How to Choose a Skilled Nursing Facility

Published on June 19, 2012

Choosing the best skilled nursing home for a family member is an important decision. We recommend starting your search with the online guide available at This guide is maintained by the non-profit organization Californians Advancing Nursing Home Reform (CANHR). It has in-depth information on all 1300+ nursing homes in California, including interactive searches, comparisons and details on violations, staffing and services. Get started by using Nursing Home Guide to learn about nursing homes in your community and find out about their histories of complaints, deficiencies and citations. Additionally, lists of nursing homes by county are available at CANHR’s main

Personally Visit the Potential Nursing Home

Next, it is essential to personally go and walk throughout the potential nursing home. Does the home smell? Are resident’s calling out uncontrollably? What does the food look like? Does this look like the type of place you would be willing to stay in if needed?

Resident and Family Councils

Good skilled nursing facilities have organized Resident and Family Councils. These groups are involved with staff in making sure that residents receive the care they need. Ask to speak with someone from either the Resident or Family Council about their experiences at the facility. If the facility does not have an organized Resident or Family Councils, then definitely ask to talk with some of the facility’s current residents and/or their families about the care and conditions that they are experiencing.


Convenient location should help facilitate more frequent visits and residents who have frequent visitors often recover faster, are happier and tend to receive a higher quality of care. When family members and friends are close enough to visit frequently, they can monitor the resident’s condition, participate in care planning and respond quickly to emergencies.

Special Needs

If your loved one has special medical needs make sure that the facility can attend to these needs. Specifically ask to interview the special needs care providers directly to insure that they can meet your loved one’s special needs. For example, some residents need specialized respiratory care, such as a ventilator, that is only available at certain facilities. Or an individual may need extra supervision and assistance due to behaviors associated with dementia. Ask detailed questions to make sure facilities under consideration are currently able to provide the necessary care.