Finding the right nursing home

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As your parent ages, one thing that’s almost inevitable is the discussion of Nursing Homes. A Nursing Home is a residential facility where your loved one will benefit from 24-hour care, and alleviate the worry of having to carry out the often strenuous daily tasks it takes to run a household by themselves.

A survey carried out by Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) in 2015 revealed that there are over 400 Nursing Homes across the country, providing residential care for nearly 22,000 people aged 65 and over.

With so much choice out there, it’s crucial that you and your older parent think about what they want from a Nursing Home, the level and type of care they need and what their finances will allow.

This article has been designed to help you think about what you and your older relative may want from a Nursing Home to make the decision process that bit easier.

Establish the level of care required

In order to find the right Nursing Home, you first have to figure out what type of care your older loved one will need. You should think about their age and the level of dependency they require. If they have an illness such as Alzheimer’s for example, they will need to find a Nursing Home which has specific facilities and care plans to take care of those living with dementia.

Many Nursing Homes clearly state what care they provide on their websites, or if you can’t find the information it’s best to contact them directly. The most important thing your loved one needs from a residential facility is the right level of care. Establishing this early on will help you choose the best home.

If you’re unsure of how to gage the dependency level of your loved one, Nursing Homes do carry out needs assessment prior to admission. However, if you can first find the Nursing Home you think is the right fit, it will eliminate a lot of stress and time doing needs assessment in various places.


Try your best to evaluate Nursing Homes on the standard of everyday living they provide. If you think your loved one would benefit from organised daily activities, for example, find somewhere which has an established activities programme in place for its residents. Many homes have designated activities coordinators to ensure residents are kept stimulated.

Services provided

As well as healthcare, many homes now provide extra services to make life that bit more comfortable for its residents.

If your loved one would benefit from extra therapies, such as aromatherapy, reminiscence therapy or physiotherapy; then some homes have in-house therapists, or if not many homes organise for someone to come into the home to provide the service.

A lot of places also have in-house hairdressers. This is great if your older relative likes a bit of pampering now and again!

However, these services are not normally included in the care plan and can incur an extra fee, so be sure to ask if your relative will be charged extra for availing of these services.

Religious Faith

If your older relative is religious and would like to practise their faith, many Nursing Homes provide an oratory for individual worship and organise weekly mass.

Likewise, if your relative is not religious and would prefer not to be in a home which prioritises this aspect of life, then be sure to ask the Nursing Home if a religious activity is a prominent part of daily life for its residents.


Perhaps you would like to visit as often as you can; then you should prioritise location so you can be closeby. If you don’t mind travelling a bit further afield, then it’s important to consider how convenient it is for friends and family to visit. Choosing somewhere with easy access to motorways or major towns could be a good option. In this way, the home is easily reached and is surrounded by local amenities.

Perhaps your older parent has lived all their life in the countryside or prefers to be surrounded by peace and tranquillity. Then look for a home on the outskirts of a town where they can benefit from the outdoors. Many Nursing Homes are located just outside towns where they have space for landscaped gardens and room for your loved one to go for a walk on the grounds.

As your parent ages, they will benefit more from personal contact with others and being as sociable as possible, but if you and your parent do choose somewhere a bit out of the way, or somewhere you can’t get to as often as you’d like, then you can organise for a Pal from the local area to visit them on a regular basis. For more information on this service, check out Grandpal.


Another important factor to consider is how much the home will cost. If you’ve found somewhere that ticks all the boxes, then contact the home as soon as you can to find out how much it will be. This information isn’t usually included on their websites, so you’ll need to contact them directly to find out.

Consider how long your relative may need care for and what finances are available to them; pension, assessable income and/or assets.

There is financial aid available if your loved one requires it. If they own their own property or land, they can apply for an Optional Nursing Home Loan through the HSE. The loan works whereby the outstanding balance of the Nursing Home fees are paid after death and sale of property/ land. For more detailed information from the HSE, just click here.

If they don’t own their own property, they may be entitled to the Fair Deal Scheme. Your relative pays for part of the Nursing Home care and the HSE pays the balance. See our article Financial Aid available to you and your relative as they age for more.

You’ve found the right Nursing Home- what happens next?

Once you’ve established everything your loved one needs from a Nursing Home, schedule a visit with them. Ask as many questions as you need to, and don’t be afraid to call again if you still have any doubts.

When the home is carrying out the needs assessment, make sure your loved one is at ease in their presence and that they feel comfortable in the surroundings. This is where they’re going to live after all, so they need to feel secure in their environment.

Also, pay attention to the level of detail the home goes into when discussing the preferences of your older parent. Many people are under the impression that by living in a residential care facility, they will lose their independence. Nursing Homes today are designed to allow your relative to live as independently as they can. They should ask your relative about their preferences; the food they like/ dislike, hobbies and interests, what time they like to get up in the morning and when they normally go to bed. You want your loved one to live as comfortably as they can, so make sure these details are discussed.

Once you’re happy with everything up to this point, the home will draw up a contract. Be sure to read through everything before signing, and if you don’t understand anything get a second opinion, and ask more questions! And if at any point, you or your relative feel unsure about anything, don’t be afraid to change your mind and keep looking.

Overall, make sure you and your older loved one communicate with each other. Listen to what they want and provide what they need. With that being said, raising the issue of Nursing Homes and care plans can often be a difficult task. If you’re finding it tough to start the conversation and need some pointers, then take a look at our blog Care Plans: how to start the discussion with an older loved one.

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