When you are looking for a nursing home it’s important to do your homework and then to have a regular, visible advocate for your family member. It’s much easier to find a suitable facility if you don’t wait until there is a crisis. If a relative needs long-term care, consider moving them closer to your home. If that is not an option locate a private patient advocate in the area to be your eyes and ears. Start your research by asking friends and relatives if they have a loved one in a nursing home and why they chose that particular facility. If that’s not a option go online to Nursing Home Compare, a federal government site that rates local nursing homes. You can also go online to the state health department and look at the “nursing care facility locator page.” Check the Home’s survey results and compare. Always take a tour and not one you schedule. You should drop in unannounced to see what is really going on. If you are interested after your secret shopper tour, schedule an appointment. Ask about staffing ratios, watch how staff interact with the residents, look at the activity calendar, look at the menu and look at the food they are serving and how it is served. Visit regularly and go at different times, including weekends. A particularly telling time can be at night, after administrators have gone home. Ask questions if you have concerns. If you can’t resolve problems or issues, seek help from an ombudsman from the Office of Aging. The service is free.