How to Evaluate Nursing Home Safety & Security

nursing home safety

Considering a nursing home facility?


You’re not alone. According to, 35% of older adults will end up living in a nursing home.


But when it comes to keeping your loved one safe, finding a caregiving facility that you can actually trust – can feel like a daunting task.


The decision of which nursing home (with 24/7 quality care) to move your family member is a tough one. After all, the peace of mind that comes from knowing they’re in a safe and secure environment is priceless.


But just how do you make such an assessment?


In this guide, we focus on security in nursing homes, looking at all the top safety concerns and safety issues among the facility, staff, and management, as well as diving into what makes a good mental health care setting.


Let’s dive right into six important safety focus areas when it comes to staff and facility management.


6 Key Nursing Home Safety Focus Areas

nursing home safety focus areas

For care facilities to offer a secure and safe environment, the process begins with the way it’s run – as in, staff members and management. In other words, scoping out the people in charge can tell you a lot about the care they provide. Their commitment to safety protocols, regular training, and proactive measures are a nursing home must, for both residents and their families.


Check out these six main focus areas:


#1 Fire Safety

A fire in any building can be catastrophic. Add to it the needs of those with chronic health issues requiring acute care, and a fire quickly becomes a serious safety hazard. To assess the fire safety procedures of a nursing home, look into these questions:


  • Regular drills – How often does the facility conduct fire drills to prepare both staff and residents?
  • Equipment maintenance – Are fire extinguishers, alarms, and sprinkler systems regularly checked and maintained?
  • Evacuation plans – Are clear evacuation plans in place, and are they easily accessible to staff and visitors?
  • Staff training – How often is the staff trained on fire safety protocols and emergency response?
  • Building inspections – Does the facility undergo periodic inspections to ensure it meets fire safety standards?


#2 Alarm Systems

It’s pretty straightforward. Alarm and security systems keep people in nursing homes safe. In certain situations it may be critical to alert staff and residents to potential dangers.


  • Check reliability – Make sure their alarms are regularly tested and functional.
  • Diverse alarms – Confirm the presence of alarms for various emergencies, from falls to intrusions.
  • Response protocols – Ask about staff training on alarm response, ensuring swift and effective action.


A robust alarm system not only ensures physical safety but, of course, also provides peace of mind for families.


#3 Visitor Management

Effective visitor management is essential in keeping nursing home residents safe. So much so that the Visitor Management System (VMS) market is expected to grow to staggering $3 billion worth by 2028.


A structured system ensures:


  • Controlled access – Only authorized individuals can enter.
  • Visitor logs – Maintaining records of all visitors for accountability.
  • Identification – Issuing visitor badges or ID cards for easy identification.


Needless to say, a transparent VMS can prevent nursing home scares. A trusty protocol can offer residents security while still allowing families and friends to visit with ease.


#4 Equipment Safety

The safety of residents is closely tied to the reliability of medical and safety equipment. Make sure everything’s working properly and functioning alarms are in place include:


  • Regular maintenance – Scheduled checks to prevent malfunctions.
  • Training – Staff should be well-versed in equipment use.
  • Upgrades – Keeping abreast of technological advancements for better care.


This goes for equipment across the board from oxygen concentrators and vital monitors to medical lifts and patient alarms. A nursing home’s proper equipment management minimizes risks and enhances the quality of care.


#5 Building Safety & Fall Prevention

The structural integrity and safety features of a nursing home building are foundational to your loved one’s safety. Not to mention, they play a significant role in fall prevention. Which is a pretty big deal among seniors care.


One in five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury, and falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries. Not to mention, every year, 3 million are treated in emergency rooms for fall injuries.


Ask about these building and accessibility details when considering caregiver home options:


  • Compliance – Ensuring the facility meets local and national safety standards.
  • Accessibility – Features like ramps, handrails, and wide doorways for mobility.
  • Emergency exits – Clearly marked and unobstructed paths for swift evacuations.


While it doesn’t have a lot to do with emotional care or medical, per se, having a safe building environment can vastly improve the overall quality of residents’ care.


