Five tips for choosing a nursing home

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, June 12, 2012

(ARA) – Transitioning to life in a nursing home can be difficult, especially after living independently. When thinking about the next step for yourself or a loved one, it is important to consider how the quality of care you receive will affect your health and well-being. It’s helpful to plan ahead, consider all your long-term-care options, and make good financial plans early.

Here are five tips for choosing the nursing home that is right for you or your loved one:

Determine if a nursing home is your best option

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Depending on your needs and resources, you may have other long-term-care options available to you. For example, you may be able to get the services and support you need in your own home or in other types of community housing. If you’re in a hospital or working with a home health agency, a discharge planner or social worker can explain your options and help arrange your care. You can also talk to your doctor, family members, friends, neighbors or clergy to get additional opinions on long-term care options.

Find nursing homes in your area

If you or someone you know has access to the Internet, visit Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare at to help find nursing homes in your area. You can search by nursing home name, city, county, state or ZIP code. If you do not have access to the Internet, your local library may be able to help you find the information on Nursing Home Compare. You can also call 800-MEDICARE for further assistance.

Your area agency on aging can also help you choose a nursing home, as well as help you and your family plan for long-term care. Contact the U.S. Administration on Aging to get in touch with your area agency on aging by visiting the Eldercare Locator at or get information by calling 800-677-1116.

Compare quality of care

It’s important to compare the quality of care that nursing homes provide in order to find the home that meets your needs. Nursing Home Compare has a five star quality rating system for certified Medicare and Medicaid nursing homes that indicates meaningful differences between high- and low-performing homes. On Nursing Home Compare, you can evaluate the nursing homes you’re considering by clinical quality measures, staffing, and health and fire safety inspection results.

Visit potential nursing homes

After comparing the quality of care provided by nursing homes in your area, it is important to visit the homes you are interested in to see if you would be comfortable and happy living there. Nursing Home Compare provides maps and directions to listed nursing homes. The easy-to-use information provided by Nursing Home Compare can guide you in talking to nursing home staff about the quality of care they provide. Medicare provides a great Nursing Home Checklist that outlines things to look for – and key questions to ask – when visiting potential homes.

Consider your needs

When you have all the information about the nursing homes you’re interested in, consider which ones will best meet your personal needs. Think about location and proximity to family and friends, availability and when you can move in, any cultural or religious preferences you may have and other personal factors important in creating a comfortable living environment.

If you’re helping a loved one choose a nursing home, keep the person you’re helping involved in making the decision as much as possible. People who are involved from the beginning are better prepared when they move into a nursing home.

All the resources mentioned above can be found at or by calling 800-MEDICARE (TTY 877-486-2048). To objectively compare other types of health care providers such as hospitals or home health agencies, visit