Many adult children of senior parents today face a difficult dilemma. Better nutrition and various medical advances have led to people living longer than ever before, but in many cases, it’s not advisable for senior citizens to live on their own. Seniors that suffer from dementia or have a medical condition that requires close monitoring, as well as those with mobility impairments, may face unsafe living conditions if left alone in their homes. Others may simply not be comfortable living alone, may be unable to keep up with the cooking or home maintenance, or may find that an inability to drive hampers their ability to live independently. There are many options for these seniors and their families. Some adult children choose to coordinate daily visits to their aging parent’s home, while others move in with their parent or move the parent into their own home. Hiring in-home care is always a popular option, and of course, many people choose nursing facilities for their loved ones.

Choosing to move an aging parent into a nursing facility is always a difficult decision for an adult child, and many people have only a vague idea of what these facilities are like or should be like before they begin the placement process. It’s a good idea to know what to look for when considering various nursing facilities. Keep in mind that the person who will be living in the facility should always be involved in the decision to the extent that they’re capable of.

When choosing a nursing facility, you should tour at least three or four of them, if not more, before you begin to make a decision. Different facilities offer different levels of care and service, so be sure to focus your search on facilities that are most appropriate for your parent’s needs. Is your parent mostly capable of independent living, but in need of transportation services, light housekeeping, and a nearby medical staff in case of emergency? If so, then an assisted living facility may be an appropriate choice. You can find these as standalone facilities or in connection with a nursing home offering skilled care, where your parent can be transferred should their condition decline. If your parent is suffering from dementia, you should look for a nursing home that has a secure dementia ward with staff trained in caring for dementia patients. A chronic illness may require a nursing facility with a skilled care wing.

When you’re touring nursing homes, pay attention to the call lights that are usually located above the rooms. Nursing facilities are typically staffed by nurses, nurse aides, and a number of support and administrative staff, all of whom can answer a residents call bell. A call bell should never take more than a minute or two to respond to. If you see call lights that stay on for more than a minute or two during the time of your tour, be wary. This may be a sign that the home is understaffed, or that the standard of care isn’t up to where you want it to be.

You should also take note of the residents that you see in the hallways and common areas. It’s not a good sign if you don’t see any residents in these areas during a daytime tour; that means that they are in bed or in their rooms instead of up and engaged in activities. It’s also not a good sign if you see a large number of them sitting around and doing nothing. During the day, you should see many nursing home residents up and alert, dressed in street clothes with clean faces and brushed hair, and participating in activities or socializing with other residents.

Finally, pay attention to your nose. A nursing home, like a hospital, is a medical facility and may smell slightly antiseptic, and the occasional bad scent is to be expected. However, a foul odor should certainly not permeate the place, nor should it smell as if someone sprayed lots of air freshener in order to cover a bad odor. Food should smell appetizing, residents’ skin and hair should smell clean, and the rooms should smell fresh as well.

Paying careful attention to detail will help ensure that your loved one ends up in a well equipped facility that will treat them with care and respect.