#6 Medication Safety

Safety applies to what happens around your loved one’s body, as well as what goes into it. The last thing you want is for medication errors to occur. To improve the safety and quality of care provided across all long-term care facilities, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services added a rule in 2016 requiring a monthly drug-regiment review.


You gotta make sure there’s sufficient staff though. Even with talented health care workers and a skilled nursing team in place, there needs to be enough team members available to handle the volume of residents at each facility for a thorough monthly medication check and daily adherence.


The Importance of Safety & Security in Nursing Homes

For those making the decision, knowing your loved ones are safe is an immense comfort during a time of what can be total emotional turmoil.


Nursing home safety isn’t just about the physical infrastructure or the qualifications of the nursing home staff, although those are super important. There’s also the intangible factors like:


  • Emotional weight – The decision to place a loved one in a nursing home is laden with emotions. People often grapple with feelings of guilt, anxiety, and hope. These feelings underscore the importance of making sure you choose a facility that’s not only safe but also feels like a genuine home.
  • Concerning news stories – You may have heard stories or read news articles about safety incidents in nursing homes about elder abuse, nursing home abuse, and other crazy security concerns regarding patient harm. While not representative of all facilities, these stories definitely highlight the need for improving safety standards and practices.
  • Wanting peace of mindKnowing that your loved ones are in a secure environment that provides both quality and safety is gonna be huge.


Basically, you want to know that both their physical and emotional needs are met.


Sadly, a culture of safety isn’t the norm. A recent survey on patient safety culture published by the National Library of Medicine states that a patient safety culture may be poorly developed in many nursing homes.


To help you protect the health and safety of your loved one, let’s dive into some important staff and management topics.


6 Major Safety & Security Measures in Nursing Homes

nursing home security measures

While the key focus areas above should be implemented in any nursing home worth its salt, there are additional systems and processes that reputable places also include in their safety protocols. At a minimum, head through our list of six safety measures so you can ask every nursing home you interview


#1 Rely On a Safety Committee

A dedicated Safety Committee is paramount in nursing homes. This team oversees safety protocols, identifies potential risks, and recommends improvements. Their expertise ensures that the facility remains proactive in addressing concerns, guaranteeing that residents are always in the safest environment possible.


#2 Have a Safety Checklist

A comprehensive safety checklist is a must-have tool for nursing homes.


It provides a structured approach to regular safety assessments, ensuring every aspect, from medication management to emergency exits, is routinely checked. This kind of diligence ensures consistent and timely safety standards are being met.


#3 Leverage Technology

Modern technology significantly improves the quality of care and enhances nursing home security. From advanced access control systems to license plate cameras, these tools offer comprehensive protection. Notably, the use of cameras ensures resident safety during transit, capturing any incidents and deterring potential misconduct.


#4 Have Adequate Training

Continuous staff training is non-negotiable. Regular training programs can help nursing homes stay up-to-date with the latest safety protocols and respond effectively to emergencies. From handling equipment to managing unexpected situations, well-trained staff are the backbone of a safe nursing home environment.


#5 Prioritize Emergency Preparedness

Being prepared for emergencies, from natural disasters to power outages, is crucial. A recent report estimated that 77% of nursing homes in locations with greater risk for natural disasters face challenges with emergency preparedness activities. So, it’s definitely worth looking into the disaster protocols before committing to a facility.


A robust emergency plan, regular drills, and clear evacuation routes ensure swift and organized responses when needed most.


#6 Communicate Often & Clearly

Transparent communication among staff, residents, and families is essential. Efficiency plays a big role, too. Which means regular updates on safety measures, and implementing proactive communication campaigns to address concerns, are gonna be key. Choose a place with residential care that fosters an open dialogue. It’s a great way for you to stay informed and confident in the facility’s safety protocols.


Supporting Mental Health in Nursing Homes

And let’s not forget the invisible stuff. The link between mental and physical health is well-documented. According to the World Health Organization, 14% of adults over 60 live with a mental disorder and key risk factors include social isolation and loneliness.


