How to Find the Right Nursing Home in Iowa

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Posted by Pressley Henningsen

Image of old woman in a nursing home

With nearly 450 nursing homes in the state of Iowa, it is difficult to know which one will be best for your loved one.  It can be a challenge to know what things to look for in a “good” nursing home.  Below, we provide you some tips that may make your search a little easier.

It is a good idea to make a list of several nursing homes that you think would be a possible fit.  You can ask your friends, family, and co-workers if they have heard of any particular place – good, bad or ugly – and be sure to ask them why they feel the way they do.  You can also go online to do some research.  The Nursing Home Compare website provides an online tool that gives you an easy way to search for nursing homes in your area.  You can compare local homes by health inspections, staffing, quality measures, and more.

Once you get your list narrowed, you can also visit the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals Health Facilities website and you can read specific complaints that have been filed against a given home.

On-Site Visits Crucial to Finding the Right Nursing Home

Once you have assembled your list of nursing homes, call each and schedule an appointment to tour the facility.  You should not sign any paperwork for any home before you visit the place.  It is important that you tour the nursing home beforehand so that you can meet the staff, see where your loved one will be living, and ask any questions you may have.

During your visit, it is essential that you use your senses to observe the environment around you.


  • What do the rooms look like? Are they comfortable?
  • Does the food look appetizing? Do you see people eating?
  • Is there a good staff-to-resident ratio? Do you see residents’ needs being cared for in a timely manner?  Are there residents that have been left alone the whole time that you visited?
  • Is the furniture clean and orderly and home-like?


  • Are there any overpowering smells?
  • Are there any perfumes or air fresheners being used to mask bad odors?


  • Is the staff respectful to the residents? Are they working with residents or talking amongst themselves?
  • Is it too loud? Too quiet?
  • Are television, radio and entertainment activities tailored to the residents?

There are other questions you should be asking as well, such as:

  • If my loved one is bedridden, how often are they turned? How many residents develop bedsores?
  • How often do you bathe residents? How often do you change residents’ adult diapers?
  • How do you deal with behavioral problems?
  • Do you have activities for the residents? What sort of activities?

These are just some of the many questions you should be asking during the visit.

Once each visit has been completed, make sure you plan a second unscheduled visit a few days later, at a different time.  This second visit should be a surprise to the staff.  It’s important to determine whether the nursing home was “cleaned up” for your visit or if it always appears as you saw it the first time.  This surprise visit should show you what goes on when they’re not expecting visitors. It is a good idea to make the visit after 5:00 pm to see how the things look and feel on the second shift.

Make the Best Decision, Then Be Diligent

The truth of the matter is that good care boils down to good management and staff.  If your gut is telling you something is off with the people that work in the home, even if it looks clean and attractive – listen to your gut.

With the information you have assembled about each nursing home, you should be able to make an informed decision about who you will leave in charge of your loved one.  The truth is you will never feel completely comfortable.  Make the best decision you can, then keep visiting and making sure your loved one is getting the care they deserve.

Of course, even after all your due diligence, your loved one could still be abused or neglected.  While we hope that never happens, if it does, you should talk to an experienced nursing home attorney at RSH Legal.  We can help answer your questions and figure out what to do next.  Call us today at 319-519-4193.

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