Things to consider when choosing a nursing home

Posted at 5:44 PM, May 02, 2016
and last updated 2019-10-07 13:15:20-04

The investigation continues into the death of a man living at a Pinellas County nursing home.

That patient, 65-year-old Wilbert Moten, was a resident at Gracewood Nursing Home in Pinellas Park. He died on Saturday night after apparently being left him outside in the sun long enough to cause second-degree burns, blisters and dehydration. He was taken to the hospital, where he then experienced cardiac failure and died.  So far, the nursing home and its parent company have not responded to the allegations.

We've since learned the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration put Gracewood on its nursing home watch list for recent problems, and the home's last inspection received just one out of five stars.

Fernando Gutierrez works with elderly patients who have no one else to help make critical medical decisions as a licensed guardian and healthcare proxy. He had 11 patients, including Wilbert Moten, at Gracewood Nursing Home in Pinellas Park. And now that investigators are looking at Moten's death as possible elder abuse, he's working to move all those patients to other facilities.

"I can't keep patients there. When I'm their patient advocate, in good conscience, in a place that I cannot trust," said Gutierrez with

Gutierrez said what happened at Gracewood is a reminder that putting your loved one into any kind of care facility, is a decision that can't be taken lightly.

"You don't want to put somebody in a nursing home unless you absolutely have to," Gutierrez said.

Know that your loved one will only have some supervision, and not daily check-ins at an assisted living facility. At nursing homes it should be 24/7 care. But even then, Gutierrez says you should check-in often.

"Make frequent visits, at all times--day, evening, on weekends," said Gutierrez.

The same goes as you're choosing a nursing home or assisted living center.  Look for cleanliness, and staffing levels at different times of the day and on weekends.

"Because that's when you really get to see what services your loved one, or the patient is receiving," Gutierrez said.

And there are several great websites where you can check out how any nursing home stacks up.

The Bell Law Firm also recommends the following considerations when choosing a nursing home or assisted living facility:

This nursing home:

  • is close enough for friends and family to visit
  • has an available bed, a waiting list
  • provides custodial care
  • is Medicare-certified, Medicaid -certified
  • provides a special services unit as needed
  • has an emergency arrangement with a hospital
  • has an emergency evacuation plan, regular drills
  • has marked exits, smoke detectors and sprinklers
  • all doorways and rooms are wheelchair accessible
  • has hallway handrails and bathroom grab bars
  • has quiet areas for visitation with friends and family
  • offers residents a choice of food items at each meal
  • has nutritious snacks available upon request
  • staff members will help residents eat and drink
  • state inspection report deficiencies were corrected


This nursing home:

  • has same management team for at least one year
  • has a licensed doctor on staff on premises daily; or on call at all times
  • has Registered Nurse (RN) on staff at all times
  • has a full-time social worker on staff
  • makes background checks of all staff
  • has staff training and education program

Living Spaces

This nursing home:

  • appears clean and well kept
  • has good lighting
  • has comfortable and attractive furnishings
  • is a comfortable temperature for residents
  • is free from overwhelming unpleasant odors
  • is non-smoking, allows smoking in restricted area
  • maintains comfortable noise levels

Facilities and Services

In this nursing home:

  • residents have a choice of roommates
  • there is a window in each resident’s room
  • storage space is provided in each resident’s room
  • water pitchers can be reached by resident
  • there is access to telephone and television
  • residents can bring in personal furniture
  • residents’ possessions are protected
  • staff help residents go to outside areas

On your visit to this nursing home:

  • residents were clean and well groomed
  • staff was clean and well-groomed
  • staff and residents were friendly and respectful

Nursing home policies and services include:

  • care plan meetings open to residents and family
  • same staff team helps residents 4-5 days weekly
  • preventive care, like a yearly flu shot
  • residents may still see their personal doctors
  • an active volunteer program
  • all residents participate in a variety of activities
  • staff members must refer to each resident by name
  • staff members knock to enter a resident’s room