified?
  • Is the nursing home Medicaid certified?
  • Are the nursing home and current administrator licensed in my state?
  • Does the nursing home offer specialized care?
  • What type of rehabilitation services are provided?
  • Is there an arbitration agreement requested to be signed?
  • Can I have a copy of resident policies?
  • Will the nursing home tell me in writing about their services, charges, and fees before I move my loved one into the home?

Nursing Home Living Spaces

  • Is the nursing home free from overwhelming unpleasant odors?
  • Does the nursing home appear clean and well kept?
  • Is the temperature in the nursing home comfortable for residents?
  • Does the nursing home have good lighting?
  • Are the noise levels comfortable?
  • Is smoking allowed?
  • Is the furniture sturdy, yet comfortable and attractive?
  • Are any mobility devices shared?

Menus & Food

  • Do residents have a choice of food items at each meal?
  • Is your dining room currently closed or open? Where do residents take their meals?
  • Can the nursing home provide for special dietary needs?
  • Does the staff help residents eat and drink at mealtimes if help is needed?


  • Are you currently having staffing challenges due to COVID-19? What are you doing to fix these problems?
  • Does the relationship between staff and residents appear to be warm, polite, and respectful?
  • Do staff wear masks and are they equipped personal protection equipment to protect against COVID?
  • How often are staff tested for COVID?
  • Do staff knock on the door before entering a resident’s room?
  • Do staff refer to residents by name?
  • Does the nursing home offer a training and continuing education program for all staff?
  • Is there a licensed nursing staff 24 hours a day, including a Registered Nurse (RN) present at least 8 hours per day, 7 days a week?
  • How does the nursing home check to make sure they don’t hire staff members who have been found guilty of abuse, neglect or mistreatment of residents, or have a finding of abuse, neglect, or mistreatment of residents in the state nurse aid registry?
  • Has there been a turnover in administration staff, like the administrator or director of nurses, in the past year?
  • Where does the nursing home post information about the number of nursing staff, including Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs)?
  • Can I meet the social worker available?
  • Is my primary language spoken by staff that will work directly with me and fellow residents?

Residents’ Rooms

  • Can residents have personal belongings and furniture in their rooms?
  • Does each resident have storage space (closet and drawers) in his or her room?
  • Can a resident leave their room if showing signs of illness? How do you minimize a resident’s exposure to others who might be sick or tested positive for the coronavirus?
  • Does each resident have a window in his or her bedroom?
  • Do residents have access to the internet, a computer, a personal phone, and television? How often?
  • Are there policies and procedures to protect residents’ possessions, including lockable cabinets and closets?

Hallway, Stairs, Lounges, & Bathrooms

  • What types of spaces do residents share?
  • How often are these areas cleaned and disinfected?
  • Are exits clearly marked?
  • Does the nursing home have smoke detectors and sprinklers?
  • Are all common areas, resident rooms, and doorways designed for wheelchairs?
  • Are handrails and grab bars appropriately placed in the hallways and bathrooms?


  • What types of activities can residents, including those who are unable to leave their rooms, participate in?
  • Do residents help plan or choose activities that are available?
  • Does the nursing home have outdoor areas for resident use?
  • What type of disruptions has COVID-19 caused in daily schedules and group activities?
  • When does the nursing home allow for visitors? Are visits outside?
  • Are there procedures for leaving?
  • Does the nursing home offer the religious or cultural support I need?

Safety, Infectious Disease & Care

  • How do you screen residents and staff for fevers and respiratory diseases?
  • What is your COVID-19 outbreak history?
  • What is your COVID-19 testing plan and response strategy?
  • Can I have a copy of your infection control policies and procedures?
  • Can residents still see their personal doctors? Does the facility help arrange transportation for this purpose?
  • Does the nursing home have an arrangement with a nearby hospital in the case of requiring COVID-19 care?
  • Does the nursing home’s inspection report show quality of care problems or other deficiencies?
  • Has the nursing home corrected all deficiencies (failure to meet one or more state or federal requirements) on its last state inspection report?
  • Does the nursing home have the most recent health and fire inspection reports for me to look at?

Use of Antipsychotic Drugs

  • Does the nursing home have specific policies and procedures related to the care of individuals with dementia? If so, does the policy include non-medication-based approaches to care as a first attempt to respond to behavioral symptoms, which are often a means of communication, for residents living with dementia?
  • What percentage of residents who have a diagnosis of dementia are prescribed antipsychotic medication?
  • What’s the nursing home’s current rate of antipsychotic medication use?
  • Does the nursing home participate in any efforts related to reducing antipsychotic medication use?

Both state and federal laws protect the rights of residents living in Illinois nursing homes. However, each year, thousands of residents fall victim to nursing home abuse and neglect. Often, negligence occurs because nursing homes are understaffed, and workers are insufficiently trained to care for the complex medical needs of residents living in long-term care. When nursing homes do not comply with safety standards or employ the proper staff, residents may suffer injuries such as bed-sores, malnutrition, dehydration, fatal falls, medication errors, come in contact with infectious diseases, or fall victim of physical abuse.

Available Data Representing Worrisome Patterns of Abuse and Neglect

In 2019, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) made a much-needed change in how families can be better informed of Illinois nursing homes that have been cited for violations related to abuse, neglect, infectious disease outbreaks, and exploitation. Take note of any bright red “abuse icon” marking the most troublesome homes. Use the site to look more closely at your choice. Even if you don’t see the abuse-alert icon, and want to learn more about a facility, look into the following information:

  • Review Illinois’ most recent nursing home violations list via IDPH.
  • Become familiar with facilities participating in the Illinois Special Focus Facility (SFF) program.
  • Review Levin & Perconti’s findings on Illinois nursing homes battling COVID.

We should all be part of a solution to curve the abuse and neglect epidemic that continues to plague our most vulnerable citizens, and being better informed of a facility’s violations before choosing a long-term care home is one way to do so.

A Special Note about COVID-19 and Nursing Home Transitions

Choosing a long-term care facility for your parent can feel completely overwhelming. The decision-making process is often stressful for the entire family, but especially now with the increased risk factors caused by the preventable missteps of too many nursing home owners related to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to this checklist above provided by Nursing Home Compare, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has created an online map of long-term care facilities in Illinois with confirmed outbreaks and cases of COVID-19. The numbers are provisional, and the list is updated weekly here. Scroll down to find the county in which the facility you are looking for is located. As well, Levin & Perconti’s nursing home negligence team is working diligently to post the most updated news regarding outbreaks in Illinois nursing homes here on our blog.

Chicago’s Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorneys

At Levin & Perconti, we have the experience and resources to investigate claims and are currently standing up to violators who choose not to protect residents from harm. If you consider pursuing a legal case against an Illinois nursing home and want to share your story to help others, please contact us for a free consultation at 877-374-1417 or 312-332-2872. All calls and discussions with our attorneys are confidential.

Also read: Illinois Nursing Homes With High COVID-19 Risk

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