Choosing a nursing home for a loved one can be a very difficult and emotional decision. We all want to be sure that our family member is being well-cared for and their physical and emotional needs are met when we cannot be there all the time. Nursing homes are usually either for-profit or non-profit. The question remains, which of these two is the better option; does a for-profit nursing home provide better care to its residents than a not-for-profit?

A study/report completed in August 2009 seems to indicate that not-for-profit nursing homes may provide better care. For some, this may seem a naturally obvious conclusion because not-for-profit nursing homes are not driven by profit margins and so, theoretically, they are only interested in providing the best care for their patients and residents. Further, not-for-profits generally rely on the donations and generosity of the public for their funding and so they must provide exemplary care in order to keep themselves in business. Finally, many not-for-profit nursing homes are owned by missions or religious organizations and, according to their mission statements alone, they are not profit driven. The British Medical Journal drafted a report which showed that not-for-profits gained more five-star ratings than their for-profit competitors.

For-profits are required to work, as their name implies, to create a profit for the owners and so they are dollar-driven; this sometimes means they are required to operate with reduced labor forces, less expensive meals, or cheaper resources in order to meet the bottom-line. In other words, fewer nurses on the payroll means more profit and the end of the day.

Despite these generalized statements, there is no black and white distinction between the level of care provided by for-profit and not-for-profit nursing homes. As with any type of service, the best approach is to shop around before selecting a home in which to place your loved one. Be sure to look for things such as the number of staff members the facility has for each resident.

The primary goal in selecting a nursing home is to ensure they provide the best possible care. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has a checklist which provides criteria family’s should consider when selecting a nursing home. With the British Medical Journal report and the general knowledge we have of for-profit and not-for-profit business, the findings seem to indicate that for the most part, not-for-profit nursing homes provide better care.

Dan Frith
Dan Frith

Dan Frith has over 25 years of experience representing individuals and families in cases of medical malpractice throughout Virginia. He has been named "Best Medical Malpractice Attorney" by Roanoker Magazine and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To speak with Dan, contact him by email at