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How to Find a Nursing Home
How to Find the Ideal Skilled Nursing Facility

Find a Nursing Home

Evaluate Nursing Homes

Finding the right nursing home is a stressful challenge. If you're looking for skilled nursing care, more than likely, you're under fire to locate one fast because a loved one just had surgery or is facing a deteriorating health episode.

If this is the case, arm yourself with information, doing so gives you increased chances of finding the right fit for your loved one.

Here's how to taper the options for skilled nursing care:

Start with Referrals

Does the family doctor, surgeon, or specialist have recommendations? Can you think of family or friends who have used a nursing home? Knowing someone with first-hand involvement can help you narrow your choices. But getting feedback, consider your loved one's needs may differ from the person giving the referral. Not all skilled nursing facilities are the same, nor are they a good fit for all and any situation.

Know the Resources

Online resources for nursing homes include ranking sites that use state data to rate nursing homes - Check out Nursing Home Compare.

Get familiar with your state's long-term care ombudsman office. It's a valuable resource for patients and families. The long-term ombudsman office tracks conditions of nursing homes. The Consumer Voice, an advocacy group for long-term care provides ways to search for the best nursing home in your area.

Understand the Medical Needs

Each nursing home has different areas of expertise. Know the medical condition well enough to understand the services each provides. For example, some nursing home facilities are better at caring for people after a stroke while another excels in caring for people living with cancer or Alzheimer's.

Other nursing care homes cater to short-term rehabilitation. So, knowing the medical conditions well, gives you an advantage that speeds up recovery.

Factor in distance

Make sure it's easy enough for family and friends to visit.

Choosing a Nursing Home

Make a list when selecting a nursing home

The first place to begin the evaluation is to do your research. It makes no sense to travel around the city visiting each before you've gathered information. Visiting the facility comes after research.

Ask an Expert

At the beginning of finding a nursing home, do your research before visiting any nursing homes in the local area. Once you've collected data and information, then the next step is to visit and tour the facility. As a result, you're armed with insight and useful stats to help you choose the right nursing care facility.

Contact your local state Ombudsman office - they help patients, families and residents:

  • Educate health care and long-term care providers and consumers about the rights and good practices
  • Advocate and investigate complaints
  • Give public information on facilities and policy issues

Get Information and Facts on the Facility

On 'Nursing Home Compare' gives you access to information that gives an overview of the characteristics of nursing home facilities.

  • Get access to data that gives types of ownership; for-profit, non-profit, church-related, and other
  • How to pay; Medicare, Medicaid, or combination
  • Size of the facility
  • If it's a branch or part of a larger organization

State Nursing Home Inspection Reports - Found in the Nursing Home Compare

Lists the inspection reports for each facility. Inspectors survey report's documents the deficiencies found at the facility during the annual state report inspection. The state requires each nursing home to upload the current inspection report and to make it viewable for residents to review.

Summary of inspections are found at Nursing Home Compare.

Where the Nursing Home Compare Data Originates

All the data and information originate at the nursing homes. So, use caution when interpreting the reports because inspectors only review them and the inspectors don't follow-up or formally check for accuracy. The reason is the nursing homes have frequent changes to the census data due to discharge or admittance. When reviewing the information, be sure to access more data directly from the Long Term Care Ombudsman's office, the State Survey Agency, or other sources.

  • CMS's Health Inspection database - Includes the nursing home characteristics and health deficiencies issued during the three most recent state inspections and recent complaint investigations.
  • Data about staffing and penalties made against nursing homes also come from this database.
  • The Minimum Data Set (MDS), a national database for quality statistics come from this repository. The MDS is an assessment done by the nursing home regularly on every resident in a Medicare or Medicaid-certified nursing home. Information collects on each resident: health, physical functioning, mental status, and general well-being. It evaluates each resident's needs and assists in developing a care plan. (Source

How to Use the Inspection Reports

  • Check the date of the results on the website to make sure it's up-to-date - 9 to 15 months.
  • View previous reports - click on "View Previous Inspection Results" - just above the deficiencies.
  • Look at the total number of deficiencies and compare to the state average.
  • Ask questions about the deficiencies during visits.
  • Get a copy of the original report at the nursing home or from the long-term ombudsman office.
  • Pay close attention to the complaints against the facilities. you'll find verified or substantiated complaints in the inspection reports. Contact the state agency and inspection agency, the long-term ombudsman office to get more information.
  • Check Nursing Home Staff Levels
  • Look at the number of Certified Nurse Assistant hours. They provide well over 90% of a resident's "hands-on" care.
  • Look for high levels of RN staffing personnel. Registered nurses' involvement increases care quality.
  • Look for the actual numbers of staff that directly care for a resident during each shift.

Other Things to Look for in a Nursing Home Facility:

  • Cleanliness. Does the facility appear fresh and clean? Are the floors and carpets stained and unraveling? Is the furniture well-kept?
  • Food. Are the meals nutritious? How are meals prepared and served? Does it appear appetizing? How does the kitchen handle special diets? Is staff available to help with meals? Do residents eat together in the same area and at the same time?
  • Arrangement. Nursing homes, in the past, operate like a medical facility. Some nursing homes have changed from that arrangement and move to smaller communities and communal areas. If this type is available in your area, it may provide a more homely feel.
  • Activities. What quality of life activities are available for residents? Are outside activities also arranged, health permitting?
  • Experience with your condition. Do they have training and education to treat and care for the type of illness or disability your loved one lives with? Does the facility use a specialized staff for care and activities? How does staff handle behavioral problems like agitation or wandering?
Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.