This stat reinforces the importance of maintaining comfort, joy, and a social life after retirement, especially during care transitions (say, from home to nursing facility). In other words, it’s essential to create an environment where residents feel valued, understood, and mentally stimulated.


That means things like fostering a sense of community, whether it’s sharing meals or playing games, should also be at the top of your consideration list. Even though it’s sometimes overlooked or invisible, mental and emotional health also make up an operation with high-quality nursing home care.


In some cases, choosing the right assisted living facility may be a good option since they promote a greater sense of independence, an important factor when considering mental health.


Either way, mental health directly impacts residents’ overall safety. And a resident who feels mentally secure is less likely to engage in risky behaviors or face accidents. What’s more, addressing mental health reduces the strain on staff and creates a more harmonious environment.


In a nutshell, when it comes to finding the right place, emotional well-being complements physical safety measures, so go for a holistic approach when choosing the care they deserve.


Be Thorough: Prioritize Comprehensive Care in Nursing Homes

If you have or are planning to place a loved one in a nursing home, of course, high-quality care, safety, and security are going to be the main priority. Nursing homes that take a holistic approach to the care of their patients will create a safe environment by default.


To recap the six key safety focus areas, consider:


  1. Fire safety
  2. Alarm systems
  3. Visitor Management System (VMS)
  4. Equipment safety
  5. Building safety & fall prevention
  6. Medication safety


It’s also worth looking into nursing homes’ security measures and processes, including:

  • Safety committee
  • Safety checklist
  • Updated technology
  • Adequate training
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Clear communication


Armed with the information in this guide, you can make informed decisions to make sure the safety and well-being of your loved ones.


Q & A

What are the 5 elements of patient safety?

Communication, teamwork, medication safety, infection control, and patient engagement.


What are the common potential risks in a nursing home?

Falls, medication errors, neglect or abuse, infections, and poor nutrition.


How do I protect my loved one in a nursing home?

It’s all about thorough research (and following our guide) in the decision-making process. And once your loved one is in the facility, make regular visits and keep an open communication with staff as well as your loved one. You want to advocate for your loved one and make sure their needs are consistently being met. Be vigilant for signs of abuse or neglect and report suspicions immediately (may that never have to be the case). And if it comes down to it, review legal documents so you can understand their legal rights.


Why is patient safety important in healthcare?

Patient safety is crucial in healthcare for several reasons. It prevents harm, builds trust between patients and healthcare providers. It also improves the quality of care, which in turn, may even reduce healthcare costs if you can prevent some adverse events. And from a basic department of health and human services standpoint, healthcare providers have a legal and ethical responsibility to prioritize patient safety.

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portrait of Cyn Meyer, founder of Second Wind Movement and a certified retirement life coach
Cyn Meyer 

Retirement Life Coach

As a certified retirement life coach since 2018, Cyn has helped thousands of older adults turn their retirement years into remarkable years full of growth, purpose, and passion. Through her signature program Rewire My Retirement, she helps people achieve their best life across the 5 Rings of Retirement, which covers topics Growth, Community, Health, Giving Back, and Finance.

Cyn combines specific life coaching tools, neuroscience, and her extensive background in marketing (spanning 17 years) to make a powerful impact with Second Wind Movement – an organization dedicated to providing educational resources and coaching for seniors.

With meticulous research, insight, and passion, Cyn’s mission is to usher in a new wave of positive experiences for generations of retirees.

portrait of Cyn Meyer, founder of Second Wind Movement and a certified retirement life coach

Cyn Meyer 

Retirement Life Coach

As a certified retirement life coach since 2018, Cyn has helped thousands of older adults turn their retirement years into remarkable years full of growth, purpose, and passion (beyond the stereotypical financial planning side of retirement). 

She combines specific life coaching tools, neuroscience, and her extensive background in marketing (spanning 17 years) to make a powerful impact with Second Wind Movement – an organization dedicated to providing educational resources and coaching for seniors.

With meticulous research, insight, and passion, Cyn’s mission is to usher in a new wave of positive experiences for generations of retirees.