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Home / Information Resources / How to choose a Nursing Center

Step by Step -
How to Choose a
Nursing Center 

Nursing centers provide valuable services to those in need of long-term care and rehabilitation. Few people know what to look for when nursing center placement is necessary. Here are some guidelines on choosing a nursing center.

 Discussing Mom's Medication

STEP 1: Gather information and prepare for a personal visit to the center.

Choosing a nursing center for yourself or a loved one is a very important decision. Discuss the issues thoroughly with the individual involved and his or her personal physician. Consider travel limitations for those who will be visiting the person receiving the services and identify the nursing centers within those limits.

Contact the center's admissions representative to schedule an appointment for an informal meeting and tour of each center. Ask for a copy of the center's brochures, admission policies, and the patient's bill of rights.

STEP 2: Visit each of the nursing centers.

1. Visit the nursing center and meet with the admissions representative or the administrator.

2. Tour the center and observe staff interactions with patients.

3. Take the time to speak with patients and family members about their experiences. Ask questions and make observations.

STEP 3: Questions to ask before selecting a nursing center.

1. What services are offered? Are families and patients involved in care planning?

2. What are the staff hiring, training, licensing and staffing policies?

3. What types of accommodations are offered? Are there special programs?

4. What therapies are offered? Ask the therpay department about their successes.

5. Look at the environment. Do patients look well cared for? Do staff appear friendly and caring to patients and visitors? Are there strong odors? Is the building clean and attractive?

6. Ask about the ability to accommodate special diets and food preferences. Visit at mealtime and observe food as well as assistance being given to patients.

7. Check payment policies including insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid.

8. Look at inspection reports, especially their state surveys.

STEP 4: Narrow your choices and make a selection.

Narrow choices and re-visit, if possible, the centers under consideration again at a different time of day.

1. Contact admissions staff for advice about the admission process.

2. Meet with the administrator and key staff to discuss the specific concerns you may have about care needs and personal preferences.

3. Ask to participate in the care planning decisions. Be sure to visit often and remain involved in your loved one's ongoing care.


Many people have the mistaken impression that Medicare will pay for nursing center care. In fact, Medicare does pay for only a limited amount of skilled nursing care. It may be divided into Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B.

Admission to a nursing center with a specific area for Medicare patients is determined on an individual basis. The decision is based on diagnosis, nursing or therapy needs, and the number of days of Medicare eligibility remaining.

Medicare requires that patients must have had a three-day inpatient hospital stay prior to admission. Also, patients must meet specific nursing and therapy criteria. Patients qualifying under these guidelines may be covered under Medicare Part A for up to 100 days or less if criteria are not continually met.

Patients and their families should be aware that constant assessments and review of their condition is required and progress may result in a denial of coverage at any time.

Information to Bring With You To Discuss Nursing Center Placement

- Guardianship Papers

- Power of Attorney Papers

- Advance Directives such as Living Will

- Medicare Card and Insurance Cards

- Proof of Income (Such as the Stub of a Social Security or Retirement Check)

- List of Assets

- The Name and Address of the People who will be Handling the Patient’s Affairs

You may also want to take along the “Check List for Choosing a Nursing Center” which will provide you with a convenient list of questions that you will want to ask during your onsite visit to prospective nursing centers.

Last Updated: 10/10/2011
  Member of Community Health Services of Georgia