Choosing a Skilled Nursing Facility

Tips for Choosing a Skilled Nursing Facility

Pennsylvania has more than 700 skilled nursing facilities that care for nearly 80,000 people. As the commonwealth’s population ages, demand for skilled nursing facility care is growing.

Today’s skilled nursing facilities serve the young and old alike, both those who expect to return to the community as well as those in need of extended long-term care. The goal of care in a skilled nursing facility is to help individuals maintain their quality of life by meeting their daily physical, social, medical and psychological needs.

Whether you’re thinking about a relative, a friend or yourself, we hope this guide will help you make the most appropriate selection.

Questions To Think About:

The following questions may guide you in evaluating skilled nursing facilities throughout your selection process. Remember, each resident  –  young, elderly, ambulatory, bedridden or disabled  –  has different needs, preferences, and desires that should be taken into account in the selection of a facility.


  • Is the facility pleasing to the resident?
  • Visitors are important! Is the facility conveniently located for frequent visits from family and friends?


  • Is the atmosphere welcoming and attractive?
  • Is it well-lighted?


  • Observe staff interactions with the residents. Do caregivers show respect and a positive attitude toward residents and others?
  • Are they courteous and responsive?
  • Do they know and call residents by name?
  • Is the administrator available to answer questions, discuss problems or hear complaints?


  • Look over the activity calendar for the week or month and ask about the programs available. Do they suit the needs and interests of your loved one?
  • Are residents encouraged to participate?
  • Are activities like games, easels, yarn, TV available for residents?


  • Is this important to you?
  • If so, are religious services held on the premises?
  • What individualized arrangements can be made for residents to worship?


  • Ask to visit a typical room. Does the living space suit the needs of the resident?
  • How are roommates selected?
  • How are private items stored or secured?
  • What is the policy for residents having a private telephone and television?
  • What is the policy for decorating rooms with personal items?
  • Does each resident room have a window?
  • Is there a privacy drapery for each bed?
  • Is there a nurse call bell by each bed?
  • Is there fresh drinking water by each bed?
  • Is there at least one comfortable chair per resident?


  • Observe mealtime at the facility. How is the menu managed weekly and monthly? Ask to have the dining procedures explained to you.
  • What arrangements will be made if residents are unable to eat in the dining room?
  • What is the practice for special dining or menu requests?
  • Are snacks provided?
  • Are private dining areas available when family and friends are visiting?
  • Does the facility provide services for terminally ill residents and their families?
  • What special programs (for example, Alzheimer’s care) does the facility offer?


  • Is the facility as clean as you set your own personal standards?
  • Does the facility smell nice?


  • Are other medical professionals (dentists, podiatrists, optometrists) available?
  • Does the facility have an arrangement with a nearby hospital?
  • Will a bed be available after hospitalization?
  • How are prescription drugs ordered?
  • Are therapy programs provided (physical, occupational, speech pathologist)?


  • What services are covered in the basic charge?
  • Request a list of specific services not covered in the basic rate. (Some facilities have schedules covering therapies, beautician services, barbers, specialty foods, personal laundry, etc.)
  • Does the facility accept Medicaid and/or Medicare, if that coverage is needed?

Care Planning

  • Does the facility provide services for terminally ill patients and their families?
  • Does the facility offer special programs or housing for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s?

Patient Rights/Autonomy

  • What are the patient’s rights and responsibilities?
  • When are restraining devices recommended and why?
  • Does the facility have a Resident Council?
  • Does the facility have a Family Council in which you can participate?

Licensure and Certification

  • If needed by the resident, is the facility certified to provide Medicare and/or Medicaid coverage?
  • Is the latest state survey report (inspection) available for review?
  • Does the facility have a formal quality assurance program?

Your Role

If you are helping to select a long-term care facility for a loved one, are you:

  • Involving this person in the process?
  • Prepared to ease the resident’s transition to the skilled nursing facility by being with them on admission day and staying several hours to get them settled?
  • Ready to visit the resident frequently and encourage friends to make similar visits?

Finally,s killed nursing facilities are designed to be like a community  –  where residents can feel comfortable, find familiar faces and build relationships just like they enjoyed in their own homes. By planning ahead, you can ensure that your loved one will be provided with the highest quality of care and quality of life.

**Our thanks to the American Health Care Association for providing this valuable information.

Partner spotlight

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