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How to Select A Nursing Home

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 6, 2023.

What do I need to know about nursing homes?

You or your loved one may need to stay in a nursing home for a short time to recover after surgery. Sometimes a nursing home may become a long-term home because you are no longer able to care for yourself. You may need help with daily routines, such as bathing, dressing, or grooming. You may also need more specialized care, such as physical therapy or wound care.

Are all nursing homes the same?

Nursing homes offer different levels of care. A nursing home may offer basic care, such as a room, meals, and help with activities of daily living. Nursing homes may also offer skilled nursing care, such as bandage changes, physical therapy, or help with medicines. Your healthcare provider can help you choose the type of nursing home that is best for you.

How do I gather information about nursing homes?

  • Look for licensed nursing homes in a preferred area. Ask your healthcare provider, case manager, or friends for referrals.
  • Contact organizations for information on nursing homes. Some good organizations include the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or the Ombudsmen program in your state. You can also contact your local state health department or the local office of consumer affairs.
  • Consider costs when choosing a nursing home. Ask about the monthly base rate and any extra charges. Services, such as laundry or wound care, may be extra. Find out if the home is licensed to take Medicaid or Medicare.

How do I choose a good nursing home?

Visit the nursing homes you are interested in more than once. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits. Talk to some of the residents if you can. Below are some things you should look for:

  • Safety and care:
    • Exits are clearly marked. There are smoke alarms, sprinkling systems, and fire extinguishers. There should also be an emergency plan in case everyone needs to leave suddenly.
    • Residents are able to see their own healthcare provider. The nursing home arranges for medical care when needed.
    • There is a preventive care program to help keep residents healthy. The preventive program provides services such as immunizations for the flu or pneumonia.
    • Care plan meetings should be held regularly. These meeting are for both residents and family members.
  • Staff:
    • Staff and residents seems friendly, respectful, and cheerful toward each other.
    • Staff members are clean, well groomed, and wear name tags.
    • Staff members knock on the door before entering resident rooms. Staff members know and use residents' names.
    • All nursing home staff have had background checks. This check may include a person's past work history, criminal record, and other personal information.
    • There is a full-time registered nurse in the nursing home at all times.
    • Residents are assigned to the same healthcare providers most days of the week.
    • The nursing home has a healthcare provider on staff who visits regularly and who can be reached at all times.
  • Living spaces:
    • All rooms are clean and do not have strong smells.
    • The nursing home has good lighting. The nursing home has windows that let natural light in and allow residents to look outside.
    • There are separate, quiet areas where residents can visit with friends and family.
    • All common areas, rooms, and doorways are wheelchair accessible.
    • Hallways and stairs have handrails. Bathrooms have grab bars.
  • Menus and food:
    • A dietitian is available to review the menus.
    • Dining room is clean and pleasant.
    • Residents have a choice of food items at each meal. The menus should also change regularly to offer a variety of foods to residents. Ask to see a menu.
    • A staff member is available to help residents eat and drink if help is needed.
  • Activities:
    • Residents can take part in a variety of activities, such as watching movies, taking classes, or going on outings.
    • There are outdoor areas for residents to enjoy.
    • There is an active volunteer program. Visitors, volunteers, and clergy are welcome to visit with residents.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.