Our firm represents people harmed by nursing home negligence, so we take a lot of calls about things that have gone wrong at those facilities. But whether it’s for a short-term recovery period or a long-term stay, many of us, and many of our family members, are going to end up in one at some time. But that doesn’t mean you have to make a blind choice when it comes to the decision. Here are four things that lawyers do when choosing a nursing home for friends and family:

1. Make an unannounced visit.

You’ve taken the tour with the prospective nursing home’s cheerful representative, you’ve seen residents working on crafts in the sunny activity room, and you’ve heard about the excellent care provided by the facility. Everything looks great. Of course, it does. You’ve taken a scheduled tour, and you only going to see the facility at its best.

At the end of the tour of any prospective nursing home choice, ask if families considering the facility can make unannounced visits. If you’re told that you can only tour the facility after making an appointment, consider what that might mean. If on the other hand, you’re assured that families can take unscheduled tours at any time, take the facility upon it. Return a day or two later at a different time from when you took your first tour, and ask for another. Do the halls seem as clean? Do you see staffers interacting with the residents? Do they greet residents by name? If there is a difference between what you saw on the scheduled tour, and what saw on the unscheduled tour, you’re seeing red flags.

2. Do they make the grade?

The State of Ohio collects family and patient satisfaction surveys for every nursing home in the state, and those scores are accessible online. The scores can be narrowed down by county, facility name, or those with specific services like dementia care:


If you select a specific facility and click on it, you can see how many staff members there are, and how many caregiver hours that amount to each day for each patient.

Want more information? The federal government has you covered. At the Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare site, you’ll find a wealth of information on individual nursing homes, searchable by zip code:


Each facility is rated according to health inspections, staffing, and quality measures.
Clicking on the hyperlinks for each of these categories opens up even more data. You can see information on whether the home has been fined for health code violations, and download detailed inspection reports.

3. Check the docket.

You can check public court dockets for most counties to see how often patients have sued the nursing home. For example, in Stark County you can review the docket at:


Not every lawsuit filed against a nursing home relates to patient care, and not every lawsuit ultimately proves to have merit. But if you’re comparing two nursing homes, and you see that one has been sued seven times in the past two years, and the other has been sued once, you may want to ask the nursing home administrator about that.

4. Ask for referrals.

It’s completely acceptable to ask the nursing home to provide you with referrals of people who have been happy with their services. On the tour, ask if there are any residents you could talk to about their experiences there. Similarly, ask your friends and family if anyone knows anything about the nursing home.

It’s never fun to choose a nursing home, but the task doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it first seems. A little extra homework can help you find the right fit for your loved one.