Due to recent experiences with my own mother’s declining health, I spent the morning touring skilled nursing facilities. The results were . . . interesting.

By Steve Moran

I am living the life of a family member needing care for a loved one. My mom is on a downhill slide. Toward the middle of last week it looked as if she had no more than a few days to go. Then she perked up a bit and we decided there was some rehabilitation potential.  

As a result, I spent the morning touring skilled nursing facilities. My process went something like this:

  1. I went to Nursing Home Compare and made a list of 8 possiblities.  

  2. I then took a look at Yelp and Caring.com (a Senior Housing Forum partner) consumer reviews for the eight and narrowed the list to 4 that I wanted to visit.  

  3. I also had two more I thought would work if I flamed out on the first 4.

  4. I then drove to each of the buildings without appointments.

My goal was to — by the end of the morning — give the hospital case manager a list of at least two nursing homes that we would be comfortable moving my mom to.

The Visits

Skilled Nursing — Option A: This is a for-profit owned facility that has undergone fairly extensive renovation over the past several years. The inside was nice, the tour was pretty good. I liked the level of activity in the building and watched as the Administrator was out working the floor, talking to team members, residents and family members.

There were three minor negatives: First, the outside of the building is kind of depressing. Second, the parking was a little challenging and the rooms were a bit small. Third, they insisted I fill out a form before anyone would talk to me.

It was a facility that would work and turned out to be #2 on my list.


Skilled Nursing — Option B: This one was also a for-profit owned building. The parking was easy, the rooms were bigger. The tour was adequate, but given by the receptionist. There were baseboards that had peeled away. Maybe being worked on and maybe not — I don’t know because she didn’t say. The other thing I didn’t like was it appeared there were admission folk in the building, but I was told I would need to call them to go the next steps. This was probably the thing that left me most unimpressed.  

The receptionist also didn’t know as much about my mom’s condition, which sort of makes sense since it seemed as if she does not have a medical background. However, this would seem to be important information for anyone giving tours in order to provide reassurances about limits of resident care at the community.

They also asked me to fill out an information card. This turned out to be choice #3.


Skilled Nursing — Option C: This was a nursing home owned by a large national chain. They pretty much just did everything right. The parking was easy. They had coffee in the lobby that was hot. They didn’t ask me to fill out a form, instead actually came out and talked to me. The salesperson, Rose, was very knowledgeable about the services they offered. She told success stories.  It seemed happy and bustling.

This turned out to to be our #1 choice.


Skilled Nursing — Option D: I didn’t realize it because I was only focused on skilled nursing, but it was part of a Life Plan Community (CCRC) campus owned and operated by a not-for-profit. My first thought was that maybe they did not accept skilled patients from the outside. Apparently they do . . . though I am not 100% sure if this is true.

I got directions to the nursing home portion of the campus, walked in and told the receptionist I was looking for skilled nursing for my mom. She asked me what her name was. It was a disconnect but I realized she must have thought I was looking to place a resident from independent living or assisted living. I explained this was an outside placement.

Her response was “Oh, you have to go to the corporate office to get any information.” I was puzzled and she followed up saying I could also call them if I wanted to do that.

I was baffled. It was like walking into a hotel lobby asking if they had rooms and being told I would have to go the corporate headquarters or call the 1-800-number to find help.

I was intrigued though. I made my way to the front entrance of the community and could see a big sign for the sales office off to one side. I told the receptionist what I was looking for and her response was to hand me a sticky note with the corporate admissions office phone number.

Unpacking Visit Number 4

If they had told me they only served their existing residents, that would have made perfect sense. But they didn’t. I am also willing to acknowledge there might be a good reason to centralize the skilled nursing admission process. However, I have absolutely no understanding about why the most help they could offer me was a sticky note with a handwritten phone number.

How about these as alternatives:

  1. “The way we do this is to work through a central office, but let me get them on the phone for you.”

  2. “Let me give you a tour and then connect you with the central office.”

  3. “Let me give you a brochure and tell you a little bit about what makes us such a special place.”

I am completely flummoxed as to how an organization whose entire mission is caring seems to care so little.