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 your situation.

  1. 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?
  1. Is the location of the facility convenient for family members and friends?
  1. 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?
  1. 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 physician?
  1. Does the nursing home perform background checks on staff members?
  1. 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?
  1. Are staff members identified with name tags or security badges?
  1. 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 telephones allowed?
  1. Do residents' rooms have windows with pleasing views?
  1. Are special facilities (ventilators, physical therapy, etc.) available in-house?
  1. Do the residents seem happy, clean, appropriately dressed and well-groomed?
  1. Are safety measures (e.g. hand rails, smoke detectors, sprinklers, grab bars in bathrooms) present and in good working order?
  1. 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?
  1. What activities are offered? Is there outdoor space for recreation? Does the facility offer excursions or outings for residents?
  1. Is a transportation service available for doctor or hospital visits?

If you would like more information on choosing a nursing home, the U.S. Government Medicare Web site ( offers an interactive tool that allows Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers to access comparison information about nursing homes for every Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing home in the country.


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