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How to choose a nursing home

Skilled nursing facility - nursing home; Long-term care - nursing home; Short-term care - nursing home

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At some point, you or a loved one may need the services of a nursing home. A nursing home, also called a skilled nursing facility, provides around-the-clock medical care to people recovering from an illness or injury and to those who can no longer care for themselves.

When choosing a nursing home, you want to be sure you find a place that meets your needs and provides quality care. Here are things to consider when deciding.


At a nursing home, skilled staff and health care providers offer around-the-clock care. Nursing homes can provide a number of different services:

Nursing homes provide both short-term and long-term care, depending on the needs of the resident.

The type of care you need will be a factor in what facility you choose, as well as how you pay for that care.


When you start looking for a nursing home:

It's important to do a bit of homework - not all facilities provide the same quality care. Start by looking up facilities on Nursing Home Compare -- This allows you to see and compare Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing homes based on certain quality measures:

If you can't find a nursing home listed in the website, check to see if it is Medicare/Medicaid certified. Facilities with this certification must meet certain quality standards. If a facility is not certified, you should probably take it off your list.

Once you've chosen a few facilities to check out, call each facility and check:

Once you have a list of facilities that meet your needs, make an appointment to visit each one or ask someone you trust to make the visits. Here are some things to consider during your visit. offers a helpful Nursing Home Checklist you may want to take with you as you check out different facilities:

Try to visit again at a different time of day and week. This can help you get a fuller picture of each facility.


Nursing home care is expensive, and most health insurance won't cover the full cost. Often people cover the cost using a combination of self-payment, Medicare, and Medicaid.

It's a good idea to get legal advice when considering how to pay for nursing care - especially before spending all of your savings. Your local Area Agency on Aging may be able to direct you to legal resources. You can also visit for more information.


Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website. Nursing home toolkit: nursing homes - A guide for Medicaid beneficiaries' families and helpers. Updated November 2015. Accessed August 8, 2022.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website. Your guide to choosing a nursing home or other long-term services and supports. Updated October 2019. Accessed August 8, 2022. website. Nursing home compare. Accessed August 8, 2022.

National Institute on Aging website. Choosing a nursing home. Updated May 1, 2017. Accessed August 8, 2022.

National Institute on Aging website. Residential facilities, assisted living, and nursing homes. Updated May 1, 2017. Accessed August 8, 2022.


Review Date: 4/17/2022  

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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