How do I choose a nursing home?

Step 1: Research nursing homes in your area.   
  • Find and compare nursing homes in your area.
  • Ask people you trust (like family, friends, or neighbors) if they’ve had personal experience with nursing homes. They may be able to recommend one to you.
  • Ask if your doctor provides care at any local nursing homes. If so, ask which ones so you can continue to use your doctor while you're in the nursing home.
  • Use the Eldercare Locator to get more information on nursing home choices in your area.
  • If you’re in the hospital, ask your social worker about discharge planning as early as possible. The hospital’s staff should be able to:
    • Help you find a nursing home that meets your needs.
    • Arrange your transfer to the nursing home when you’re ready to be discharged from the hospital.
Step 2: Compare the quality of the nursing homes you're considering.    

Consider these criteria when you’re comparing nursing homes:  

Are there other ways I can find out about nursing home quality?

Step 3: Visit the nursing homes you’re considering or have someone visit for you.

After deciding what’s most important to you in a nursing home, visit the facilities you’re considering before you make a final decision. If you can’t visit a nursing home yourself, you may want to ask a family member or friend to visit for you. A visit gives you the chance to understand the quality of care and life of the facility’s residents. It also lets you interact with the residents, their families, and the facility’s staff so you can get answers to any questions you might have.  

When you go for a visit, take a copy of the Nursing Home Checklist to help you evaluate the quality of the nursing home. Use a new checklist for each nursing home you visit. In addition to the questions on the checklist, here are a few other things to consider when you visit:

  • Who are the doctors who will care for you?
  • What type of therapy is available at the facility? Are therapy staff available every day?
  • Does the nursing home have a screening program for vaccinations, like flu, COVID-19, and pneumonia? Nursing homes are required to provide flu shots each year, but you have the right to refuse if:
    • You don’t want the shot
    • You've already been immunized during the immunization period
    • The shots are medically contraindicated

Are there other things I should know before I visit a nursing home?

Step 4: Choose the nursing home that best meets your needs.

If you find more than one nursing home you like with a bed available, use all the information you can to compare them and make your decision.  

  • Talk with people who understand your personal and health care needs. This can include your family, friends, doctor, clergy, spiritual advisor, hospital discharge planner, or social worker.
  • If you’re in a hospital and decide not to go to a certain nursing home that has a bed available, talk to the hospital discharge planner or your doctor. They may be able to help you find a more suitable nursing home or arrange for other care (like short-term home care) until a bed becomes available at another nursing home you choose. But remember: if you stay in the hospital, you may owe the full amount for any additional days you’re there.

If you move into a nursing home and decide you don’t like it, you can move to another facility with an available bed. You may have to let your current nursing home know ahead of time that you’re planning to leave, so ask the staff about their rules for leaving. If you don’t follow the rules, you may have to pay extra fees. 
If you move in or out of a nursing home or other facility, you can switch Medicare drug plans at that time. In this situation, “other facilities” don’t include assisted living, adult living facilities, residential homes, or any kind of nursing home that’s not certified by Medicare or Medicaid.  

Not sure a nursing home is what you need? Learn about other long-term care options