How to Evaluate a Nursing Home
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr, MD, FACP, FACR
Over 1.6 million Americans are residents of more than
18,000 nursing homes located
in this country. Nursing homes can either be permanent residences for people who
are too frail or sick to live at home or temporary facilities for use during the
recovery period from illness or injury. When a family member needs a
nursing home, it can often be challenging to find the right facility. The
following questions can help you evaluate nursing homes to find the best fit for
- First of all, is the nursing home Medicare- or Medicaid-certified? Does it
provide the level of care required for your family member? Is the facility
accepting new residents?
- Is the location of the facility convenient for family members and friends?
- What is your impression of the physical environment? Is the facility
clean, well-lit, with safe and comfortable furnishings? Is the home smoke-free,
or is smoking restricted to certain areas? Is the building free of unpleasant
smells? Are the surroundings peaceful and quiet?
- Is there a licensed physician on staff? Is the doctor there every day? If
not, is he or she easily reachable in case of need? Can residents see their
personal doctors if they wish or are they required to be treated by the house
- Does the nursing home perform background checks on staff members?
- Is a registered nurse (R.N.) always present at the facility? Do nurse
assistants work with the same patients every day and know their patients well?
Are staff members friendly and courteous to residents? Do they address patients
by name and knock before entering rooms?
- Are staff members identified with name tags or security badges?
- How are the residents' rooms? Are they pleasing and comfortable, with
adequate and secure space for personal belongings? How much furniture and/or
personal belongings may residents keep in their rooms? Are private TVs and
- Do residents' rooms have windows with pleasing views?
- Are special facilities (ventilators, physical therapy, etc.) available
- Do the residents seem happy, clean, appropriately dressed and
- Are safety measures (e.g. hand rails, smoke detectors, sprinklers, grab
bars in bathrooms) present and in good working order?
- Can residents choose their meals? Are meals taken in a common room or in
individual rooms? Is the food appealing and nutritious? Are healthy snacks
available and accessible to residents?
- What activities are offered? Is there outdoor space for recreation? Does
the facility offer excursions or outings for residents?
- Is a transportation service available for doctor or