How to Find and Compare Nursing Homes
Aging Matters

If you're searching for the safest nursing home that best fits a loved one's needs here are things to do to find one and resources that help hone in on the perfect one. The first step is to know the medical status of the loved one in need and then research and understand the services each skilled facility delivers. For example, some nursing homes care for patients after a stroke while another may only assist people living with cancer or Alzheimer's.

Even some nursing homes only cater to short-term rehabilitation. Another issue is distance, make sure it's easy for family and friends to visit frequently.

Start with referrals

Ask the loved one's doctor or specialist for a recommendation. Think of other family members or friends who have used a nursing home. Knowing someone with first-hand involvement can help you narrow your choices. Consider the patient's needs may differ from others and not all facilities are the same, nor are they a "one size fits all" match.

Know the resources

Online help for nursing homes searches include ranking sites that use state data to rate nursing homes - Check out

These offer detailed information about every Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing homes in the country.

Become familiar with the state's long-term care ombudsman office. It tracks the conditions of nursing homes and the office advocates safety in nursing homes across the states. Go to their website to find your state's ombudsman

Before visiting the nursing home, collect data and information, then tour the facility. Check out Medicare's search and compare nursing homes website at It gives you an overview of the characteristics of each state's facilities, the types of ownership; for-profit, non-profit, church-related, and other, how to pay, the size of the facility, and if it's a branch of a larger care community.

The search and compare will give inspection reports and the deficiencies found at the facility. The state requires each nursing home to upload the current inspection report and to make it viewable for residents and the public to review. To learn how to use the inspection report, go to

Other things to look for during the tour:

  • Cleanliness - does it appear fresh and clean? Are the floors and carpets stained and unraveling?
  • Meals - are they nutritious and how are they prepared and served? Does it look appetizing? And how does the kitchen handle special diets?
  • Setting - does it look like a hospital, or is it more casual and homey?
  • Activities - do residents participate in group activities, and do they go outside?
  • Staff training and education - are care workers able to handle a loved one's illness or disability?

Carol Marak, aging advocate and editor at She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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