By Charles Towne 

My father, disregarding the fact that he only had a third-grade education, possessed more than his share of earthy wisdom. One time he told me something that as a naturalist and a student of human nature I have found quite useful. (The only thing problematic about his words is I wish I had thought of them!)   He said, “Always remember, the very best science comes from direct observation independent of theory.”

Now, you are probably wondering just how my father’s canny wisdom might come into play when selecting a nursing home for your loved one?   So I will tell you.

I visited several facilities before choosing one because even though none of them are really what the residents know as the home we want our loved one to be happy, or, at least as happy as possible, right?

I looked at several nursing homes before selecting one that would give my wife the attention and loving Christian care she needs and deserves.   I selected the following facility by the process of personal inquiry as well as direct observation.

Florida Living Nursing Center is located at 3355 E. Semoran Blvd. in Apopka.   It is a non-profit facility owned and operated by the Seventh-Day Adventist Health Care System.

Okay, what should we be aware of in selecting our nursing home of choice?

Well, we must keep in mind that the dining experience is an especially high point in each and every resident’s day so let’s start there.

Ask yourself the following.  And the only way you will be able to wisely answer these questions is if you take the time to personally observe.

#1   is the atmosphere in the dining room pleasant?

#2   Are the servers friendly, courteous, and efficient and are the patients served in a timely and friendly manner?   (Imagine that you are dining in a fine restaurant.  If that were the case you should ask yourself, does the waiter or waitress deserve a gratuity?  If not, why not?)

#3   Is the food hot and not only palatable (PLEASE READ TASTY) but nourishing as well.

#4   And this one to my way of thinking is so important.  Do you see the management eating the same food as the residents, or are they stepping out to a local restaurant?

The only way you are going to answer these questions is by direct observation.

Another issue of great importance is entertainment.  If the only activity available is the television, that grows old real fast. There should be activities that are mentally stimulating.

Another issue to keep in mind is the fact that the larger the facility the larger the staff and the larger the staff the greater the chance there will be those few in the nursing or C.N.A. positions that are without a shred of human compassion or empathy.

Try to be like the proverbial fly on the wall. Keep your eyes, ears, and nose open, and constantly ask yourself, “Would I want to live here?”

Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.


  1. Great article as always Chuck. Also great advice. My brother spent the last two years of his life in a nursing home that didn’t always have their stuff together, and I wish we could have researched some places a bit more beforehand. God bless you and yours.

  2. Ahh, dear NH, there is that excellent point isn’t there? We can always expect a trickle down effect. If we have extra-ordinary management writing, following, and enforcing good policies we will have those special professionals at the mid level that really do care and we can expect to have extra-ordinary service on all levels. Indifference breeds more indifference and indifference breeds contempt doesn’t it? I suppose there will always be those pernicious little irritating mice chewing holes in the fabric of any organization, but, due diligence and efficiency actually does pay off and when those excellent policies are enforced the debilitating mice will be sent running. Thanks for the observation, Chaz

  3. Yes Don, I sense your pain and your loss. I am saddened to learn of your brothers demise in a nursing home. my dream is that folks will take the time to examine all the alternatives and arrive at healthy decisions to enable our loved ones to live in dignity knowing that they are loved. Our family members do deserve that don’t they? Every family member should be an outspoken advocate don’t you think? Chaz

  4. My have nursing facilities changed over the years. My first experience was visiting my grandmother in a state-run nursing home in the 60’s. My thought as a teenager back then was “I hope I never end up in a place like this”. I have visited in Florida Living many times this year and have found it well staffed with people who appear to really care about what they do. The most important thing for anyone with a loved one in a nursing facility is to visit often and be constantly observant. Statistics show that your loved one will receive better care in a non-profit facility like Florida Living. Seems that when you focus on profit it at the expense of the quality of care loved ones deserve.

