Choosing the right nursing home

by | August 29, 2009

There are many nursing homes out there. You want the best for your loved one and to know he or she is safe and well taken care of, so how do you decide?

Ideally speaking, growing old in the comfort of one’s own home and in the company of one’s loving family is something most of us wish for and hope to experience. Sadly, this may not always be feasible especially where one has unstable medical conditions that require constant care and supervision.  

Where such conditions exist, a good nursing home is indispensable in providing round-the-clock care and wholesome activities that one needs to age gracefully. With so many nursing homes in Singapore, it can be a daunting task choosing a suitable one that can offer the best care. While there is no one single magical formula for choosing the most appropriate home as the wants and needs of each individual differ, nevertheless here are some useful tips to make that decision-making process a little easier:

  1. Get to know the home – Talk to the nurses, social workers and doctors on the kind of care your loved one needs. While most nursing homes provide adequate care for general medical conditions, others may be more specialised and provide care towards treatment of certain ailments. Pick a home that can tend to the needs of your loved one the best.


  2. Emphasise convenience – The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) maintains a list of registered social service providers (which includes eldercare services like day care centres and nursing homes). Select at least three nursing homes in the vicinity of your home for comparison. Convenience means accessibility to your loved one is made easier.


  3. See it for yourself – The best way of making sure that the best care is accorded to your loved one is by examining the premises of the home and sourcing details from the staff there (preferably accompanied by your loved one and other family members). Generally, the person-in-charge will be more than willing to show you around the home. Keep a lookout for overall cleanliness and elderly-friendly facilities like hot water, call buttons and handrails. From your personal observation and from the information provided about the home’s caregiver-to-residents ratio, the turnover rate of staff, the feedback from current residents and their families’ members as well as the type and taste of the meals served, you can have a better idea of how the home is run and hence, gauge its suitability.


  4. Observe the residents – If the residents are mostly congregated in communal activity areas, then that is a good sign. You should not be witnessing residents being undressed or toileted in the open because it shows that the home does not value each resident’s privacy or personal dignity. Frail residents, especially those on wheelchairs, should also not be unnecessarily restrained by devices that deliberately restrict movement. Restraints should only be used as a last resort like in a medical emergency.


  5. Check out the kitchen and pantry – Needless to say, a good kitchen should be clean with designated storage areas for dry and wet goods. Raw food must be kept in the refrigerator and all foods in general must be covered and not left in the open. As dehydration is a high risk for the elderly, fresh drinking water must be easily accessible by the residents.


  6. Availability of other care and clinical services – Aside from trained staff, it is important to know if there are other supplementary services available to the resident. This is especially crucial where specialised care is needed. Supplementary services include the presence of a dietician who takes care of the meals and nutritional requirements of each resident based on his/her record of allergies and dislikes. Other services include the provision of physiotherapy services by a certified physiotherapist or visiting doctors who continually assess each resident’s health and well-being.


  7. Elderly-friendly rooms – The room should be large enough for a resident’s needs and it should be well-equipped with elderly-friendly amenities like handrails within the room, well-lit corridors and a clean, cheerful environment.


  8. General security and fire safety systems – The floor plan should be prominently displayed and there should be procedures set in place in event of an emergency. These plans should be comprehensive, logical and easy to adhere to. Evacuation drills and briefings on fire safety should also be routinely conducted to keep residents and staff well-versed with the procedures.


  9. Evaluate the contract – The service contract should provide all the essential services needed to accord your loved one with the best possible care. The cost structure of all the services (be it core or supplementary) requested should be complete and upfront. You must also examine the various policies of the home, particularly those relating to discharge and transfer. Penalty charges, for instance, may be imposed if insufficient notice period for the discharge of a resident is given.


  10. Visit regularly – There is no understating the importance of visiting your loved ones regularly in the home. When visiting, make sure an individualised care plan is done up for your loved one. The care plan outlines all the care requirements for that particular resident including his or her dietary needs, medications and rehabilitation instructions. Your prerogative is in ensuring that the home dutifully adheres to the care plan in giving your loved one the best possible care.


  11. Respecting each resident – Lastly, always remember that the services the home provides should support your loved one in living a dignified and independent life to the fullest. Your loved one should always be treated with utmost respect and no intrusions into his or her rights of dignity or to personal privacy ought to be tolerated.


The above article was contributed by the NTUC Eldercare Co-operative, a non-profit entity that operates social day care centres and provides a range of auxiliary services for elderly. Its website is


(PHOTO CREDIT: Pacific Healthcare Nursing Home)



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