← Back to Blog

8 Tips for Choosing a Skilled Nursing Facility

a senior couple looks on their phone at skilled nursing options

If you or a loved one needs specialized care due to chronic illness, injury, surgery or ongoing health conditions, you’re likely looking into skilled nursing facilities near you. Skilled nursing care is delivered by round-the-clock licensed nurses and therapists, and may include services such as wound care, injections, physical therapy and monitoring of vital signs. Depending on where you live, you may have a choice between a skilled nursing facility (sometimes referred to as a “nursing home”) and a skilled nursing neighborhood (or facility) within a senior living community that offers various levels of living and care. While many places that offer skilled nursing  provide the same basic services, there are ways to discern which is the best choice for you. Here are some features to look for to help you narrow down your choices:

1. Familiarity with Your Specific Care Needs

Skilled nursing facilities often have specialized areas of focus. Ideally, the place you choose will have expertise dealing with your particular medical condition and can explain their protocols to you. Examples of clinical care specialties might include lymphedema therapy, post-surgical stabilization, or pulmonary management.

2. Enticing Amenities and Services

Of course, you want to choose a place that can take care of your medical needs, but also look for the additional perks that will make your stay more enjoyable. Some offer services like transportation to doctor appointments and on-site rehabilitation assistance. Find out if there are special activities that will help you feel actively engaged and connected, attractive outdoor areas, and inviting indoor gathering areas.

3. Convenient Location

Patient outcomes are often better when family and friends can visit frequently. Look for a skilled nursing facility that’s close to loved ones, so you can enjoy the morale-boosting effect of regular visits.

4. A Good Rating

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) rates certified skilled nursing centers on a 1- to 5-Star scale. You can search their database to find and compare the ratings of facilities in your area. You’ll find not only an overall rating, but particulars regarding each facility’s staff ratios, and performance on health inspections and quality measures such as the “Number of hospitalizations per 1,000 long-stay resident days.”

5. Committed Staff

You’ll have close interaction with staff members during your stay in skilled nursing, so you’ll want to find out more about them. Do they receive ongoing training and education? Does the leadership promote a philosophy of patient-centered care? And what about staff turnover? The presence of many  long-term employees suggests a positive environment where staff members are happy and fulfilled in their work.

6. Positive Recommendations

As you weigh the options in skilled nursing facilities, open the lines of communication with friends, family and doctors. Find out if they have referrals to make or can share their experiences — positive or negative — with any of the places you’re considering.

7. The Price Is Right

Compare contracts from different skilled nursing communities and consider these questions:

  • Is there a community fee? If so, does it cover health care costs? Which services are included in the fee?
  • Is the facility Medicare/Medicaid-certified? If yes, Medicare or Medicaid may cover at least some of your costs.
  • Will private insurance cover any of these expenses? Ask each place you’re considering for a list of accepted insurance plans and consult your provider to find out how much is covered.

8. You Feel Optimistic After Your Tour

An in-person tour can be an important step in choosing a skilled nursing facility. Prepare questions ahead of your visit. Medicare.gov provides a nursing home checklist of questions that can easily be adapted to a skilled nursing neighborhood within a retirement community. Consider asking:

  • What is a resident’s average day like?
  • Are rooms private or semiprivate?
  • Can residents have personal belongings in their rooms?
  • Is there a background check on all staff before they’re hired?
  • Can special diets be accommodated?

As you tour, also notice the general atmosphere and your response to it. Does it feel clean? Do you like the staff members you meet? Do residents seem comfortable and well cared for?

Consider visiting your top choices a second time. Choose a different day of the week and time of day to get a new perspective and follow up on any additional questions that have arisen.

Skilled Nursing Care in Dallas, TX

For compassionate, quality skilled nursing care in the Dallas area, look to Autumn Leaves. We’re a continuum-of-care community offering skilled nursing as well as assisted living and independent living. The small size of our community means residents receive personalized attention from our committed and caring staff. We’re Medicare- and Medicaid-certified, offer a comfortable, homelike setting, and our staff is dedicated to creating warm relationships with residents and incorporating best practices into their care through continuing education. Contact us to learn more about skilled nursing at Autumn Leaves or to schedule a tour.