  5. Mike Mcfadden, WOW! What a lesson for a kid! Yes, thank God I believe the days of the snake pit institutions are over as are the evil Nurses like the iconic head nurse Ratched in Jack Nicholsen’s eye opening movie, “One flew over the cuckoos nest.” No matter how hard it is or what has transpired to drive us to place a loved one in a nursing home we have to pray that we are making the right decision and that Papa God will bless us in our decision. God bless you my friend, Chaz

  6. Yes Chuck, that is a very difficult decision, not easily made.
    Luckily, my brother and my father never needed long-term care. My husband resided in a rehab just long enough to receive physical therapy to get him back on his feet from a broken hip.
    Unfortunately, my mother’s health required her to be in a nursing home when she became too much for my husband and I to care for at home. We were familiar with several care facilities just from visiting others while in them. We finally settled on Atria on Hwy 46, in Sanford, one mile west of I-4. We were satisfied with her care and visited her almost everyday.
    You are right… listening, observing and visiting often is the key to a good experience. We ate dinner with her sometimes, so we knew what the meals were like. We also talked to staff on a regular basis and made our presence known each time we went. All in all, it was a pleasant experience, even though our heart’s desire was to keep her at home with us.
    We thank God for his care and protection over her and giving us wisdom and discernment in choosing the right place.

  7. Dear CSG, if I were to encourage anyone in the choice of a nursing home everything you have described would fall into place in the selection process. Your words are well taken and so very wise as well as much appreciated. I know that your mama felt loved and appreciated my dear friend. God bless you and keep you wrapped in the comfort of His blessed arms is my heartfelt prayer. Chaz

  8. Chuck, great article, my mom was in a nursing home too and I totally agree with you about direct observation,in the military it’s called recon! I also remember visiting my grandma in a nursing home in wisconsin when I was in high school and it seemed to me at first a dreary place but as I went there often to visit I encountered some of the other residents and became fascinated with them and their stories, one guy had no legs thanks to diabeates(?) and he used to be a clown in the circus and several of the others who used to keep to themselves, used to work for “the outfit” which is what Al Capone called his organization in nearby Chicago!!! My mom was in a home here in Apopka and something I noticed was that the people who get regular visitors seem to fare a bit better than some others. The staff was fantastic by and large but they were also very busy. When almost all your patients need a extra level of care it can be telling on the staff, and sometimed those who do not get visitors for what ever reason can become a little bit “forgotten” in the hustle and bustle of everyday! So yes, do your recon, and visit as often as you can! These people are here largely because they can no longer get the care they need at home and now require professional services, it is a most difficult situation for both the patient and for their loved ones!

  9. I realized that Betty would need to go to a nursing home. So, the search was on! We especially liked FLNH because of the programs they had, like arts and crafts, morning devotions, Bible studies, ice cream socials, movies, and lots of special events through the year. The main problem for Betty was the food. Her problem was because of the auto accident she had 50 years earlier. Her right side was partially paralyzed, including her throat. So, swallowing food was a constant problem. They had to keep changing the types of food she could get down, without choking. During the time she was at FLNH, they would run tests to see what she could get down. Betty was at FLNH from April of 2016 until she passed away March of 2018. I came in twice a day to help feed Betty, at lunch and dinner. During the feeding, if I needed anything, I could call the kitchen and they would always try to bring what I requested. If she could not eat the food, or the kitchen couldn’t bring what was requested, she could always get a bottle of Ensure. Considering she was only given three days to live, when she had her auto accident 50 years earlier, I feel that her time at FLNH gave her the best options for enjoying her last days!

  10. Oh Don, when I think of your dear precious lady all I can think of is her beautiful smile. Even though she was in constant pain from that debilitating accident, rarely did she complain. God has his angels in human form on this earth my brother and when one considers the many loving years you dedicated to her care you prove to me that an angel you are as is any FAITHFUL caregiver. Yes, oh yes, we agree wholeheartedly that Florida Living strives to be extraordinary and in general achieves its goal. May God pour out His blessings on this home away from home is my prayer. Blessings on you my friend, Chaz

  11. Richard, all points well taken. If we don’t do our recon and trust to dumb luck than we get the luck of the draw which is usually blind as well as dumb. If we could get to know the residents we would be surprised by the lives lived and the wisdom to be garnered. Within each and every man and women lies extraordinary stories, hidden, just waiting for the right moment. Yes, within each of us resides a book waiting to be written. Thanks for your observations my friend, Chaz

  12. Thank you for this series of articles. The comments by your readers are also very informative and helpful. I hope this information gets out to as many people as possible, so they know how important planning ahead is. In some circumstances these decisions have to be made fairly quickly, which must be hard on all involved. It is good to have tips from you and your readers on what to look for (the food and entertainment) and also the really important emphasis on frequent visits.

