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9 Tips for Choosing a Skilled Nursing Facility

a senior couple look up skilled nursing facilities on a phone

If you or a loved one needs the high level of medical care that’s available in a skilled nursing facility, you’ll of course want to find one that offers expert care. In many cities and towns, there are multiple skilled nursing facilities (sometimes referred to as “nursing homes”) and skilled nursing neighborhoods (or facilities) within senior living communities that offer various levels of living and care. Here are some factors to consider and tips to help you decide which senior care facility is the best choice for you.

#1: Understand the Basics

Skilled nursing provides specialized care delivered around the clock by licensed nurses and therapists to people with medical needs caused by chronic illness, injury or ongoing health conditions. Skilled nursing facilities and skilled nursing communities typically offer the same standard types of care, including wound care, intravenous (IV) therapy, injections, and monitoring of vital signs.

#2: Think About Location

When a medical situation requires skilled nursing, regular visits from family provide comfort and can improve patient outcomes. Choosing a skilled nursing community that’s accessible to loved ones makes it easier for busy friends and family to visit regularly.

Consider Your Needs and Wants

Of course, quality care is a top priority, but to ensure a comfortable stay, you’ll want to consider the services and amenities that are available, as well. Are there private or semiprivate suites? Are enriching activities made available to skilled nursing residents?

#4: Ask About Meals

As chef Anthony Bourdain writes in “Kitchen Confidential,” food is “something other than a substance one stuffed in one’s face when hungry.” Eating is about nutrition, but also joy. Find out if the food in the skilled nursing center can meet specific dietary needs — is there a dietician on staff? Also find out if it tastes good. Many facilities now offer chef-prepared meals, serving up nutrition and flavor.

#5: Find Out About Specialized Care

Often skilled nursing facilities have a particular area of focus. Choosing one whose specialty dovetails with your particular needs means you can benefit from their expertise.

#6 Check the Data

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) rates certified skilled nursing centers on a 1-Star to 5-Star scale. You can use their search feature to find and compare the ratings of skilled nursing centers in your area. Ratings are based on data related to health inspections, staffing and quality measures. You can view the results of recent health inspections, find out about the staff-to-resident ratio, and see how each facility compares in categories such as “Percentage of short-stay residents who improved in their ability to move around on their own.”

#7: Get Referrals

According to a Nielsen report, 92% of people trust word-of-mouth referrals from those they know. As you gather information about skilled nursing facilities, don’t forget to tap friends, family, neighbors and coworkers to find out if they have firsthand experience or opinions to share. Also consider getting your doctor’s recommendation or ask whether they have experience working with a particular senior care center.

#8 Compare Costs

As you read fee sheets and contracts from different skilled nursing providers,  here are some questions to consider:

  • Is there a community fee? If so, does it cover health care costs? Which services are included in the fee, and which are additional expenses?
  • Which types of insurance are accepted?
  • Is the facility Medicare- and Medicaid-certified? If so, will Medicare or Medicaid cover any of your skilled nursing care?

#9 Take a Tour

An in-person tour of the top choices  on your list can be one of the best ways to decide which one is right for you.. If in-person tours aren’t available, take advantage of virtual events or virtual tours. During the tour, notice how you feel about the people you meet, the amenities and services provided, and the general atmosphere. Also, pay attention to the cleanliness of common areas and the mood of staff and residents. Consider asking what an average day looks like for a resident. Don’t be shy. This is your chance to get your questions answered, and if you realize you still have questions after your tour, consider going back a second time. Scheduling your second visit for a different day of the week and time of day can give you a new perspective on the community.

Senior Care at Monticello West

Monticello West is a senior living community with an established reputation for excellence. Residents in our independent living community enjoy a carefree lifestyle and the security of knowing that our continuum of care gives them access to higher levels of care, should they need it. Our memory care and assisted living communities provide compassionate support here on our Monticello West campus. Residents needing rehabilitative or skilled nursing services can receive top-quality care through our partnership with Walnut Place. Contact us to find out more about our person-centered approach to senior living.