  13. Thank so much Kristin, your observations are well taken and appreciated. Altogether too often we are taken by surprise and thus, as you have so well stated, we are forced to make impromptu decisions under the pressure of the moment and this is never a good situation. My goal is to inform and encourage those in need. May God hold you and yours close is my prayer. Chaz

  14. Another Great Article. I love hearing that we are getting better and better at taking care of our loved one’s. I’m convinced that it is God that created the caring heart that is found in most of the folks that work in the Long term Care industry. Some attribute it to their relationship with Christ while others just feel they have a caring heart. That is why I see caring for the elderly or just those in need as a mission. No one can put a value on a gentle hand or a encouraging word. My prayer, always is that God will continue to bless those that have Caring Hearts and give their lives to caring for others.

  15. Thanks for the Insights on Nursing Homes,and you and Others who shared their fist hand experices. I have never had to deal First Hand with this problem,thank God, So I Thank you for Sharing, Hoping I Never have to face these Situations discussed here, but if I have to face these problems I Have at least a few Arrows in my Quiver to fight this Battle.

  16. Kennie, wow! The caring heart! What a description of a caregiver as well as a nursing home facility! I believe the danger lies primarily in complacency, that imaginary place where we caregivers become content and can’t envision room for any further growth. I believe this is the time and place where we need to pray for a Holy discontent don’t you? Let it never be said of us that we decided we were “GOOD ENOUGH!” Please encourage others to read these articles an watch for my soon to be published book on caregiving based on 15 years of living with my darlings eccentricities due to the progression of her dementia. Bless you Kennie as you lead with love and mercy. Chaz

  17. Thanks EJ. I believe there has never been a more appropriate time to discuss the issues presented and talked about in this simple little column than at this time. I thank God for the opportunity presented by the Apopka Voice to air the issues involved and for quality nursing homes such as Florida Living Nursing Center that are at the forefront of the care industry. Nursing homes are like life savers, we never imagine needing one until we are drowning. Blessings my friend, Chaz

  18. Useful information. Florida Living does aspire to being a place of excellence. As of late it’s my observation that the food, the attention of service personnel, and especially the CNA’s have some room for improvement.

  19. I’m wading into the swamp of eldercare with my mom right now: Doing my research, taking classes and preparing mentally…and she isn’t even here yet. I don’t know what the future will hold once she arrives, but I sure feel less anxious by being pro-active. Personally, I’m finding comfort in education, research, and emotional and spiritual support. Don’t try to row the boat yourself.

  20. Did you say “don’t try to row the boat yourself Gymrat? What I have discovered in my long and at times frustrating bout of caregiving is that trying to do it on my own can only be described as trying to row the boat not only by myself but with one oar and only on one side of the darned boat! This invariably results in going in circles which gets us absolutely nowhere. Because of your preparation you are going to be o.k. Do your research, pray, if you can get family members involved by all means do so, pray, and did I mention pray? There is nothing in this world that will make you realize your limitations as well as your mortality quite as much as long term care giving. You are so very unique and I dare say wise in the sense that you are being pro-active thus getting a leg up on the challenges you will face. Blessings to you and yours. Chaz

  21. George, what you say about F.L.N.C. Aspiring toward excellence is so true but you have mentioned three areas that in your opinion need attention. Due to the fact that my Nancy is a resident of Florida Living and I want the best for her could you please be more specific. Thanking you in advance, Chaz

  22. What George says about the food is correct because there are times that it leaves a lot to be desired as does the staff in the dining room. It would be good to remember that the quality of the food can lead to happy residents. Sometimes it would be good to be a mouse in the corner to really observe the dining room staff. I wouldn’t want the job of running one of these places! L.J.


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